In April 2020, at the start of lockdown, People United invited those living and working in Canterbury, Herne Bay, Whitstable and the surrounding areas to take part in a collaborative online project, ‘Kind Canterbury’. We asked people to notice, capture and share acts of kindness and to tell us about everyday heroes doing wonderful things – big and small – across our local community.
We invited our associate artist Nova Marshall to reflect on the community’s contributions and bring everyone’s stories and artworks together in a new digital artwork that captured a moment in time when many people showed great generosity, compassion and bravery, embodying empathy and kindness in their actions.
“As a collaborative participatory artist much of the work I produce involves others and this piece of work is no different. I took time to digest all of the submissions to the Kind Canterbury project, and from the start it was clear that Covid-19 was at it’s heart. People shared their thoughts about how time had slowed down, how their lives had changed and how they started to really think about what was important.”
– Nova Marshall
During the call out People United collaborated with the Young History Makers at The Horsebridge Arts Centre in Whitstable, The University for Creative Arts Illustration & Animation Instagram community and The Beaney’s ‘Museum of You’ project.
People connected with us over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They sent us emails and videos. We were delighted to receive over 100 submissions including photographs, artworks and stories which celebrated and thanked some amazing people being generous, courageous, and thoughtful during the peak of the pandemic.
“Kind Canterbury demonstrated a strong sense of solidarity, community spirit, compassion and humanity; people shared stories about themselves and how they noticed kindness in others. Unity is at its heart spreading ‘magical happiness’.”
– Nova Marshall
When we looked over the final submissions with Nova, we were not only lifted by the acts of kindness but impressed with everyone’s resourcefulness. At time of lockdown and scarcity, people had made artwork on delivery boxes, sewn facemasks from fabric scraps and quickly adapted their companies to respond to local people in need.
Our original idea of ‘going digital’ began to feel like an uncomfortable fit with the handmade, homemade and immediate submissions received and Nova’s artwork began to evolve into something different.
“Looking through the submissions, many were made from everyday materials that people had easy access to. With this in mind, I decided not to purchase new materials or create a digital piece and instead I looked at the materials I had at home. I love textiles so even though I am no sewing expert I saw this as an opportunity to use some of my much-loved fabric, get my sewing machine out and create a textile work. I also considered the scale of the artwork and decided that, practically, it needed to fit on my dining room table. From the start I knew that I wanted to combine every one of the submissions, so I made a short film from the images and stories and incorporated them into the design of the artwork.”
– Nova Marshall
The final artwork is a beautiful textile piece which people’s images and words are projected onto. The artwork titled ‘Museum of Us’ will be launched at The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge as part of their Museum of You exhibition. The timing of this depends on when museums and galleries start to open again, and we will announce the full details as soon as we have them.
For now, we’re pleased to share with you some images of Nova’s textile piece, which threads together the stories of Canterbury, and kindness in a time of crisis. We look forward to sharing more with you later in the year.