Community Artist Commissions

AHA-MK is currently working with six different community groups in Milton Keynes. Together, we have co-commissioned an artist to work with each group. The artists are bringing out different aspects of the groups’ identities, and working towards a final creative outcome that will be shared widely.

The aim of these commissions is to build new genuine relationships between the arts and heritage sector and new communities. We hope that new possibilities for these communities will open up in the sector, through volunteering, work experience, and continued project partnership. Furthermore, engaging in these projects helps to give the communities creative agency, and imagine new ways of expressing who they are. Supporting diversity in creative expression benefits the arts and heritage sector as it adds to the cultural story of Milton Keynes, making the city an even more interesting place to live, work and visit.

MK Museum hopes to run an exhibition in the coming months featuring aspects of each commission.

There is more about each artist commission below.

  1. Camphill Community Milton Keynes:

Artist: Sam Munday Webb, Pantomime Director:

Project: Royalty, Roundabouts and Capers at Camphill, The Panto, The Chrysalis Theatre, June 2022

The cast. Photo credit: Gemma Fern Photography

Camphill Community (a residential campus for people with learning difficulties) is working with Sam Munday-Webb on a pantomime that explores life at Camphill through fantasy and comedy. They will perform the panto at Camphill’s Chrysalis Theatre in two shows at the end of June. One of these shows will be specifically for the arts and heritage sector, and include afternoon tea and a Q and A with the cast.

2. Conniburrow Community:

Artist: Alex Julyan

Project: Walkabout

Festalis the Roman Soldier in Delicious Kebab on Conniburrow Boulevard. Photo credit: Alex Julyan

Conniburrow Big Local provided a way into get to know the Conniburrow Community. Artist Alex Julyan spent some time walking through the neighbourhood, getting to know some residents and identifying different organisations/areas where locals met and gathered. The Big Local has a community hub on Bramble Avenue from which a Community Fridge operates. There is also the Well-being Cafe at the Salvation Army on Ramsons Avenue, and the Children’s Centre and the Friendship Park on Germander Place. Across March, April and May, Alex chose these spots to stage a series of ‘happenings’ – surreal events that would inspire joy, thought and conversation. A lone trumpeter, a Shetland pony, a race horse, a gorilla, a stilt-walker and a Roman Soldier made appearances. AHA-MK members Alina Orchestra and City Discovery Centre were able to contribute to these happenings, and new connections between AHA-MK and Showtime Circus troop were made. Alex also mentored a young artist from Conniburrow called Iris. AHA-MK hopes to continue its relationship with Conniburrow through Iris, and link more arts and heritage organisations to the community.

‘The road verges are soft under foot and hoof. Around the roundabouts occasional slowing cars pass, their drivers and passengers curious and pointing. At the Community Fridge in Bramble Avenue the small queue is there, the bags are filled in the usual manner. Today there is a lot of bread, hot cross buns for Easter and Pizza for a treat. Colin, who lives in a flat above soon appears and over the course of an hour takes and prints photos for people as they pet the horse. He tells us he was once a photographer, working with 120mm film, which gives only 12 shots on a roll, digital is a different game and it’s a kind of everyday miracle to have this flow of printed images’ Alex Julyan, 2022

3. MK Hindu Association:

Artist: Shefali Wardell

Project: Yoga Life, running at MK Gallery Project Space 5th-14th August 2022

MK Hindu Association Kids, Yoga Animal Workshop. Photo credit: Gemma Fern Photography

MK Hindu Association is working with artist Shefali Wardell. Shefali has designed a series of workshops for different ages that draw out various aspects of the yoga experience. With children, there has been a yoga animal and collage workshop, and a printing-making workshop with the teenagers. Shefali did some beading and yoga dance with the middle aged group, and recorded the breathing of the elders in the pranayama workshop. Using the materials generated in these workshops, Shefali will create a film and a soundscape for an installation that will be shown at MK Gallery in August. As part of the installation, the Hindu Association will do free, drop in, yoga sessions. Shefali is also creating some posters for the Hindu Association to display in the temple in Broughton, launched on International Yoga Day in June. The Hindu Association hopes to use some of the work Shefali has created to connect further with local heritage projects.

4. Abrahamic Women Milton Keynes:

Artist: Salina Somalya:

Project title to be decided

Artist Salina Somalya at the craft workshop at MK Museum. Photo credit: Gemma Fern Photography

The Abrahamic Women Milton Keynes have been busy working with visual artist Salina Somalya. Together, they have been crafting and weaving symbols of the three Abrahamic Faiths (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) to generate material that Salina will use to create an arch-shaped structure that is representative of the group. Different arts and heritage organisations such as City Discovery Centre, Westbury Arts Centre, The Parks Trust, Living Archive and MK Museum, have linked up with the group so far. The women have even used the vintage printing press and the blacksmith’s forge at MK Museum. St Edward’s Church, Milton Keynes Synagogue, and Central Jamia Mosque in Wolverton have hosted some of Salina’s workshops, and workers from the sector visited and got to know the group in their faith spaces. The arches will be exhibited in the autumn, exact date and location to be confirmed.

5. Middle Eastern Cultural Group:

Artist: Leen Kay

Project: Kan Ya Makan: Once Upon a Time. Stories from the Arab World running at MK Gallery Project Space, 19th- 28th August 2022

Kan Ya Makan Workshop at MKIAC’s Art in the Park. Photo credit AHA-MK

The Middle Eastern Cultural Group has been working with multi-disciplinary artist Leen Kay on a project about art and design from the Middle East. Using stories and items collected from the group, Leen will create a room in an Arabic storyteller’s house. Through sound, taste, smell and visuals, the installation will illustrate the journeys that members of the group have been on, coming to and settling into Milton Keynes. Some of the materials used in the installation will be personal belongings from group members, and other will be items they have made to sell. It is intended that the items for sale will be used to generate income for the next stages of the project which includes a social enterprise for refugees from the Middle East. Through this project, the MECG has connected with MK Gallery, MKIAC and MK Museum.

6. African Diaspora Foundation:

Artist: Levi Naidu-Mitchell:

Project title to be confirmed

Part of Levi’s proposal for the garments. Credit Levi Naidu-Mitchell.

The African Diaspora Foundation is working with carnival artist Levi Naidu-Mitchell on a project that explores fashion and textiles from Africa. With the group, Levi will create larger than life garments that express stories of Africa. They will be worn, carnival style, at the African Diaspora Festival on the 2nd of July, which includes a fashion show by local designers of African heritage. Some of Levi’s workshops with the group leading up to the event will be breakfast mornings at MK Gallery, that include traditional food from African countries. The arts and heritage sector is invited to these workshops, and also to the workshops that are held at the African Diaspora Foundation’s Hub in Conniburrow.