homegrown – a conclusion and a new beginning

Homegrown was an immediate response to the Coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdown that saw the world close it’s doors and retreat into our homes. The Stove’s doors too were closed and months of programming, preparations for upcoming events and projects were put on hold.

In the final few days before the government enforced the lockdown, we looked for four themes to guide our direction and settled on solidarity, open heartedness, insight and perseverance1. The title for the project looked to create a platform to share the creativity grown from homes across the region, and further afield – and to help create a space to allow these creative reflections to flourish.

We re-grouped, via the now all-too-familiar ZOOM for our first meeting online, and started to investigate how The Stove could respond. The Stove has always been a future-facing and responsive organisation, but we made the decision to be watchful and listen to those around us, supporting the efforts of the council and other agencies, who took the lead on the immediate challenges facing many of our communities.

As the rug was pulled from under our feet, it quickly showed that the rug was all that was holding some of us up; the floor’s foundations were not equally distributed. Of our 600+ members at the Stove, we estimated that as many as half will be self-employed or freelancers, and the COVID-19 shutdown in March saw many people’s incomes wiped out overnight as events and regular contracts were cancelled. The homegrown project initially looked to draw on our resources to share a series of micro-commissions to support Stove members facing financial difficulties. This theme further developed into Atlas Pandemica – for (more detail about this project visit here).

Hope for Food Origin Awareness. For Helen Walsh’s Feathers of Hope series as part of her micro commission

Each week, we invited a creative response from one of our members (growing to two per week as interest developed) to one of our four key themes, and over the weeks we were able to share the work of 14 different artists from a variety of backgrounds and creative approaches. The aim of these micro-commissions was light touch; the proposals were focused on sharing perspectives and experiences of the sudden changes to our world, and giving each artist the time and support to develop something creative where many were finding the daily routine too overwhelming to allow for any reflection or creative focus. Each commission also gave us the opportunity to meet and find out more about our membership, some of whom were new to our team, or familiar faces that we were able to build new relationships with, and to share this with our audiences and wider network digitally.

Homegrown also developed a series of ‘creative challenges’ that were open to anyone to take part in, and responses were received from a wide collection of participants. We set out not to provide distraction, or to add to the noise as organisations scrabbled to move their content online, but to create a space for reflective creative process – opening up space for ideas sharing, playful interaction and exchange. Some of our challenges were focused around key questions – What memories come in times of silence? Where are the secret spaces in your life now? Others invited an exploration of a particular technique or process – photography, writing or printmaking. All of the responses were then added to our online gallery and shared digitally as part of our homegrown conversation.

Memory Jar created by Andy Brooke

Homegrown was conceived of as a starting point, not to provide answers but to open the door to include as many voices in our conversations – towards a new folklore that documented the response from Dumfries and our wider Stove membership in a time of social isolation. Each conversation, collaboration that we hosted opened for us new ways of understanding and interpreting the world around us. As we were each confined to our personal spaces we were able to reach out and make the connections with other people, who helped to drive and direct the project’s course.

Everything is significant, and we have learned a lot over the past three months. As the lockdown moves into a new phase and the town gradually begins to re-open it’s doors, homegrown comes to a close – but we hope to take forward many of the conversations, ideas and approaches that we have learned during this time through listening and being open to the directions of others. As we look forward, we bring the influences of homegrown with us: our new project Atlas Pandemica looks to draw together a team of artists in response to the changes we’ve been facing in Dumfries and Galloway, and Elsewhere a town centre project will look to draw on and further develop some of the responses shared during the homegrown micro commissions. We hope to bring much of the homegrown content from the realm of the digital, back into the public sphere, the physical and the personal, and will be looking at ways to safely do this as restrictions continue to ease.

Doorways. A collective artwork by The Lockdown Collective, JoAnne, John and Luke McKay

The homegrown webpages will continue to live on the Stove website as a record of all of the work that we have shared and grown in our homes, together. To help you navigate the content, you can find:

  • Creative Challenges and responses
  • Artist Talks given by each of the homegrown micro-commissions

Special thanks to everyone that contributed to homegrown.

1Three of these themes, Insight, Open heartedness and perseverance, were originally part of Matt Baker’s three virtues artwork for Inverness.

Poetry by Daniel Gillespie as part of his micro commission.