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Multi-sensory participatory artist expands horizons thanks to Grants for the arts

  • Date: 28 February 2011
  • Area: North
Aerial view of a group of people kneeling down drawing on a large white canvas

Drawn to the Beat by Naomi Kendrick 2010. Credit: Jacob Russell

Manchester's Band on the Wall club space was transformed into a giant canvas this January as disabled and non-disabled participants joined artist Naomi Kendrick for a unique silent disco, Drawn to the Beat.

This event was the culmination of a research and development programme, supported by a Grants for the arts award from Arts Council England, in which Manchester-based Kendrick developed her distinctive work in multi-sensory participatory art.

At Band on the Wall, participants listened to music on headphones - as usual in a silent disco - but, in a method developed by the artist, they responded to the music by drawing on the dance floor.

Kendrick's method of drawing music has the act of listening and physical response at its core. Working in this way, the artist attempts to bring an immediate connection between mind and body that results in a drawing. This process often involves working with her eyes closed and using both hands, moving in response to the layers and speed of the sound heard, and building up an energetic drawing of layered marks.

During Drawn to the Beat, two different channels featuring a range of eclectic music could be chosen from via the headphones, which meant one person could be drawing classical music while the person next to them drew reggae.

As part of the research and development programme, Kendrick also developed and held multi-sensory workshops for learning disabled and visually impaired adults at three exhibitions at DaDaFest 2010, the UK's largest and most diverse disability and Deaf arts festival, which is staged in Liverpool. These included verbal description in combination with objects, sounds, smells and even tastes inspired by the exhibitions and gave participants new opportunities to engage with and to create art.

The festival also commissioned Kendrick to produce a film, clips from which were shown nationally on the BBC Big Screens and BBC 2's The Culture Show showing her carrying out music drawing.

Naomi Kendrick said: 'Carrying out the workshops for DaDaFest and Drawn to the Beat, my event at Band on the Wall, has had a great impact on the development of my practice. Through my own observations and from participants' feedback I have confirmed that, when creating a participatory event, inclusivity should be an integral part of the concept of the artwork, rather than an add-on when targeting an audience to participate in it. And that there is a demand for me to develop further events in the future. I have discovered a great deal about how people respond to music drawing differently, both from the view point of participants and the musicians who have been involved; this has directly influenced my own music drawings and will contribute to future participatory work, the seeds of which are already being formed.'

Caroline Turner, Visual Arts Assessor, Grants for the arts, Arts Council England added: 'Naomi Kendrick's work creates a fascinating range of inclusive opportunities to participate in art in new ways. With the support of this award, she has developed her practice while at each step along the way engaging with audiences and fellow artists, sharing the excitement and the rewards of taking part in the arts.'

For more information, visit Naomi Kendrick's website or watch clips of Naomi Kendrick music drawing, filmed by Mark Morreaux and commissioned by DaDaFest 2010.