Creative Somerset CIC

Creative Somerset CIC / News / Thu 05 Feb 2015

Step In Stone

Step In Stone

“...Stone
bears us up; stone
weighs us
down; stone
marks the place where
once flesh
squabbled upon the earth...”

Extract from ‘STONE’

Ralph Hoyte (step in stone artist)

If you were to fly over the Mendip Hills in Somerset, UK, the most striking feature would be the number of vast quarries dominating the area - among the largest in Europe. Less obvious are several disused quarries, rapidly being re-colonised by nature. You can easily walk within a stone's throw of many of these quarries without noticing they are there, so still and empty they stand but stumble across one by chance and you can't fail to be amazed by their grandeur and beauty.

Artist Fiona Campbell did just that, discovering old quarries while walking her boxer dog and exploring the area a few years ago. Inspired and fascinated by their unexpected drama, Fiona embarked on an investigation into these hidden gems, while also finding a new source of discarded scrap metal for her sculptural work.

“The first disused quarry I came across was on a woodland walk. From a narrow dark pathway, an opening leads you to a rocky escarpment, down a scree slope into a huge canyon-like landscape, filled with lush lakes, massive stratified cliff faces and birds of prey hovering above – it was truly awesome and remains my favourite. So many quarries in the Mendips are now disused, enigmatic environments, taken over by wildlife, some designated as ‘Sites of Special Scientific Interest’. Others are desolate underworlds of canyons, lakes, huge ruins, and rusting machinery - fossils of both ancient and modern eras. Scoop out a hundred tons of rock a day – carboniferous limestone for example – for 120 years and you have a gargantuan cavity of time, reflecting life dating back over 350 million years. All this provides an extraordinary backdrop and inspiration for artwork”, Fiona explains.

3 years on, Fiona has successfully formulated an ambitious plan to stage an art-in-quarries trail, bringing together groups of like-minded passionate artists, scientists and educators for a major art project entitled step in stone. Having just received their full funding target for the project, thanks to Arts Council England/National Lottery, Mendip Hills/Mendip AONB, Ganes Trust, Somerset Art Works, Somerset Wildlife Trust, a local trust fund and numerous individual supporters via IdeasTap crowdfunding, also a donator, step in stone is now on full steam ahead for its opening this summer.

At its heart step in stone will be a collaborative multi-stranded art trail around 3 disused and working quarries in the East Mendips, illuminating these spectacular, hidden landscapes while exploring Somerset’s heritage and beauty. Fourteen artists, all with connections to South West England but from as far afield as Norway and Australia, will develop and create a series of research-led site-specific temporary artworks for a curated trail in response to the nature of quarries, their nature and place in the cultural and industrial heritage of the region. Contemporary sculpture, land art, photography, textiles, painting, drawing, sound, spatial poetry and printmaking will be installed within these environments, aiming to surprise, delight, challenge, fascinate and inform.

A free event, open to the public, step in stone will offer local communities and visitors from afar a memorable experience linking culture and environment, encompassing meaningful art and science (natural history, ecology, geology), increasing public awareness of these beautiful spaces and issues surrounding them. Central to the project will be broad public engagement. Guided walks will be run in collaboration with microscopists from Somerset Wildlife Trust (SWT) and artists, exploring the quarries; artist-led talks and art workshops will also engage the wider community, aiming to reach a broad spectrum of people. Workshops specifically to give school children an opportunity to experience a creative, educational resource will be supported by SAW’s InspirED offers for subscribing schools. Linked exhibitions will be held in the Black Swan Arts Centre (BSA), Frome, Somerset Earth Science Centre (SESC), near Shepton Mallet, and Frome Museum.

Young budding artists will have an opportunity to get involved and exhibit their own work alongside international artists. A sculpture design competition will be held in May ’15 in collaboration with BSA, for under 20 year olds. Up to 20 of the best entries will be on show during Somerset Art Weeks Festival ’15 at the Black Swan Gallery. The winning designer will work with a step in stone artist to create their work in 3-d, which will be exhibited as part of the Trail.

Despite there wonderful heritage, the Mendips are rurally isolated with limited engagement with the arts. The 'step in stone' event will offer opportunities for all to access the countryside while benefiting from arts/science engagement. The project will also connect with 2015’s environmental milestone of sustainable development goals (SDGs) see http://www.sustainabledevelopment2015.org).

step in stone will be installed in stages from July-October ’15:

July-October – Workshops/talks/exhibition - SESC, Stoke St. Michael
August-October - Art installations/tours - Halecombe (working quarry, peripheral public pathway); Westdown (massive disused quarry), Chantry
3-18 October, finale fortnight tying in with Somerset Art Weeks Festival '15 and Momentum programme - Exhibition - Black Swan Arts Centre and Museum, Frome
plus Art installations - Fairy Cave (secure disused quarry), Stoke St. Michael

A film documenting the event will be shown at the finale.

For more information visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Step-in-stone/958015540879369?ref=bookmarks

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