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Community art project unites generations across Birmingham

ExtraCare’s Hagley Road Village hosted young artists from Art from A&K on Monday. A number of residents were presented with portraits as part of a cross generational community project.

Retirees volunteered their voices at the end of last year for an intergenerational exhibition that took place at the BMI (Birmingham and Midland Institute) in Birmingham in December. The volunteer led collaborative project Grandbabs brought together young and older citizens of Birmingham. With conversations between generations having fallen in recent times and with interactions with older citizens at a low in society volunteer young artists visited ExtraCare’s Hagley Road Retirement Village to chat to residents about their lives and living in Birmingham. The art and film exhibition created by young people from Birmingham aimed to inspire intergenerational discussion with senior members of the city.

This exhibition proved to have several benefits for everyone involved. Many of the young volunteers had experienced challenging times in their home lives and in the areas where they live, in creating commissions and listening to stories from seniors they found their mental health improving. The project offered them direction and discipline whilst adding meaningful productivity to their lives.

The exhibit featured over twenty original portraits of senior citizens as well as short documentaries taken from visits to retirement locations and discussions with older members of the city. The young volunteer artists took the generous step of donating the portraits back to the subject at Hagley Road Village after the exhibit ended.

Lead Artist Kiran, 22, commented: “We wanted to capture the resident’s voices. We heard that the elderly have often felt left out in society and there is not enough engagement between our two generations. The answer seemed to be to come together to create a project that was about intergenerational collaboration. We wanted to capture their voices forever in both art and documentary form.”

lex Mahrra, Exhibition’s Facilitator for The BMI added: “There is a great deal of history that hasn’t been passed on. This project was about engaging in that conversation. Life is short, but art is long.”

Resident Shirley Eccleston, 87, was impressed with the commitment shown by the young artists stating: “I thought this was a great idea, I’ve enjoyed it very much. I hope the students involved got a lot out of it because we certainly did. I think it is great to be so involved with different generations because we can all learn from one another. For some people who had concerns about the younger generation I think it did so much good there.”

The event was attended by BBC Radio WM who featured the story on Rakeem Omar’s breakfast show on Monday 15th February.