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St Cyrus Youth Shelter Public Art Project


St. Cyrus is sited high on a cliff on the East Coast of Scotland, between the cities of Dundee and Aberdeen. The nearest town is Montrose, Angus. It is friendly village with around 1000 inhabitants with a great community spirit. St Cyrus is recognisable from miles away by its church and steeple, which is a well known landmark.

Young people hang out at the local park every evening but when it is raining they used to hang out at the bus stop on the main street as there is a lack of designated youth facilities in the village. Local residents were concerned about young people hanging out at the bus stop as they often play football on the road (the A92).

Aberdeenshire Council’s Community Learning and Development Staff worked with a group of young people and the St. Cyrus Community Council to raise funds to erect a youth shelter in Ecclesgreig Park, St. Cyrus. The young people, who will use the shelter have taken ownership of the project and planned to appoint an artist to support them to create artwork for the shelter.

Two artists were short listed by the young people and invited to interview. Interviews were held at Ecclesgrieg park on the COMET and in the already installed youth shelter. The interview panel was made up of four local young people, Frances Johnston, St. Cyrus community council, Marie Shaw, Arts development officer and Kirsty Smith, Community Learning and Development Worker. The young people unanimously selected Jacky Niven, a Freelance Artist living and working locally. Based in Newtonhill, Jacky runs a children’s Arts and Crafts Group, “Artizfun!” with another local Artist. Prior to setting up business in June 2006, Jacky was a Tutor working with young people aged 16 to 18 years with educational, social, health & lifestyle challenges on “Get Ready For Work”, a government initiative funded by Scottish Enterprise. Jacky’s broad experience, enthusiasm for the project and personality meant that she was the right person for the job and the young people really felt that Jacky really understood what they wanted. As well as selecting the right candidate local youngsters were actively involved in writing the brief, short listing the candidates, interviewing and appointing the artist.

Workshops were held with the young people to finalise designs. The young people, with Jacky’s guidance, explored what they wanted the designs to communicate to the local community and to the young people using the shelter. Whilst they wanted to use imagery depicting what they were interested in they also wanted the designs to offer identity and a sense of being a positive part of the community

Art met Technology when the designs were then fabricated at James Aitkin (Sheet Metal) Ltd using a high definition plasma cutting technique more commonly used in oil, gas and marine industries. Plasma cutting is a process that is used to cut steel and other metals a plasma torch. In this process, an inert gas is blown at high speed out of a nozzle; at the same time an electrical arc is formed through that gas from the nozzle to the surface being cut, turning some of that gas to plasma. The plasma is sufficiently hot to melt the metal being cut and moves sufficiently fast to blow molten metal away from the cut. This cutting technology offered a great deal of flexibility and was a cost effective way of producing the designs.

Art works were then installed and spray painted by the young people at workshops with Jacky. Painting the panels in situ was a great way of further developing a sense of ownership. During the workshops the young people were keen that emphasis was placed on making the space happy and welcoming.
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