Take it to the Max – Community Art in the Park

The morning of the Festivities

Take it to the Max – Community Art in the Park

The Context 

The Brockley Max is an annual event that takes place in the London Borough of Lewisham. 

It is a wonderful mixture of Art, Music, Performance and Workshops with local creative commerce.

It is a wonderful opportunity to see local bands outside The Brockley Barge pub, as you descend from the Overground Train or in this case adorn a tree sculpture with your own art, In Hilly Fields park with an epic view of a London vista.

As Trees on the Green we had been asked to join the festival which we did 2 years (2015-16) in a row. 

As you may have seen in my article Tree-volution we had put up tree number 4 in Hilly Field opposite the  Stone Circle, erected to mark the Millenium, and adjacent to Pistachios in the Park Cafe.

There were a few reasons why taking our art project to the ‘Max’ was so special for me.

Tie a set of ribbons around the new greens tree

The Community Artist Perspective

We had already established ourselves within the local firmament by having a prominent set of sculptures in proximity to more established sculpture on the Rushey Green. 

Click here for a promo with site images and early sketches

We felt like upstarts with our recycled wood aesthetic and our unconventional festoon displays of works from local schools and groups.

However the community came to appreciate that the language of communicating your message on a tree was not alien to them and not just about lost cats. 

It has been an opportunity to create a public dialogue on subjects as diverse as gentrification, loss of community services, pollution and recovery. This breadth of curation has been very much driven by Joe, my art partner, a lifelong resident of the borough and strong advocate for communication and the resultant agency and empowerment that can bring the average person’s day-to-day life.

So how did the Hilly Field tree differ? 

Well the brief of recycled material, community engagement through festooning displays are all present. 

The difference was the setting; it was in a park setting not a main traffic thoroughfare and had to hold its own against some mature trees.

To achieve this it felt that a new aesthetic and material would be needed. So offcuts of wood from felled trees were assembled for this sculpture. Ironically the original trees created from old fences were manifested as a tribute after the felling of a wonderful mature oak tree.

Based on a cake stand the new tree would provide platforms that allowed objects to be placed and displayed. An added advantage being a place to perch or rest at the lower levels The branches now allowed the festooning to be more bunting and tinsel like in their arrangement. 

So when the invitation to be part of Brockley Max came in the form as inclusion in ”Art in the Park” we were perfectly placed between the cafe with the toilet close by and the stalls and performance area enclosed within the stone. Perfectly placed. It was named the “Festival Tree” which is nice.

Workshopping. Art for the people by the people. Many hands made Artwork.

The Artist in the family perspective.

I had worked on the maquettes for the original trees with my young son so he was looking forward to seeing the new iteration of the trees. But I took my nephew and sister too. We all travelled up to Hilly Field together. It was a sunny day and it was wonderful to share art and the community spirit with my family.

We helped Joe with the workshop to create festoon leaves. For this event it involved creating hand shape leaves to be stuck on the tree. 

We had hotdogs and bumped into old colleagues and other artists. And we did this 2 years in a row. So successful a family outing that my Nephew did ask about going even after the tree had been dismantled.

New context but holding its own

Taken to the Max.

I would say the beauty of the whole endeavour would be that art in the community regardless of its type is a catalyst of making connections and creating opportunities. 

Art can also, through manifesting itself, create long lasting memories that cannot be bought sold or auctioned off to the highest bidder. 

If you get a chance to take it to the max or any place that needs your energy do it. The experience and rewards are invaluable.

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