TURF Projects: art innovation in the community

By - Tuesday 2nd December, 2014

Bernadette Fallon meets artist and TURF founder Alice Cretney to talk art and golfing in Croydon

Putt Putt #2.
Photo by Jim Stephenson, used with permission.

Crazy golf outside East Croydon station, outdoor films in the skate park at Wandle Park, billboard posters around the town… just some of the artistic endeavours delivered by TURF Projects, who organise artist-run exhibitions and events in Croydon. It’s art, Jim, but not as we know it.

Well, actually, maybe it is as we know it – contemporary art continues to push boundaries and innovate, making us stop and think. And one of the things we inevitably think is, “Is that art?” It was one of the first questions I asked Alice when we met: did people not just come out of the station and go, “Oh brilliant, I’ll have a game of pitch and putt”?

She smiles. “The idea was to make interactive art, with an element of play and sport. We originally staged Putt Putt in Exchange Square, just for one night and the following day, and we had such a great reaction from the public that we ran it for six weeks this summer outside East Croydon station.” And, when she shows me photos from Putt Putt #2, I can see why: despite its ‘practical nature’, it is very much an art installation – all beautiful flowing lines, shapes and colours.

A class to promote pleasure in life – how wonderful is that?

Set up October 2013, TURF Projects brings together local artists, filmmakers and architects who stage free art events and exhibitions around Croydon, working with an ever-growing number of emerging and established artists in both the UK and abroad. All sounding rather too arty? Not a bit of it. “The idea,” explains Alice, “is to get local people and visitors involved as well.”

The current community project is a series of workshops for the public called Stones of Croydon. It has a pretty amazing purpose. Based on the John Ruskin principles outlined in his book The Stones of Venice, the workshops are intended not for the training of artists but of people who, by following the class, ‘might see greater beauties than they had hitherto seen in nature and art, and thereby gain more pleasure in life.’ A class to promote pleasure in life – how wonderful is that?

It’s been a busy year and next year is going to be even bigger

Classes are held every two weeks and led each time by a different ‘artist’ – and I’m using the term very loosely as it includes people from lots of different backgrounds, including art, design, architecture, religion and literature. They do teach some drawing technique, depending on the workshop leader’s experience in this area, but the main focus is on finding out more about the local area – recent workshops include a tour of the ‘lost cinemas’ of Croydon and an outdoor session to capture the character and energy of the Old Town.

To see a current TURF Project in action, take a walk around Wandle Park, where the Fungus collaboration between poster art and words is underway. The first of a series of billboard posters has been located in the park, with the aim of discussing and celebrating the importance and potential of Croydon’s public spaces. Watch for other posters springing up around the place!

“It’s been a busy year,” says Alice, “And next year is going to be even bigger, with five exhibitions for the start of 2015 already in the planning.” She also hopes to get artists working more closely with Croydon’s thriving tech community – so it’s fitting that we’re chatting in Matthews Yard, right before Croydon’s monthly Tech City kicks off – and wants to continue the programme of interactive art, encouraging us all to get involved. Watch out for me teeing off somewhere close by, anytime soon!

For more information visit the TURF Projects website here.

Bernadette Fallon

Bernadette Fallon

Bernadette has been a journalist since the age of 7 when she devised, designed and launched ‘Fallon’s News’ – much to her family’s delight. Brought up in Ireland, she was born in Addiscombe where she now lives, though it took her several decades to find it again. She works as a journalist and broadcaster. Follow her at Twitter.com/bernibee

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