"Food for Thought" (2013) project:

14/06/2013: I designed and delivered this interactive Art Workshop, "Food for Thought", as part of a site-specific Empty Shop project in collaboration with Hexham Arts Forum and The Hexham Spaces Project.

I began the project by finding out more about the space and its history. The site was DELIcious, which was a former popular sandwich shop on a busy Hexham street. I then came up with the concept for "Food for Thought" because I was inspired by the idea of conversations taking place in the building as people used the space to buy their sandwiches and lunchtime edibles. It made me think about the customer experience as one interacted with the shopkeeper and indeed, other customers. There will have been a rich and diverse range of people who will have entered the shop over the years when it was in use. Connections are forged through these interactions and this made me think of the idea of layers in terms of time, presence, memory and interaction. The proposed session consisted of group discussions and creative activities involving: drawing, text, 3D, installation and performance.

The day itself went extremely well and the students from Queen Elizabeth High School, Hexham, were excited about the project. None of them had ever been to the shop before so this was a great opportunity to celebrate its existence and memory by breathing life into it once more. The students drew mind-maps, wrote text and create drawings on pieces of new and existing sandwich boards. They created wire drawings inspired by the space and the stories surrounding it. The students then worked on creating hand-made 3D sculptures of deliciously edible items using arts 'n' crafts materials and also leftover objects from the space e.g. cupcake cases, kitchen roll, sandwich bags etc. The finale of the workshop then resulted in a performance piece where the students (and myself and Morag) played the role of the busy shopkeeper and hungry customers! The "customers" had to queue in the currently empty shop and then exchange their hand-made "food" items for a thought, question, comment or revelation from the shopkeeper. The "customers" then responded to these by drawing or writing their responses onto new and existing sandwich boards before joining the queue again. The queues kept forming and the shelves kept filling... :-) The DELIcious shop was coming to life once more!

The day's artistic happenings was documented by photography and the artworks from the day were also curated by artist Pui Lee and Project Co-ordinator, Morag Illes, into a small exhibition on-site.The exhibition preview took place during the evening after the workshop and it was lovely meeting the locals who came to have a look. Thanks also to Mary Oswell for loaning us the space as an Empty Shop.

The exhibition was on show to the public for on-street viewing for a month from 15th June 2013 to 13th July 2013. Venue address: DELIcious!, 31 Hencotes, Hexham, Northumberland. NE46 2EQ.

One student commented, "Thanks for today. -I've never done anything like this before but I really enjoyed myself!"

Customers in the "Food for Thought" shop write down or draw their responses to the thoughts/comments/questions/revelations handed back to them on sandwich boards... The students create wire sculptures in response to the surroundings of the former sandwich shop.

The students have a go at playing shopkeeper at the "Food for Thought" shop... Some of the hand-made food exchanged for thoughts/comments/questions/revelations... The shelves are filling up with lots of hand-made food! Some of the wire sculptures made in response to the space. Close-up of the installation The exhibition was viewable on-street for a month after the workshop!

Me and Mary Oswell ex-owner of former DELIcious sandwich shop Preview Exhibition of "Food for Thought!"

Project Feedback from Morag Illes (Project Co-ordinator at Hexham Spaces Project):

"Hexham Spaces Project is established to showcase a range of local creativity and community-driven initiatives in the heart of Hexham, Northumberland, through short term use of available retail spaces in the town centre. The Project is actively working with a variety of groups and organisations in the town to present a range of pop-up community projects, visual art and local craft displays in currently vacant retail spaces.  

Pui Lee worked with us facilitating an art workshop for sixth form students from Queen Elizabeth High School, Hexham. The workshop took place in DELIcious, a now redundant sandwich shop. This was Hexham Spaces premiere workshop and gallery venue. 

Pui Lee is a thoughtful and engaging artist. At Hexham Spaces, we are concerned with creating work that invites and encourages the community to engage with space and its many uses but we pride ourselves on remaining site sensitive. Pui did an excellent job at connecting with the site and relating the workshop to its surrounding. Pui followed the brief and introduced students to new mediums of art and ways of thinking. Pui Lee was welcoming and tentative to the students, motivating them to express themselves in a range of ways.  

Many thanks Pui from all at Hexham Spaces Project." 


To go back to "Other Examples of Community Workshops with Artist Pui Lee". Click here.