Since we started it in 2013, Artsmile has become Artscoop’s annual flag-ship activity. We borrowed the name of a traditional local pub crawl (The Harborne Mile) and created Artsmile as a ‘culture crawl’ for families. On a Saturday in early Autumn. shops, cafes, bars, pubs, coffee shops and other businesses along Harborne High Street host artists offering free creative workshops. We invite families to stroll along and dip into craftwork, painting, drawing, music-making, story-telling, dance, photography and a variety of more hybrid and unnamed art forms. In collaboration with artists and their hosts, we like to design workshops that reflect the businesses in which they are located (see below for examples). Artsmile consistently attracts over a thousand active participants. Our primary purpose is to encourage people from widely differing and often isolated local communities to mix together, explore and get to know each other as they sit side-by-side enjoying creative activities in their shared local High Street . We see strategically developing Artsmile into a more widely known but uniquely local arts festival as supporting Harborne Village in its campaign to become recognised as a Business Improvement District.
ARTSMILE 03/08/2013 was a pilot year in which we offered a photo-booth in a pub, on-the-spot drawing at the tills of a supermarket, ‘art kits’ in bistro, story-telling in a café, fashion fantasies in a restaurant, drawing on beer mats in a pub, glitter painting on acetate in a café, badge making in an interior design shop, music making in one pub and communal painting in another.
ARTSMILE 06 and 07/09/2014 was an ambitious and extended two-day event funded through the council’s Culture on Our Doorstep programme. We organised twenty venues offering the public: poetry in a yoga centre, rag doll making in an interior design shop and then story writing about the dolls in a coffee shop, decoratively wrapping chairs and tables in a bistro, pottery in a pub, playing with sound beams in another pub and drumming in another, flower arranging in a flower shop, watercolours with differing strengths of coffee in a coffee shop, making a spectacle of oneself in an opticians, ‘cake faking’ in a café using plastic offcuts, jewellery-making from recycled metal in a charity shop…. and much more. We also set up exhibition tents along the High street to show artworks made by international colleagues as part of Makeable (see Projects).
ARTSMILE 05/09/2015 was our first collaboration with Harborne Business Association and this enabled us to feature new businesses hosting a different range of activities. These included creative work with computers in a computer repair business, people drawing each other in a community café, creating mosaic mats in an Italian restaurant, painting on egg shells in a chicken-themed exhibition in a gallery, and creating fantasy burgers and menus in a restaurant.
ARTSMILE 22/09/2016 involved people from local communities offering activities alongside artists for the first time, thus forming a pilot funded in part by Near Neighbours, Church of England fund; Artscoop worked with young people from Lordswood Girls School, Harborne (banners for each High Street venue), young cheer leaders form Milebrook Hall, Bartley Green (drawing passers-by on a pub window) and adults of all ages from the Glenside Community Centre in Bartley Green (group-created flash dance); new creative workshops included lantern making in a café, ‘engraving’ football heraldry on toast in a community café, batik painting in a pub, and sculpture from recycled materials in a fitness centre.
ARTSMILE 30/009/2017 with funding from Birmingham City Council Local Innovation Fund, we are now planning to extend community involvement more widely through a prior programme of locally based workshops leading to offering different creative activities at Artsmile. For this we are systematically employing co-design and co-production methodologies to ensure relevance to who and where people are, how they see themselves and how they want others to see them
ARTSMILE 22/09/2018 Back again this year!