Exciting Online Arts Opportunity

Art in the Park is a new, collaborative pilot project between Kirkby Gallery and Knowsley Safari Park, seeking to offer free artist-led learning experiences for all, in response to the Park, its animals and conservation aims.
The project was borne out of the challenging times placed on us by the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst Kirkby Gallery remains temporarily closed and the Safari Park seeking new creative ways in which to engage the public, Art in the Park offers a new and exciting series of outdoors-inspired sessions as delivered by three visual artists and one creative writer.
The artists have been tasked with developing a piece of artwork or writing, as inspired by an aspect of the Safari Parks site. For each artistic commission there will be four online films / sessions, which can be booked online via the Knowsley Safari Park website, as well as being promoted across Kirkby Gallery’s social media.
The sessions follow each artist on their creative journey, from their initial visit, through to idea development, through to completion but uniquely to this project, the audience gets to learn about their technical processes and artistic imaginings, as well as learning about the wider conservation issues relevant to their artwork.
In the fourth and final session, there is a Q & A opportunity for the audience, whereby they can post questions live to the artist and engage directly.
As this is a pilot project, some of the sessions have been developed for schools whilst others, for the general public and adult audiences. Here are the dates and artists delivering the sessions:
For general public / adults:
Julia Midgley: Monday 1, 8, 22 February and 1 March, all sessions at 10am
Anthony Ratcliffe: Tuesday 2, 9, 23 February and 2 March, all sessions at 10am
For schools:
Johanna Robinson: Monday 8, 15 22 March & 12 April, all sessions at 10am and 2pm
Patricia McDonald-Holmes: Tuesday 9,16, 23 March & 13 April, all sessions at 10am and 2pm
Artist Biographies:
Julia Midgley: Staffin’ the Safari
Julia Midgley is a printmaker and documentary artist. Direct observational drawing and reportage provides the bedrock for her practice. Sketchbook pages contain drawn records of live action, particularly in the workplace where she acts as a graphic journalist or Fly on the Wall.
Julia’s practice has seen her work in a variety of situations, from being Artist in Residence for Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Granada TV news dept in 2000, to a residency in Provence in 2006 as part of the Centenary of Cezanne, and in in 2016, her work was shortlisted for the Derwent and Ruskin Drawing prizes. This is to name but a few. 2021 sees a return of Julia to Knowsley, since her 2002 documentary illustration exhibition in the then, Huyton Gallery. ‘Top Draw’ captured many aspects of life in and around Huyton and we are delighted that she returns now to document a completely different aspect of the borough.
For this project, Julia has chosen to focus on work behind the scenes, wherein animals and keepers work together building relationships for the benefit of animal wellbeing and conservation. Animal training at the park allows for health inspections without the need for sedation. This can take place before an audience promoting animal welfare whilst engaging children. During my initial visit I was much taken by the Red River Hogs and Tapirs. The Hogs with their striking appearance will give rise to dramatic drawings. I hope to raise their profile and popularity in this way. Additionally, I’d wish to engage keepers in conversation about their strategies, whilst drawing them in the workplace. For my theme they are as important as their charges.
Anthony Ratcliffe: Revisioning the Rhino
In 1515 the artist Albrecht Durer made a woodcut print of a rhinoceros, he had never seen an actual rhino and made the image from a sketch and written description given to him by an unknown artist who had seen the Indian rhino in Lisbon. During this period it was quite common for kings and rulers to exchange exotic animals as gifts, the rarer the animal, the more prestige was attached. This was an early example of the trading of animals for dubious means and it is hard to imagine that the work of artists was the only visual means of introducing these foreign animals to the public in the western world.
As an artist whose preferred medium is the woodcut print, when commissioned to work with a subject matter at Knowsley Safari Park, Anthony was attracted to the idea of revisiting the idea of a rhinoceros woodcut with contemporary associations.
Anthony is a now a full-time printmaker after many years lecturing at Manchester School of Art. He has prints in many public and private collections including The British Council, the Parliamentary Art Collection, Manchester Airport PLC, Manchester Royal Infirmary and MMU Special Collections.
Anthony works from drawings and material collected on site and has travelled extensively around Britain documenting remote landscape and particularly the way it shows evidence of past land usage, geology, archaeology. He also researches literary descriptions and historical associations.
He has created numerous collections of work and exhibitions associated with various aspects of British landscape, including ‘Broken Ground’, ‘Shoreline and Watershed’, ‘Rain Stone and Rust’ and his current project, ‘Northern Stones and Peat Smoke’ was exhibited in Kirkby Gallery 2019 as its first public showing. Prior to this, Knowsley Culture Service were delighted to have previously exhibited his stunning ‘Shoreline and Watershed’ exhibition in 2013.
Patricia McDonald-Holmes: Getting under the Skin
Patricia is a Knowsley based multi-disciplinary artist, of which printmaking, collage and digital manipulation are core to recurring methods and media for imagery and designs. Her approach to this commission will centre upon creating portraits / scenes depicting the habitat and nature of a selection of animals from the Park.
For Art in the Park, Patricia will use resource images of skeletal structures of a range of animals and then select three animals in which to form a base layer for individual artworks, leading to an overall triptych. The modern day relationship between archive photography, image manipulation and photographic reproduction processes, digital imaging and print technology will play a part in the build-up of the images.
My aim is to explore the traditions of montage, collage, frottage and decoupage related to concepts of fragmentation and animal identity in the Knowsley Safari Park setting.
Patricia’s arts practice to date has explored restructuring personal memories and places discovered through travelling, with an aim to present more ethereal images through layer, marks and texture using a variety of traditional woodblock, silkscreen, embossing and digital printmaking techniques. Her images are created with a reaction and sympathy for the artefacts, photographic records and source material found on these journeys.
Patricia teaches A Level art, media and graphic design at Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School & Sixth Form, so her commission will best use her experience and be specifically for key stage 2 and key stage 3 learners (Year 3 to Year 9)in schools in Knowsley and across the Liverpool City Region area.
Johanna Robinson: Safari Scribblers
As the only commissioned creative writer, Johanna offers a different perspective in which to explore the Safari Park. Being based in Prescot, she also offers a more local angle to her work and response.
Johanna comes to this project with a broad and impressive professional portfolio that includes a MA in English Literature from the University of Leeds, ten years’ training and practising as a lawyer, as well as being trained as a proofreader. Her venture in writing short stories began in 2015 and now she writes short stories and flash fiction. Her stories have been published in print and online and her novella-in-flash, Homing, was published in June 2019 by Ad Hoc Fiction. In April 2020, Johanna won the Cambridge Prize for Flash Fiction, with her 400-word story, Yew, and in October 2020, the Bath Flash Fiction Award, with her 300-word story, Blessings, 1849.
Johanna’s commission will offer a series of individual writing exercises for schools and activities that explore ‘behind-the-scenes’ stories, concepts on refuge and people’s perspective on the Park as visitors. Johanna will draw upon her own career, writers and writings that inspire her, so as to guide our young learners on this writing-based journey.
Johanna’s workshop are designed for Key Stage 2 learners (Year 3, Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6) ________________________________________
Note: All visits made by the individual artists and staff, adhered to Covid-19 safety measures and were compliant to social distancing rules at all times.
Kirkby Gallery is the sister venue to Prescot Museum and both venues are part of the Culture Development & Events Service for Knowsley Council.
Art in the Park, is part of Kirkby Gallery’s ‘Out There and Online’ project as funded by