“We look to Fresh Fruit as a force – like we look to all art – a force for disruption and change.” Fiona Bradley, Director, The Fruitmarket Gallery
Fresh Fruit is a powerful example of how art can develop the skills and confidence of young people.
It is the core of The Fruitmarket Gallery’s youth engagement programme and allows 16-25 year olds the chance to gain inspiration from the artists behind world-class exhibitions.
Fresh Fruit uses a co-production model: it is peer-organised and peer-led. Young people work with artists and gallery staff to devise activities inspired by the Fruitmarket’s programme, with an emphasis on skills development. Fundamental to this is that Fresh Fruit is led by the young people themselves, with events and activities set up by them in collaboration with the gallery.
Working with Glasgow-based artist Jacqueline Donachie has helped the group grow in confidence and skills. During the exhibition Right Here Among Them which ran between November 2017 and February 2018, the artist invited young people to be an active part of the exhibition.
Central to the exhibition was the work Advice Bar (Expanded for the Times) which was first created in New York in the mid-1990s, when a young Donachie created a temporary bar and dispensed drinks and free advice to visitors. More than 20 years on, the artist felt it was important that the advice was offered by young people; specifically, she felt it resonated with how in recent years support structures have diminished for those in need across Scotland.
The Advice Bar involved close collaboration between the artist and the young people. Donachieexplained the ideas behind the work and also set out the rules of the bar – primarily, that only those who came with a problem could be served.
“The Advice Bar gave us an opportunity to show our audience that young people are important to us.” Fiona Bradley, Director, The Fruitmarket Gallery
The gallery’s youth engagement work is on an upward trajectory, becoming ever more innovative and inspiring.Events such as Exchange: Art Party, free evening of performance and music which attracted an audience of 200, have engaged more young people to get involved, building their experience of working with the public and with artists.
“It was definitely co-production; when so many of our ideas were taken on board and executed it really taught me that if you support your case, if you explain where you’re coming from and why, then nothing really is impossible.” Tosia Bargiełowska-Johnsen, Fresh Fruit member
Such close collaboration between Fresh Fruit and an artist as part of the main exhibition programmehad not been done before, and the young people’s participation in the presentation of Donachie’s Advice Bar was more public-facing than a lot of their previous projects.
Each Fresh Fruit member was paid the Scottish Living Wage for two-hour advice shifts, of which there were 80. Around 440 people were served with drinks and advice. The young people said they felt valued, respected and listened to as collaborators and colleagues and happy to run the Advice Bar in their own way.
In addition, the project fed into the young people’s sense of developing their own practice, whether as an artist, educator or generally as a creative person. It gave them freedom to develop in a supported situation.
“I think the young people found it really empowering to be given a position of power. They were in charge and felt that people really got something from the conversations that they had. I think it made them realise that a lot of the experience that they’ve already got is valuable and important.” Jacqueline Donachie, artist
Donachie’s exhibition had a far-reaching impact on Fresh Fruit itself – the group has become larger, stronger and more structured. More young people became committed to it because they had been given so much decision-making power in something that was truly meaningful and conceptually and creatively stimulating.
Other events also took place as part of the Donachie exhibition such as Advice For Our Times. Thissaw the gallery host a day of advice and information where lawyers and organisations shared their knowledge about immigration, benefits, housing and their legal rights in terms of Scottish Law.Hosting the day clearly articulated how artists can be agents of change and disruption. Donachie’s influence changed how the gallery works, encouraging the organisation to think about what it can do.
“Artists are very good at problem solving, they’re very good at picking up on things and making them visible in a different way to perhaps they’d been visible before.” Jacqueline Donachie, artist
We welcomed the chance to work closely with Fresh Fruit in the presentation of Donachie’s Advice Bar as part of Jacqueline Donachie’s exhibition. The project opened up the work of our youth group to our audience, giving it visibility and setting a precedent for co-curated events that we are enjoying seeing proliferate in our programme. We look forward to working with Fresh Fruit more and more innivatively in the future. Fiona Bradley, Fruitmarket Director
To find out more:
The Fruitmarket Gallery, 45 Market Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1DF
Watch the film! Click on the link below to watch the film produced by Fresh Fruit from footage taken during the Art Party www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-JDTrvpJoY
Acknowledgements: SCAN would like to thank The Fruitmarket Gallery and colleagues for taking part in this research, including Fiona Bradley (Director), Jacqueline Donachie (Artist), and Tosia Bargiełowska-Johnsen (Fresh Fruit member).