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> > > Cooltan Arts and Artangel: On Our Way Here

On Our Way Here was the first in a series of four talks to accompany an exciting collaboration between CoolTan Arts and Artangel, held at The Type Museum. Review by Wendy Young

sepia photo of reflected architectural space

image by Saskia Olde Wolbers

Participating were Michelle Baharier (CoolTan Arts Founder), R M Sanchez-Camus (a.k.a. the artist Marcello) and Rachel Anderson (Artangel Project Producer). 

Rachel began by explaining why it is important to engage with communities as artists, stressing that single parts make up the whole picture. She shared her experience of work in a hostile environment (Wandsworth Prison) on a 2-3 year project, during the course of which unspoken art spaces were created and 'moments of utopia for tender subjects'. The claim that ’There are no gay men in prison!' was challenged by a collaborative force of art, gay prisoners, and lesbian and gay prison officers.

CoolTan Arts has grown into a respected organisation with a workforce that includes 75% disabled staff and created the ground-breaking Largactyl Shuffle guided walks. Their approach to mental health therapy is art and walking, rather than well intentioned but 'depressing meetings in church halls and cups of tea'. Unsurprisingly, Rachel was very eager to collaborate with CoolTan.                                     

Accomplished artist Marcello could not have produced the end result without the process of engaging with CoolTan’s emotional feedback and poetic extractions. These were influenced by Van Gogh's letters and writings as an outsider in London.  'After a simple start, the process grew and grew', culminating in a magical audio guided walk which takes users on a journey of discovery to see London through Van Gogh’s eyes. 

Michelle also wanted to comment that creativity doesn't stop in the classroom - rather it should percolate into every part of life. She also highlighted the fact that obstacles like bollards don't get in the way of a CoolTan walk: 'We got them moved... the muddy path in a park cleared for wheelchair-users'. These walks can be a network where things can be shared – anything from phone numbers to experiences of taking prescription drugs of which GPs may not even know the consequences or side-effects.

CoolTan Arts with the redoutable Michelle at the helm, reminds us all that disabled people also want access to the world. 

'At the Crossroads with Vincent Van Gogh's Eyes' will be launched at CoolTan on 29th May 
Three more organised talks to accompany the work will take place at the Type Archive, The Type Museum 100 Hackford Rd, London, City of London, Greater London SW9 0QU
For more information contact Artangel
Tel: 020 7713 1400 (Tickets £7/£5 book in advance)

Artangel present 'Yes, These Eyes are the Windows' by Saskia Olde Wolbers at 87 Hackford Road, London  SW9 0RE until 22nd June 2014.