The Residency project was realized thanks to a joint effort between Staffordshire University, Warsaw University and University of Barcelona. The project delivered artist residencies in Poland, Spain and the UK, each involving an artist from a partner country. The point was to explore how residencies could be used to train and support people in how to use community and participatory arts to promote civic engagement.
Our part took place in Barcelona’s L’Eixample district. The site called “Espai Germanetes” is a public space managed by a grassroots association aiming to enhance neighbourhood appropriation and local engagement.
At the present, Espai Germanetes is part of the “Plan Buits”. It is a plan promoted by the City Council to allow the temporary use of 19 empty plots in Barcelona city by public institutions, grassroots associations and other non-profit stakeholders.
Our project was inspired and based on a vegetable garden created by neighbours. Plants became the main theme and a tool of animating residents and getting them involved in the urban space we worked in. We invited nearby shops, bars, schools, local business owners and organizations and an elderly care home to plant a garden in the form of a physical, participatory social network. Together we also built a modular and mobile vegetable garden. It acted as a startup kit for grass-root green expansion to unused city plots. We used it to return los parts of the city to the residents.
Workshops became an integrated part of our residency. Thanks to this form of activity we were able to reach and get to know local residents. We managed to get through to groups of people previously uninvolved in or unaware of the Espai Germanetes social space.
We invited seniors from a nearby elderly care home to grow seedlings for the mobile garden, In return for their help each participant had the chance to make their own piece of pottery from clay dug up in Germanetes.
Groups of boy scouts were using the mobile garden modules to make nearby sidewalks more friendly. They used flowers brought by neighbours to create mini gardens around trees.
We also took the modules to a nearby school and taught children how to plant seedlings in recycled PET bottles.
On st George’s day we gathered an army of kids and their parents to chase away a dragon from a neighbouring plot. Together we prepared and led a seed bomb battle.