You’re having a laugh! – New art commission with People United & Foka Wolf

You’re having a laugh! – New art commission with People United & Foka Wolf

There hasn’t been much to laugh about during the last few months thanks to COVID-19 – so that’s why Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park has decided to put a smile on everyone’s faces by exploring humour for a brand new art commission.

They’ve teamed up with leading participatory arts organisation People United, who investigate kindness in the arts and its influence on prosocial behaviour, to explore the theme of humour with their local communities.

This investigation will lead to new public art interventions in their 120-acre ‘Capability’ Brown parkland, which will all be created by Birmingham based street artist Foka Wolf.  Foka Wolf was appointed following an open call with more than forty 40 artists applying to take part.

Enter-Exit, Foka Wolf, 2019 (image courtesy of the artist)

Great, Foka Wolf, 2020 (image courtey of the artist)

The partnership got underway with two sessions of The Laughter Café (14 & 16 August), hosted by Janice Connolly BEM, Artistic Director of Women & Theatre (as well as starring in shows such as Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights, Janice is also known for her alter-ego, Birmingham icon and Britain’s Got Talent star, Mrs Barbara Nice).

Local people joined Janice for two hours across the two sessions of the online Café to share and discuss what’s made them laugh in lockdown.

Humanity has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. In this extraordinary time we have found ourselves living through, humour has  proved  an important ally in its ability to strengthen our resilience  as individuals and communities .In the Laughter Cafe sessions, I was struck by how often people cited the  role that everyday interactions, language play and observations of daily family life had in eliciting laughter and humour. I really look forward to seeing how these laugh out loud, lively, big hearted sessions inform the artwork in the grounds of Compton Verney.”

Everything that has come out of The Laughter Café is now being used to fuel the new work of art for Compton Verney’s park, created by Foka Wolf.

Foka says “I am overjoyed to be working on a commission with People United and Compton Verney this September. Compton Verney was one of the first galleries I ever visited as a teenager, so I have fond memories of it. People United have been involved in some fantastic projects over the last decade that bring happiness and kindness through the use of art, and that to me is what art is all about, so naturally I was drawn to their call out.”

He added “ The submission guidelines could have been made for me – text based artworks using humour to help people be more empathetic and kind towards one another. I am really intrigued to see how this sort of work will sit in the a parkland and gallery setting. Usually my work is out on a road side, but here I can observe the Compton Verney gallerygoers reactions in the flesh. I am hoping to bring about some positivity through these installations and I can’t wait for people to see what we have in store.”

The new artwork/s will be unveiled in September 2020.

Compton Verney’s Julie Finch, CEO-Director “At this momentous time we want Compton Verney to enhance wellbeing and creativity, fire the imagination, and be a place of solace – and this project is ideal for speaking to all that. We also want to support the economy of the sector and the region, so we are really delighted to be working with Foka Wolf, a local artist, on bringing this project to life.”

Janice McGuinness, CEO People United said “People United is delighted to be working with Compton Verney on this exciting project. It feels timely to be exploring and celebrating the way humour can shift our perspective and positively affect our emotions and behaviour. The prospect of People United, Compton Verney and Foka Wolf working together holds such promise, along with an exhilarating unpredictability, and I can’t wait to see the outcome of their collaboration – and of course to smile and laugh at it!”