17 April 2024
  • 17 April 2024

Sculpture House: connecting art and social inclusion

on 22 March 2024 0

The brainchild of three like minded artists, take a literal and ideological tour through the Future Paisley-backed Sculpture House Project in Ferguslie

Reclaiming disused spaces and turning them into something fruitful is something that’s high on the agenda of every municipal body these days. Governed by the idea that it is socially irresponsible to let these viable spaces go to rack and ruin, one shining example of that ongoing initiative in Renfrewshire is Sculpture House.

Located on Ferguslie’s Blackstoun Road, the former home, which is inhabited by tenured and renowned artists Laura Aldridge, Nick Evans and James Rigler, is now being enlisted as a studio and an avenue for the local community to engage with creativity in a deep, meaningful and collaborative fashion. 

Structured around sculpture and social inclusion, this groundbreaking project is one that has encouraged and emboldened the trio that reside at its heart. After years of renting and overpriced eternally insecure spaces in Glasgow, their new stronghold has given them the freedom to experiment, as well as tangibly interact with those in Ferguslie who have inquisitively intermingled with them wherever possible. 

Sculpture House

Laura Aldridge

Sitting in their newly renovated front room, which can be enlisted by community groups of all kinds, Laura, Nick and James enthuse over the project’s many points of deviation from the norm in the art world that they’ve subsisted in. 

“It’s a very organic way to get to know people,” Nick said of fashioning a real rapport with the Ferguslie faithful. “They’re always stopping by and asking what’s going on or what they can get involved with. We’d love people to be able to autonomously use the place over time.

“We’d like to support and provide basic skills, but people are smart and bright so they can get on. Long-term, we want to be inclusive, creative, sustainable and focus on growth. At the same time, we get opportunities and get somewhere to make our art, so the two things help each other.” 

Sculpture House

Nick Evans

“This is why we wanted to do a long-term project,” declared Laura, who’d previously ran workshops at the Tannahill Centre years before Sculpture House took shape. “We didn’t want it to be like, ‘here’s a six week craft workshop and you’ll never see me again if you’re even remotely interested in pursuing this’.

“Some of the plants in our dye garden take five years before they’re even ready, so it’s really nice as we’re used to being in such a rush. We always want to make the building as public as possible. Architecture can be off-putting, so to have this domestic setting is great. There’s just something really special about Ferguslie Park.”

“We came to Renfrewshire Council with this concept and they were great,” Nick explained of its initial origins. “Future Paisley had regeneration goals which matched our own, so they could really offer that partnership that we needed.”

James Rigler

 A space that they’ve occupied since October 2022, the building is already a living, breathing artistic showcase, with everything from the tiled patio and stained glass in the doorway as delivered by established talents right through to the ceramic faces in the hallway created by local kids made with decorating the space in mind.

Now offering an abundance of workshops and classes, Sculpture House’s inhabitants are led by the belief that they don’t want to mandate what takes place here and would rather be guided by the people around them. 

“The house as a canvas is very important,” James declared. “We just want to make the place really inspiring. Other places I’ve been feel like big factories for making art and it just felt very detached from the real world. We wanted to find ways that the studio can feel helpful to the realities of what our lives are like. We want this to be an understandable and exciting way into making stuff.”

Sculpture House

“It’s been great to have local people as a sounding board,” said Laura, alluding to the engagement they’ve had thus far. “We’ve got a woman, Liz, who lives across the street and comes to our gardening group. She’s very interested in everything we’re doing.”

“We’ve got an idea that we’ll basically build some workshops around her,” Nick replied, “it’s something that you don’t normally get a chance to do, but we’ll try and get the funding and then basically say, ‘what would you like to come to?’ Then she can bring family, friends and spread the word that way.”

“We’re centering things around people and their specific needs,” said James, “we get to have conversations and meet people all the time. Even our lovely apple trees outside were donated by Angela, an avid gardener who lives around the corner.

“Those conversations that happen really casually gradually evolve into relationships where we can house her orchards. There’s a strength to these relationships because they’re organic and that can only be good as we grow this space.” 

For more on Sculpture House and their activity schedule, visit sculpturehousecollective.com. Future Paisley is a cultural regeneration partnership programme which aims to use the power of arts, heritage and culture to impact social and economic change.

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