Artists Prison Residencies Programme
Beginning in 2021, the Artists Prison Residencies programme is a yearly physical and remote project run by artists and curators Luminara Florescu and Amanda Lynch in partnership with Shepton Mallet prison in Somerset and has been featured on BBC Points West, ITV and BBC online.
18th September – 3rd October 2021
Working in partnership with Shepton Mallet prison we used the cell space of this 400 hundred year old prison to explore and develop our individual research and art practice alongside 11 other selected female artists. The Artist Residencies were set in the cells of C-Wing, the former women’s Wing. Each artist had the opportunity to create new works exploring a historical timeline of women’s incarceration and respond to topics such as: Victorian women within the prison system including the Suffragettes held at Shepton Mallet prison, the official and unofficial postal service within the prison and what impact this had on women’s mental health, their lives, their families and their communities while being confined within the 75 ft high prison walls.
The impact of the pandemic especially on women being confined within the home added to the poignancy of the residencies. Having the residency programme held within the ominous architecture of the prison allowed for the theme of confinement to be explored through live practice and research. Some of the artists taking part in the residency programme had disabilities, some rarely leaving their homes during the pandemic due to the shielding restrictions. This residency programme aimed to empower these women by giving opportunities to those who may not normally be able to take part in a residency programme because of health or otherwise, to have their voices heard through discovering the stories and voices of women of the past who have experienced confinement.
For some of the artists, this was a “lived in” experience as they have requested to be confined to their allocated cells including sleeping overnight. Other artists were involved in a remote experience as they are confined to their homes through disability.
The prison attracts approx. 1000 visitors each week therefore the Residencies were an opportunity for artists' to present their work to a new audience and engage with members of the public who may not normally visit art galleries or have experienced contemporary art.
As part of this residency programme, we aimed to focus on access. This included a remote residency opportunity for two disabled artists. We also aimed to make the project accessible to D/deaf disabled visitors and offer the correct access to meet needs, such as BSL and easy read documents.
“I’ve appreciated the ways in which the artists are engaging with the space and inviting visitors to do so also”
“Fascinating place to learn the history of the building. Thank you to the artists for welcoming us to share their work”
“Wonderful to see a residency in such an interesting space and to see so much work from female artists all together”.
“Wonderfully thought provoking and inspiring”
“Amazing Collaboration of artists – very powerful.”
“Educational, interesting insight into the history of the prison and had a fascinating meeting with one of the artists in residence, who’d produced some good, thought-provoking work.”
“Fabulous venue for such inspiring work. Loved everything particularly Carrie Mason and Victoria Bone -Thank you for sharing your practice with me – LOVED IT!”
“Thoughtful, respectful, inspiring and dynamic – Well done all."