Following a widespread open call for “clear communicators with a passion for creativity, art and their local community”, five people aged 18-29 have been selected to co-found a new creative studio for Thamesmead.
The chosen candidates, all from Thamesmead, are Shalini Panchal, Comfort Adeneye, Gonzalo Fuentes, Qozeem Lawal, Shalini Panchal and Whitney Manassian (pictured left to right). Together, they will oversee Southmere’s first permanent public art commission, situated in the newly-built Cygnet Square in the heart of Southmere, which is currently undergoing a major renovation. It forms part of Peabody’s long-term regeneration of Thamesmead that will see 20,000 homes built over thirty years, along with thousands of new jobs, leisure, cultural and commercial facilities.
“Art and culture is vital to the transformation of Thamesmead, celebrating it as an iconic yet often overlooked place that has been inspiring creatives for decades. An unfolding programme of events and projects has started to reveal the incredible creativity of the people who live here. This new initiative takes that to the next level. The amazing young people that are forming Thamesmead’s first Creative Studio will not only have the power to commission public art that is relevant and representative of their friends, family and neighbours, but they will be our ambassadors and window onto an ambitious future for the town”.Adriana Marques, Head of Cultural Strategy for Thamesmead
Facilitated by Yinka Danmole, Vickie Hayward and Joseph Gray – a creative team with extensive experience in the delivery of public realm art – this long-term, paid work experience opportunity comprises weekly workshops and mentoring sessions that will take place at a variety of public and community venues around Thamesmead. These sessions will prepare the Thamesmead Creative Studio to lead the commissioning process for Cygnet Square’s first artwork, scheduled to be unveiled in the Autumn of 2022. Studio co-founders will lead on the direction of the piece, while learning on-the-job project management skills, from curating artwork to budgeting and time management.
Guest practitioners set to meet with the cohort in the coming weeks include graphic designers Fraser Muggeridge studio, multi-disciplinary architecture, design and art collective Assemble, artist Katie Schwab, Thamesmead-based contemporary art organisation TACO!, multidisciplinary artist Divine Southgate, ceramic artist and architect Maria Gasparian and Cultural Producer & Curator Razia Jordan.
The aim for this initial phase in the project is to challenge standard practise around the commissioning of public art, centring the voices of creative young people and equipping them with the necessary tools and skills to develop and take the commissioning process forward into the future.
“This opportunity to commission new permanent artwork as a team is really ambitious, and it gives us the unique chance to make sure the work produced represents where we’re from, who we are, and what we’re about. Learning how to manage projects like this and what skills we’ll need to thrive in the creative industries moving forward is a massive bonus. Our aim here is to show how art and culture can help to positively impact Thamesmead. We’re committed to trying new things, inspiring others along the way, and creating work that actually matters”.The five Co-founders said:
Shalini Panchal is an art lover and aspiring small business owner who has lived in the area since she was born. She says “Until now, I had worked in various corporate jobs where I was able to develop my professional skills and I made the decision to follow my creative passions of starting my own small business to produce graphic art and typography, which is what I am currently working on. I appreciate all art forms and I get inspiration from lots of different things, including architecture, films, fashion and music. I was interested in this project because it will be a great way for me to learn new skills, meet other creatives in the area and be a part of something exciting for Thamesmead!”. IG: @shaypanchal
Comfort Adeneye is 21 years old and has lived in Thamesmead since 2006. She is currently in the third year of a filmmaking degree at Nottingham Trent University. She says “The theme for my personal study has always been social realism through the lens of ambitious working-class youth which has been inspired by my upbringing across Peckham to Thamesmead. The area of filmmaking that interests me the most is narrative writing and being able to tell stories through different mediums. My other interests include music, hair anthropology, and a newfound appreciation for nature”. IG: @_comfortt
Gonzalo Fuentes completed a Bachelor in Fine Arts at the University of Málaga (Spain) and a Master’s Degree in Art and Creation from the Complutense University of Madrid. His projects are based on the conception of painting as a compositional game through resources and references to architectural features. Relocating to London in January 2019 for work and study, he lives in one of the single-family homes that make up the Thamesmead residential area. Currently, he works as an administrative assistant in a care agency in Woolwich, and works on creative projects in his free time. He is interested in ways the visual arts can have a social and educational impact. IG: @gonzalofuentes3
Qozeem Lawal completed a BA in English, an MA in Fashion Entrepreneurship and now runs a clothing line named Achilles. His aim is to produce polarising designs, something that will catch someone’s attention before they even notice who is wearing it. He has said “I am a believer in no dreams being out of reach given enough time, planning and discipline is put in place. I also know that the sooner young people find such confidence within themselves, the better off our communities and planet will be”. IG: @qozeem
Whitney Manassian is an Italian artist whose work investigates the concepts of beauty, nostalgia and love. Originally from a fine art background, Whitney came to the UK inspired by her passion for illustration and cinematography to explore and experiment. She has recently graduated from the illustration and animation course at the University for the Creative Arts in Canterbury. Whitney has been involved with the production of the Thamesmead festival and a mentee on the play My teacher is a Troll at the Ruined Theatre. IG: @_magentamonkey99_