In November Francesca Ulivi and Niamh Riordan were in New York to represent Grizedale at the Alternative Art School Fair at Pioneer Works, Brooklyn, as part of Grizedale’s ongoing interest in formalising its education offer - the Valley School. It was an opportunity to create a new set of manifestos and maps - local cinema poster guru Brian Miller drew up ‘The New Super Heavy Heavy Rules of Public Art’ and a map of Grizedale’s many local and international resources, as they fed into the ’Lake Soup’ of Coniston Water (this would prove to be an invaluable tool in the effort to explain Grizedale’s structure, though some visitors were disappointed to learn that “Lake Soup” wasn’t a real Cumbrian body of water).
Francesca and Niamh headed across the Atlantic with very heavy suitcases filled with articles from the Lawson Park collection: a motely collection including an Ugly Mug, a spring loaded pickle fork, a Christopher Dresser teapot and an oven glove that would never fit man nor beast, alongside some of the honest shop’s finest offerings. Having (to their surprise) successfully negotiated customs, they set up the Grizedale stall like a kind of ‘show and tell’, and spent the next two days using a knitted Angry Bird to explain the complexities of the Grizedale programme to members of the public and staff from other schools.
As it turned out, ours was an unconventional school even by Alternative Art School standards. Francesca and Niamh spent their time explaining the various levels on which Grizedale education operates – the volunteer/intern system, youth club, village activities and international projects.
They wore their own prototype of a Grizedale uniform (joining a long line of prototypes) – potato printed workwear with horn buttons made by Peter Hodgson and milk plastic buttons made by Niamh to add some interest, but the uniforms couldn’t escape their prison-wear vibe, and probably need some refinement.
On the final day of the fair it was Grizedale’s turn to lead a panel discussion, on the theme of Reincorporating Art in Everyday Life, alongside three other schools: Sunview Luncheonette, School of the Apocalypse and NERTM (New Earth Resiliency Training Module). Having spent each morning getting to know other schools through slightly embarrassing team building exercises, it was time to lead the audience in an exercise session of our own – and the audience enthusiastically took up the challenge of Marcus Coates’ Creative Fitness, standing on one leg with abandon. Discussion centred around the professional separation of artists from everyday life, self determination and self sufficiency and the responsibilities involved in working within communities – all of this in the hot-of-the-press context of Trump’s election, which had happened only days before.