Touring art installation brings Midlands archives to a wider audience

Last Monday, two large colourful shipping containers painted by international street artist Mohammed Ali arrived in University Square, Coventry. He has been leading a team of local artists who have been mining the wealth of resources held in four regional archives across the West Midlands to create a bold new art installation touring Rugby, Coventry, Dudley and Worcester over the summer months. The artists have been working with young people and community groups across the area to find inspiration for their pieces, exploring the collections to discover the stories of people who might otherwise have been forgotten. 

The installation remained in Coventry for a week. During that time, a combination of video and sound installations brought the archives to life, blending contemporary spoken word and visual effects to create a fresh new way of exploring the materials. This helped to ensure that the wealth of stories about local people that the archives contain reached a much broader audience than they would otherwise have done.   

Among the artists contributing to the installation was Mel Robinson, who researched the life of Dorothie Feilding. She volunteered for the Munro Ambulance Corps on the outbreak of war in 1914, serving three years under shellfire as an ambulance driver in Belgium transporting the dead and injured to field hospitals. The Warwick County Record Office hold some 400 of her letters, postcards and telegrams home which, although initially full of unashamed jingoism, are extremely revealing of the horrors of life on the Western Front. In response to this, Mel has created Writing Desk for Dorothie, a piece that combines flower petals and paper cutouts with contemporary photographs and quotes from her letters. 

Mel Robinson, Writing Desk for Dorothie, part of Strong Rooms art installation, 2016. 

Mel Robinson, Writing Desk for Dorothie, part of Strong Rooms art installation, 2016. 

In addition to the installation itself, lead artist Mohammed Ali gave a live painting demonstration on Saturday 16 July, giving visitors the opportunity to see how archives can be reinterpreted and transformed into artworks. 

Mohammed Ali, painting of Dorothie Feilding on side of shipping container, part of Strong Rooms installation, University Square, Coventry, July 2016. 

Mohammed Ali, painting of Dorothie Feilding on side of shipping container, part of Strong Rooms installation, University Square, Coventry, July 2016. 

If you'd like the opportunity to see their work for yourself, Strong Rooms will be visiting Dudley (1-8 August) and then Worcester (8-15 August).