ArtMovesFife: creating art while on train to Leven, and exploring Tentsmuir’s Beach Of Dreams

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Creating art while travelling on the newly opened Levenmouth Rail Link, staging a ‘risk assessment’ with red banners while trying to find a safe crossing at the busy Forgan roundabout, and connecting with nature on the beach at Tentsmuir … three journeys which herald the launch of a new initiative which aims to cover the whole of the Kingdom.

ArtMovesFife is a new grassroots network that embeds artists and community into climate action, and it has plans to host more journeys in the coming months.

Last week brought its two leads, artists Gillian MacFarland & Kate Downie, to Kirkcaldy for a presentation of images, film and chat about their test bed of ideas. They also staged a short ArtMove parade, which brought the summer fields into the town, from the Adam Smith Theatre across to the war memorial gardens and on to Kirkcaldy Galleries.

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ArtMovesFife launched in the autumn of 2022 as part of a post-Covid recovery study funded through Fife Contemporary and directed towards the region’s creative community. It was then commissioned to research and develop the idea into something achievable and impactful.

Gillian McFarland and Kate Downie (centre) bring ArtMovesFife in Kirkcaldy (Pic: Cath Ruane)Gillian McFarland and Kate Downie (centre) bring ArtMovesFife in Kirkcaldy (Pic: Cath Ruane)
Gillian McFarland and Kate Downie (centre) bring ArtMovesFife in Kirkcaldy (Pic: Cath Ruane)

In March 2023 the duo brought together 40 artists from all corners of Fife to set out their initial proposal: a collaborative artwork of sequential and seasonal journeys across Fife, embedding arts and culture into climate action, working collaboratively with artists and communities, and mobilising them to consider the question “how do the arts shape place and how does place shape the arts?”

The journeys can be on foot, by bicycle, by bus, boat or train exploring all corners of Fife. They then become the test bed for discussion, ideas and art-making for positive environmental change through creative engagement. More details here:

With funding from Creative Scotland, they plan to deliver diverse workshop-journeys around Fife working with local artists and communities.

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Gillian explained: “It is about art on the move and how artists move us. The idea is to create connections with communities, and communities creating connections with others; getting people together to explore what the future might be like and how we get there.”They have committed to six journeys with each one taking place twice - the first with artists who then lead the community in the second.

Kate Downie and Gillian McFarlandKate Downie and Gillian McFarland
Kate Downie and Gillian McFarland

They have already taken a group by train from Kirkcaldy to Leven, with artwork created during the journey. Next month they focus on west Fife with a journey from Dunfermline to North Queensferry, and they have already made inroads in north-east Fife at Tentsmuir Beach as part of their ‘Beach Of Dreams’ initiative.

Launching the Lang Toun introduction, Kate said: “Fife is an amazing pace to explore. This project is artist led which is unusual, and we are working together on the landscape in towns and cities - not just the coastal path.

“We bring people together and workshop ideas and find out what their issues are, and you do that talking. When you get on a bus or train you chat in different ways. That is where you connect and get things moving.

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“It is all about connecting people and communities with creatives. Over the course of the pandemic everything fragmented - this allows people to join our journey and have the conversations on the landscape and the ideas to change and improve it.””At the busy Forgan Roundabout, they discovered how challenging it was for pedestrians the second they step off the bus - a barrier to getting to a wonderful woodland nearby

Gillian added: “We are building up a network. Artists are risk takers. What can we do with this?

We are experimenting with the journeys, and each one will happen twice - first with artists and then the connection to the wider community. It is artist led which is wonderful because art can move from idea to idea.

We are working across Fife engaging people and place, and trying to cover the region with three pilot Test Runs from north Tay to the Forth. Next year we will cover the whole of Fife with a couple of journeys each season - because it is a seasonal journey.”

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