Many Hands Make Art Work was the Blackie's 5th Rainbow Project and its 4th participatory exhibition at Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery. It took place in what was then the Education Room and was open during Gallery hours from Monday 23rd February to Saturday 28th February 1981.
In Blackie terms a 'participatory exhibition' is one where a good deal of what is seen is created by those who come to see it. 'Many Hands' differed from previous exhibitions at the Walker in that the works that were to be created would be three dimensional - toys and sculptures - and that these works would be created by small groups rather than by individuals.
The idea was to build rainbow works which would then be placed in 'homes' across Merseyside. The first task was to select the 'homes' and this was done during the weeks running up to the Exhibition. The criteria for selection was that they should all be places where people spent time, that the majority would be in old buildings (which may or may not have been converted), and that they would primarily be within Liverpool's very active voluntary sector. Once a 'home' had been selected the building and potential sites within it were photographed, and the activities which took place described. All of this was put into a 'book' - actually a loose leaf binder. Overall we ended up with 14 potential homes.
Below the inside of Melling Tithebarn which had been taken over by a community group and was used for a range of events
We started with some 14 homes and by the end of the exhibition we had completely finished 9 works and started a further 5. So knowing we had not even started works for some homes we decided to continue making rainbows at the Blackie during youth art sessions. We finally completed and installed 17 rainbow works.
Many Hands Make Art Work, as with all previous Blackie Walker exhibitions, took place in the Education Room - so a room we were well used to working in. The room was divided roughly into two.
On the LHS as you entered was an exhibition of Inner City Rainbows, books of rainbow ideas from previous rainbow projects and the books of potential homes. Then came the soft seating where you could review the books, and documentation around rainbows.
View of the room showing the Inner City Rainbows Exhibition and the work tables and chairs.
Then came the soft seating where you could review the books of rainbow ideas and potential homes.
Visitors reviewing books
In the middle of the room, were the work table with paper and sets of Pentel pens in the 6 rainbow colours. Here you could draw your Rainbow ideas, have a cup of tea/coffee and a Rainbow cake.
Pictures showing the tea and coffee station with rainbow cakes, visitors working on rainbow designs and the tables fully occupied with the shop in the background.
At the far end of the LHS was the 'shop' which was full of rainbow making materials.
Shop showing some of the many rainbow coloured materials and the shop staffed by Kevin McIntyre, Janet Rowan and Billy Lunt.
The RHS of the room consisted of the Sculpture Studio - it had 6 work positions. We do not have any photographs of the Studio area showing the layout at the start of the exhibition however we do have pics of the Studio in operation.
Below left Wendy and Dot Williams in conversation with, right the King family working on the whales, and left the Umbrella.
Left the Rainbow studio at the end of day showing the finished Rainbow Mobile, the large Whale in the process of being painted black, the Rainbow Bouquet, and the Rainbow Tortoise
One of the more complex jobs was deciding on what materials one might need in a situation where one had no idea what 'sculptures' people might want to make. The second problem was ensuring that materials came in the right colours - we had established a rainbow palette in Inner City Rainbows - and now had to apply that to a wide range of materials, which included everything from wool to paint and inks.
The materials we finally made available were ribbons, wool, string (all of which had to be dyed), felt, cloth, wood (ply wood, 2 inch x2 inch wooden blocks, etc.), plaster of paris, paint (from oils to poster paints), inks and chicken wire. And many of these were used.
Below Left the rainbow ribbons being used to make the Peacock and right the 2x2 bricks painted and being used to make the Rainbow Arch.
Far right the Rainbow Spouted Whale being made using chicken wire and plaster of Paris. Left Dot Williams using rainbow coloured string to create the Rainbow Head .
The knitters included Bill's mum - using rainbow coloured wool. The knitting was very interesting it involved lots of people and at one stage there was a knitting workshop on the steps of St Georges Hall but we have no idea what happened to the finished pieces.
Then there were the tools, for wood work (chisels, saws, hammers, ); for sewing ( scissors, needles, cottons, thimbles etc.); for painting, for modelling, for creating rainbow ideas (pencils, protractors, set squares, rulers, pads and coloured pens).
Finally there were the materials for the room itself - mainly acres of black cloth - and table cloths.
Having decided on the materials we then had to source them, and, as always, get as many of them as possible donated or failing that, try to buy them at a good discount. We are eternally grateful to the 25 companies who donated material, and the 18 companies who gave us substantial discounts or lent material /equipment. The contribution of local and national companies to the Blackie over the years, cannot be over estimated and it is a great loss that so few companies these days are prepared to support the work of community based artists.
From Idea To Reality
At the tables people could discuss their rainbow ideas and their suitability for a specific home with staff. In some cases people chose to use an existing idea, though it was more usual for people to come up with a new rainbow idea.
Once it was felt that we a had Rainbow idea which could be made into a reality and which would fit into a 'home' it was made into a paper marquette and put up on the studio wall. Then either the person who did the design or people who wanted to make a 'rainbow' worked on it. For instance both The Tortoise and the Rainbow Star were designed Wendy Arrowsmith and Cathy Bain, They both, with their children worked on creating the Tortoise; whilst the Star was worked on by Geraldine Martin with help from Wendy's daughter Mandy.
Over the course of the Exhibition we had 1,500 visitors of whom two thirds were young people (approx. 400). 513 of the visitors either drew rainbows or worked on the sculptures and between them they produced the ideas and worked on nine of the Rainbow Sculptures
The making of the Tortoise. Above left sewing the material together . Right the stuffing of the Tortoise with foam, And left attaching the Tortoise's head.
The Rainbow works.
The Sculpture Studio Team was led by Wendy Harpe. At any given time there were 6 people - one for each station - available to offer advice, solve problems, and lend a hand. Although these changed on a daily basis Martin Brems, Julie Hallam, Kevin Macintyre, and Dot Williams worked in the studio on most days.
The Raindrops Mobile : as with much of the Blackie's work before asking other people to do it we do it ourselves. So The Raindrops Mobile was started during a Games session prior to the Walker Show. Designed by Julie Hallam and Maria McIntyre and made by many hands during Staff Games. It consisted of a Rainbow from which dropped rainbow coloured Raindrops.
It was made for the Royal Liverpool Childrens Hospital, Myrtle St.
Raindrops Mobile being installed by Julie and Maria in Ward 2A The Royal Liverpool Children's Hospital.
The Rainbow Star and Tortoise : both the soft enormous Rainbow Tortoise and the Star were designed by Wendy Arrowsmith and Cathy Bain for the Liverpool's Womens Refuge : the Tortoise for the nursery and the Star to welcome people to the Refuge as they arrived. The Tortoise was created by Wendy & Cathy with help from their children Mandy & Claire. The Star was worked on by Mandy Arrowsmith with Geraldine Martin. Made at Martin Brems & Julie Hallam's stations. Installed by Duncan Curtis.
The Star in the entranceway to the Liverpool's Women's Refuge and two young children sitting on the Tortoise
The Rainbouquet : came from a pre-existing rainbow idea which was used during Inner City Rainbows. It was identified by Sharon as being possible for the Vauxhall Skills Centre. She started it and saw it to its 'home' with help from Caroline Smits and Julie Hallam. Consisted of 6 plywood flowers wrapped in wadding and then covered in ribbon. The petals were made from wire and ribbon. Mounted in a cardboard tube wrapped in black satin ribbon the flowers were held in place by fish tank gravel.
The Rainbouquet installed in the Vauxhall Skills Centre
The Rainbow Umbrella : made for Christian Street Community Centre, (which was just behind the Walker Art Gallery). Worked on by some of the young people who used the Community Centre with help from Martin Brems and Stuart Harthill. Made out of plywood and painted in the rainbow colours with a walking stick for its handle. It was installed by Duncan Curtis, Andy Cavan and the users of the Community, on a wall painted with 'rain'.
Young people making the Rainbow Umbrella
Above Duncan and Andy installing Umbrella, young people doing samples of painted rain, and the umbrella installed on a rain painted wall.
The Rainbow Peacock : designed and made for the Centre for the Deaf by Brian Lewis with help from Lisa & Peter Agatha, Maria McIntyre, and Christine Trenery. The tail of the Rainbow Peacock consisted of a plywood base covered with gathered ribbons. The peacock body was made out of black felt. Installed over the door on the way in to the Centre by Duncan Curtis.
Above Duncan installing the Rainbow Peacock and the Peacock in situ.
The Whales spouting Rainbow Water : conceived and made (over several days) by the King family - parents and kids - for the Solway Community Centre, with help from Peter Hatton. Consisted of a large whale with two calves, made out of chicken wire covered with hessian and canvas, and painted black. The rainbow-coloured spouts were made out of wire and felt. It was installed high in the roof of the Centre by Duncan Curtis and Stephen Knox. Sadly we do not have a good photograph of the Whales in position.
Above a young member of the King family paints one of the small whales. Left a not very good photo of the Whales with Rainbow Spouts suspended from the ceiling of the Solway Centre.
The Lighthouse : designed by Kevin McIntyre for Fort Perch Rock . Made by Kevin and Martin Brems out of wire, felt, wood, dowelling and PVA. It was mounted on a rock made out of cardboard and displayed in a white painted niche. Sadly we do not have a photograph of it in place.
Far left the finished Light house. left Kevin McIntyre working on the design for the base of the Lighthouse.
The Rainbow Bud : from an idea by Dave Gollancz, it consisted of a felt bud stuffed with wadding and a hessian flowerpot filled with a mix of sawdust and PVA and painted black. Created by Dave with Maria McIntyre and installed in Merseyside Council of Voluntary Service's offices,.
Above completed Rainbow Bud, Far left close up shot of Rainbow Bud on a filing cabinet, and left a long shot showing the Rainbow Bud in context.
The Rainbow was made from wire and felt and then put in traction.
Made by Donna Ignacio with help from Caroline Smits & Judy Bates. Installed on ward 8A by Duncan Curtis, Julie Hallam and Jacob.
Above close- up of the Rainbow in Traction and below a distance view .
The Rainbow Arch : this was designed by Gary Shields for Granby Primary School. Despite being a really simple idea it really was one of the most difficult rainbows to make. It was made out of approx 60 wooden blocks - each individually sanded and painted. The basic arch was then laid out on the bench and the red layer built to this pattern. All other layers were then done by eye after various attempts to solve it mathematically failed. Finally the arch was built in sections and joined together with the final layer stuck with the strongest form of Araldite we could find as no conventional glues could take the pressure of an unsupported arch. It was worked on at the Walker by Gary Shields with and at the Blackie by John Freeman and Paul Ducker with help from Wendy Harpe, Julie Hallam and Jo Polack. Mounted on a plywood base and installed in the Main Hall of the School.
Above the Arch ready to be installed. Side and front view of the Rainbow Arch (co-ordinating with the rainbow curtains) and a view of the Arch in situ when the hall is in use (a slightly out of focus picture but the best we have|).
The Bow Derek Head : this came from a design by a visitor and was made by Dorothy Williams and Peter Hatton. It was designed for the Armadillo ( a cafe in Mathew Street) The head was completed at the Walker but the mounting was more complex. It was decided to mount the head in a clear box and surround it with a curtain of small, round mirrors which we had cut to order.. This was completed at the Blackie where the mirror curtain was made by Karen Bowden, Gerald Eliot, Stephen Knox, Sarah Martin, and Franny Rowan.
Above the Bow Derek Head ready to be installed. Left the Bow Derek Head installed in the Armadillo.
The Rainbow Pencils and Sharpener : we don't know who designed these but Peter Hattron started work on them at the Walker and then they were finished at the Blackie by Lisa Agatha, Karen Bowden, Joey Brodie, Ronnie Hamilton, Donna Ignacio, Geraldine Martin, Robbie Stamper (who made the sharpener), with help from Judy Bates & Julie Hallam. They were installed in a window in the offices of Merseyside Play Action Council.
Above Geraldine Martin who worked on the Rainbow Pencils with them before they were installed. Rainbow Pencils in the window recess in the offices of Merseyside Play Action Council.
The Rainbow Candle: another simple idea which presented endless problems. Three lengths of rainbow coloured wood (.5 x 1.5 inches) of different lengths joined together, with a rainbow flame at the top. The problem lay in the fact that we wanted the horizontal banding of rainbow colours not to be simply painted on. We tried stains - they seeped into each other. We tried inks - they seeped into each other. We made cuts between the colours - they still seeped into each other. Finally we used Pentel pens with a narrow white division between colours. This was started at the Walker by Kevin Mcintyre & Steve Bennett, and finished at the Blackie by Karen Agatha, Jason Bradley, Steven Brodie, Paul Ducker, Stacey Gilbertson, Tom Hale, Carl Harding, Lee Hughes, and Joey McGrail led by Julie Hallam and Wendy Harpe. Installed in the Community Centre of Heathlow Towers.
Above the Candle ready to be installed and left the Candle installed
The Rainbow Dolphins : from an idea by Vaughan Grantham and worked on at the Blackie by Vaughan, Leon and Michael Addy, Leroy Agatha, Geraldine Martin, Joey McGraw, Paul Nicolson, Sylvia Smith, Mark Tam led by Julie Hallam. We finally ended up with two large and two small dolphins made from a plywood base, and chicken wire overlaid with paper mache, filled, painted and varnished. They were installed over the entrance (inside and out) to the Liverpool Water Sports Centre. Above left a close-up of the large Rainbow Dolphins.
Above the smaller Rainbow Dolphins on the inside of the entrance and the large Dolphins on the outside of the entrance. To the right a distance shot of the exterior of the Liverpool Watersports Centre showing the Rainbow Dolphins in situ
The Melling Tithebarn Fire Screen : started at the Walker from an idea by Andy Caran this was the most complex work we made. It consisted of a box with doors, the outside being black and the interior white. The box was divided into 17 various sized compartments, each compartment contained a different Rainbow work. In the works the only colour is the rainbow with all other objects being black, white or metallic. The ideas were drawn from the many drawings produced both during the Exhibition and during previous rainbow projects. Some 30 people worked on completing the Fire Screen with Andy and Wendy Harpe being there at the start and at the finish. When completed a special plinth was made and the work was installed at Melling Tithebarn. The photos below will hopefully give you an overall sense of the Fire Screen and a detailed view of its interior.
From the top row down. The outside of the Fire Screen with the doors being slowly opened. Picture of the complete interior. Three rows of the interior each reading across left to right. Below single compartments for those who would like to view the works in detail.
Where Sheep May Safely Graze : In 1983 we were invited by Ken Davis to provide a Rainbow work for the Church of the Good Shepherd on the Wirral - so a very belated part of Many Hands Make Art Work. Three rainbows made up of coloured sheep were created and installed.
Where Sheep May Safely Graze being installed by Kevin McIntyre, and Richard Hornby in the Church of the Good Shepherd
The Exhibition was conceived by the artists at the Blackie. It was created by Judy Bates (now Gough), Duncan Curtis, Bill Harpe, Wendy Harpe, Julie Hallam and Kevin McIntyre. Judy and Bill led on recruiting people, Wendy, with the help of Charlie Stuart, designed the sculpture studio, Duncan & Julie led on getting the 'homes', Kevin, Wendy, & Judy led on the materials. Judy got the tea shop together. But they did not create the exhibition by themselves.
Such work is always people intensive. The staff for the Exhibition included full-time Blackie staff and volunteers, young people who came to the Blackie, and people we invited who had either previously worked with us, or who had the necessary skills. Not everyone worked for the full week, but the range of those who worked with us from young people (around 7 of them) to those who took time off from full time work or out of their lives, made this a Blackie show.
Each day during the Exhibition people were divided into teams. There were those who 'did the door', people who were responsible for the 'homes and exhibition' area, someone in charge of the tea and cakes, a team responsible for the tables and the ideas being produced, those who looked after the materials in the shop, a team who worked in the sculpture studio creating the actual works, and someone with overall responsibility for the room. In addition back at the Blackie Paul Nicholoson attempted to make a Rainbow Sponge Cake - it took several attempts but he made it!
Below in alphabetical order is a list of those who worked on Many Hands Make Art Work at the Walker. Many young people also worked with us on finishing Rainbow works at the Blackie.
Debbie Agatha, Maria Agatha, Tracy Allen, Judy Bates (now Gough), Steve Bennett, Martin Brems, Stuart Clarke, Vicky Clarke, Duncan Curtis, Andrea Dooley, Dave Gollancz, Ed George, Julie Hallam, Bill Harpe, Wendy Harpe, Stuart Harthill, Peter Hatton, Jimmy Hitchmough, Noel Holmes, Fiona Liepers, Billy Lunt, Keith Lloyd, Geraldine Martin, Dave McGuiness, Kevin McIntyre, Maria McIntyre, Tony Mercer, Paul Nicholson, Jenny Odger, Jo Polak, Jackie Rowan, Caroline Smits, Charlie Stuart, Christine Trenery, Billy Walshe, and Dot Williams.
Above the team meet to discuss progress - a regular daily activity.