East Devon’s District Council’s public art gallery – Thelma Hulbert Gallery – has a wide-reaching public programme developed in collaboration with local partners working with a vast array of creative professionals from poets to artists, rangers to makers, in the gallery space as well as ‘out and about’ with on-site art activities.
As the gallery was closed March – July 2020, the gallery was forced to reimagine the delivery of the programme to stay connected with the local community, putting them at the heart of what they could offer.
They teamed up with Wild East Devon (EDDC Countryside team) to take the programme out to communities, targeting those most in need, who had been isolated through the pandemic.
A trailer was repurposed and rebranded as a new ‘Creative Cabin’ – a brightly coloured, instantly recognisable, mobile unit taking nature and culture on tour in a ‘Recovery Roadshow’. The programme was themed to the seasons, with special events, guest artist workshops, and invited speakers taking place at the end of each month.
We became a flag of solidarity across the district during the pandemic. Through this touring creative facility, we enabled dialogue and exchange, supporting communities in their health, environment and well-being by providing a creative space to explore art and nature in their own neighbourhood.
As well as individuals and families, the Creative Cabin brought activities to groups most in need including schools, colleges, Memory Cafés, Devon Recovery Learning Community, Devon Young Carers, Refugee Support Groups, Devon Insight, and Headlight – an Action East Devon service for young people encountering mental health issues.
The success and adaptability of the Creative Cabin has led to the next iteration of the project – the ‘Climate Cabin’ set against the climate emergency, partnering with East Devon AONB and Exeter University.
The 2021 programme will bring communities together to creatively explore the climate emergency through a climate workshop series and public programme from the Climate Cabin, training community ‘Climate Ambassadors’ and working with schools, communities, residents, visitors, ethnic minority and vulnerable groups including Memory Cafés, DRLC, Devon Young Carers, Refugee Support Groups, Devon Insight, and Headlight – an Action East Devon service for young people encountering mental health issues.
What the judges said:
“An example of vital innovation blending arts and sciences, to create accessible opportunities for all, to learn and share in any environment.”
“This is a fantastic project, the way they have diversified their working due to covid and brought a much-needed safe space to people who are isolated, lonely and struggling with mental health conditions is to be applauded.”