The Orange art groups started in response to a need for artists from various backgrounds and experiences to work together, sharing skills and ideas and interacting while making images or working on craft. These groups have remained open and inclusive. The paying students pay a drop-in fee which covers costs of models, rent and refreshments. The interaction and exchange are an important focus of my task as facilitator. For example, the experienced artists assist with techniques and skills and the beginners assist skilled artist to unlearn habits and work creatively.
I moved to Cape Town from JHB in 1980 and started working in Dorman street, Cape Town in 1981. The studios were owned by the Campbell family who had agencies for fine art materials and for spinning wheels and looms. The studio upstairs was available for me to work with adults and children and I was available to consult with clients regarding art materials and craft equipment.
Various core groups have developed over the years; the ethos of encouraging experimentation and personal focus is past on as new contacts are made. The memory I have over the forty years of working in Cape Town is one of a core group moving from venue to venue, changing and growing and changing again. The focus has not been on picture making but rather on pondering, seeing and collaborating. Curiosity and discovery are more important than recipes or formulas in these groups. This applies to crafted and painted objects. The interactions between participants where processes are explored, conversations and storytelling encouraged, move adults and children into working in a creative, imaginative way which generally increased awareness and confidence. Visual literacy is an avenue into literacy and numeracy generally. It is also a way into narrative and in my opinion into exploring social cohesion and personal insight. This happens when our assumptions are challenged and our habits dropped. There is so much written about the invaluable experience of making art, (visual arts, music, theatre, storytelling etc) and their function in society; experiencing these transformations has kept me moving, interacting and working.
Our family homes always included studio spaces for art making, sewing, pottery and woodwork. As a teenager my mother rented the local hair dressing salon in the village of Mooi River for me to teach in during my school holidays. While studying and teaching at the Johannesburg Art foundation I taught at FUBA and in the OT department at Baragwanath hospital. (1976, 77)
I worked and taught in the UK for a few months while travelling and assisted with art and craft on Tristan de Cunha and St Helena island, while learning the crafts they had on offer, specifically lace making.
In 1986 my weekly teaching sessions moved to our home in Tamboerskloof. The next studio was on old ship in the harbour; then from the Presbyterian church in Orange street gardens. A studio in Observatory managed by Art Sauce was a full-time venue where the space was shared with other artists and teachers and the Art Sauce staff were able to demonstrate materials. The Annex of the National gallery became a venue for Orange street participants and for workshops. We gathered at Greatmore studios and more recently Ruth Prowse. The AVA gallery was rented over weekends and this led to the outreach program at Valkenberg. This remains a vibrant and well used space for many patients. Artists who work in the group have their own projects and professional experiences. They often work with other teachers and share studio space in various areas around Cape Town. This makes the orange group an informal but vibrant experience of working and exchange.
Other on-going projects are Wolani papier mâché and Philani weaving. I initiated these two projects plus the dyeing of wool at the Catholic welfare in Greenpoint and the Intle weaving co-op in Philippi at Feather works. This happened simply by women watching what I did and getting into making work themselves. The De Lorenz clinic experience where various art forms were made available as therapy was a year of intense learning and rewarding creativity.
My annual teaching sessions for the Extra mural studies department at UCT plus my involvement with Thupelo and Greatmore street and Bag Factory have added to the Orange group network. Artists who work in these projects often join the Monday morning sessions. My experience with Thupelo artists/workshops over the years has given me the discipline and experience to work and interact with artists from diverse backgrounds, exchanging ways of seeing and making that has grown into an international network of peers, now interacting on social media networks.
During lockdown 2020, we have continued to exchange images and ideas in what’s app. groups. Each month I set a project and although it is very difficult and probably inappropriate to comment on images on line, the participants have found this very stimulating and engaging. Some of the images can be viewed on Instagram. Monday_orange
25 of the participating artists decided to exhibit work on a summer, salon style exhibition at the Spin street gallery and restaurant. With assistance from Estelle Jacobs and Robert Mulder, the exhibition will be open for viewing from the 17 February to the 6 March. There will be an online component so that you can view some of the work and contact the artists if you would like to.
The Orange art group assisted me in partnering with Home from Home; this is now the Orange art project. The NAC provided funding to assist the mothers and children in eleven homes by matching nine practising artists, one to each home. The funding assists the artists in their practise, the mothers and children in the homes to be creative and learn about image making, for the team of co coordinators to assist with projects and cataloguing of the work.
The orange art project will have an exhibition at the Spin street gallery from 1 to 13 February. There will be an introduction to the art mentors and work of 55 children will be exhibited.