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The Business of Life – the Ruskin Studio 2012-14 (ACE funded)

Amanda acted as a "critical friend" to artists' Kate Genever and Steve Pool's on their ACE-funded Business of Life project

"There is a great deal of distress just now - so many now being out of work - and it is impossible to pass through the streets without seeing it obvious in some form or other."
(The words of the social visionary, Edward Carpenter, from a letter to Walt Whitman, 1877)

Walking today through Sheffield’s Parson Cross estate, one of the largest social housing developments in Europe, it is once again impossible to avoid seeing ‘a great deal of distress’. As in 1877 there are high levels of unemployment, there are large areas of wasteland waiting for a "next phase of development", and there are low levels of aspiration in children and low levels of expectation in the older community.

We want to establish a project that will explore the thinking of Carpenter’s friend and inspiration, John Ruskin, who came to Sheffield in the 1870s at his friend’s suggestion, bringing with him his progressive ideas around art and social justice. We aim:
• to use the Sheffield-based Ruskin collection to provide a new lens through which local people can view their environment.

• to develop and explore collaborative practice within communities in the North of Sheffield.
• to act as a catalyst to encourage and develop collaborations between key stakeholders promoting cultural porosity between city centre based provision and the outlying areas.

Ruskin was a major artist and thinker of the 19th century, best known for his ideas around arts practice and its relationship to the natural world. Ruskin’s approach to the landscape and environment are relevant now as we struggle to find solutions to global problems through local initiatives. This work will explore the impact of the arts in areas where people have low uptake of the City’s cultural offer. The project will be based at SOAR works in Parson Cross, North Sheffield but will engage city-wide.
"Sheffield is surrounded by spectacular countryside, but the great mass of working people had no time to experience its beauty or even breathe fresh air" – Ruskin in Sheffield. Louise Pullen - Museums Sheffield