Pandora's Other Box
‘…to expand one’s sense of what might be possible.’
I wanted to create a group that would optimise the potential for confident artistic practice and personal growth. I invited some women creatives I knew who were seasoned Artists, practised at making work to exhibit and those that were creative but with less experience or formal training. I booked an exhibition space one or two years in advance and laid out a scaffold of regular meet-ups and latterly workshop sessions. I facilitated using my experience as an artist and principles from my training as a therapist and teacher. Important to me was to challenge the self-deprecation that I had seen emerge around the creative process and provide enough support to allow each Artist to flourish with mutual support and learning.
2006 The Horsebridge Art Centre, Whitstable
15 women artists were invited to respond to the theme of ‘Pandora’s Other Box’ in any media.
Artists: Carol Foster, Trish Flynn, Pamela (Mei) Leunge, Alma Caira, Teresa Samson, Anneke Stone, Cathy McTurk, Susan Morland, Liliana Klimova, Cathy Myles, Sue Carfrae,Tracie Peisley, Sandy Spruzen, Katrina Taylor, Claire Tindall.
Following this exhibition I invited the 13 participating women to run their own groups, inviting women creatives as I had. This gave opportunities for leadership and to organically develop the inclusion of other women.
2008 The Horsebridge Art Centre, Whitstable, 15th - 27th May
31 women artists responded to the theme of Pandora’s Other Box.
Artists: Josephine Harvatt, Fran Warne, Hiroko Aono Billson, Carol Foster, Pamela (Mei) Leunge, Ji Sun Sjogren, Peggy Eagle, Patricia Smith, Deborah Crofts, Euphemia Mc Tavish, Tuula Whitlow, Charlotte Firmin, Mavernie Cunningham, Helene Williams, Liliana Klimova, Trish Flynn, Cathy Myldes, Tracie Peisley, Rita Keegan, Mary Stockton-Smith, Sisters Quim, Sue Carfrae, Emily Firmin, Teresa Samson, Cathy McTurk, Alma Caira, Georgia Wright, Madeline Coles, Jayne Delarre, Susan Morland, Sam Martingdale.
On 14th October 2011 our ‘smallest Pandora’ Mei Leunge, an internationally recognised ceramicist and hugely loved close friend of many of the women, died after a 12 year battle with cancer. Mei lived with a fierce vitality, her work reflected her battle with cancer. She asked in her final months not to be forgotten.
The original Pandora group were invited to work towards a memorial exhibition for Mei. The quality of the meetings were enhanced through making together as we remembered Mei. Mei was a driving force and wise women. Alma Caira’s fuse glass banner of bunting asking ‘what would Mei do?’ became a mantra for us all.
2012 'Nine Lives' Mei’s Memorial Exhibition, The Fish Slab Gallery, Whitstable
Artists: Carol Foster, Alma Caira, Trish Flynn, Mary Stockton-Smith, Diana Strauss, Jayne De Larre, Sarah Denays, Teresa Samson, Susan Morland, Cathy McTurk, Tracie Peisley, the ceramics of Mei Leunge.
This year saw dramatic changes for me, unemployed I changed the culture of the Pandora’s Other Box project. During this phase I curated a small exhibition of 7 women artists, inviting them to respond to a theme unanimously pertinent.
2015 'All Change', The Fish Slab Gallery, Whitstable
Artists: Susanne Paisley-Day, Max Kimber, Colleen Rouse, Tracie Peisley, Rachael Dickens, Allison Lee, Jennifer Wright
Maya Angelou died 28th May 2014 still grieving for Mei and reeling from changes in my personal life, the virago in me found Angelou’s poetry resonated with my inner phoenix. I invited women once again to respond to the themes offered in her poem … ‘Still I Rise.’
I continued with the workshops, offering participants, an opportunity to exhibit, an enrichment programme of workshops and a space for sharing and discussion. The work was difficult to make, more of a right of passage than a celebration as I had imagined. I offer the themes and they are always linked to my need for process but I believe and I have seen the evidence that what one women does for herself, whether it’s speaking about her work, or exhibiting it, or taking it in a new direction… the action is felt by everyone. I am aware that I invite women to look to their darkness as well as to their light. I invited Colleen Rouse to co-facilitate with group with me, realising that the powerful processes within the group benefited from a second person.
2015 Still I Rise, The Fish Slab Gallery, Whitstable, October 28th - 3rd November
Artists: Jennifer Wright, Trish Flynn, Max Kimber, Samantha Osborne, Gill Kendall, Colleen Rouse, Wendy Robinson, Tracie Peisley.
The Pandora’s Other Box project settled into it’s new form and new home at Whitstable Library, where we ran two groups for the enrichment programme and a regular discussion group for any women creative while holding the theme of SKIN in mind.
During this time I was given the opportunity through membership to Kent Creative Arts to interview women about their creative process, art, activism and life… I began with Trish Flynn who has been in the Pandora’s Other Box Project since 2004 and runs her own women’s art group called ‘Diva’s’. The interview can be heard here.
The workshops are launch pads, I invite women to experiment and take risks with new materials. Some of the original members of Pandora’s Other Box run workshops in their own specialism, such as Carol Foster – ceramics and Alma Caira-fused glass … a mutuality of shared expertise continues to flourish there is a web of support, training and further enrichment is widely available.
2016 Skin, The Horsebridge Art Centre, Whistable, 24th - 30th August
With an aim to expand the project, to heighten the status of women artist’s work and make it more inclusive I offer an OPEN submission for SKIN, with a panel of judges to support the selection process:
- Paula Chappell – Director of Chappell Contemporary, Whitstable
- David Lilford – Director of Lilford Gallery, Canterbury & Folkestone
- Dawn Giles – Director of Bedford Creative Arts
- Tracie Peisley – Director of Pandora’s Other Box
- Colleen Rouse – Co-facilitator of Pandora’s Other Box.
Watch a video of the exhibition below...
Video by Annie Catford 2016