Raquel is an artist mum of two aged 5 and under. Since her youngest child started preschool in September 2015, Raquel instigated two unique ventures: ‘Foundation Art Birmingham’ and subsequently ‘Fab Forest’ in March 2016, a branch of ‘FAB’ and is artistic director to both. Her vision to bridge the arts to the local community of Birmingham is expanding along with integrating the outdoor environment through ‘Forest School’. She has found exciting ways to adopt these two approaches by fusing them together to create a richly visual, stimulating and fun way of learning, creating play and creative environments, and having a profound impact on the locals of Birmingham and residents of the UK already.

Raquel is now employing newfound skills in the area of publishing, curating and critical writing through funded training from ‘Node Centre for Curatorial Studies’ in Berlin, to support her research and discourse into the notion of ‘selected site and how art can have tendencies to be exhibited or situated in formal and less family/child friendly environments’ for example. She is interested greatly in ‘typical non art audiences’ and how we can bridge them to finding easier access and platforms to engage with the arts and the art community, by hosting activities and events in local nurseries, schools, community hubs, churches, camping areas and outdoor parks.

On one hand she would select a narrative from which to combine artistic styles,  movements or precedents and re-define a song, craft, game or activity under the umbrella of a fictional children’s book to name one example with toddlers and parents. On the other hand, she would devise a programme for a multitude of children from a primary school setting with a limited exposure to art and encourage a unique art exhibition within a contemporary art cafe gallery, created from a series of seasonal art sessions after school hours. The selected art works for the exhibition would be chosen in a completely non biased way- so that each individual would have full contribution to the final show and perhaps have the potential to say to themselves, whatever age, that they can exhibit in a ‘real art show’, priding themselves an ‘artist’, however junior they may be!

In fostering a haven for experiments and imagination, creative play and discovery within the contexts of modern and contemporary art, Raquel continues to serve as a link between ‘art and its connecting growing audience’ through her role as ‘artist – mum’. From her own personal experience connecting with the arts scene along with her own family and seeing the challenges or missing links-, this has deepened her conviction to serve as the ‘eyes and the ears’ for the other families/members of the public’, who may hunger for a better foundational avenue to reach the arts but perhaps for whatever circumstantial reasons, cannot.

One recent instance that raised Raquel’s alertness in this field was when she was performing live for an opening night her work ‘Camstroller’ 2015 at the mac Birmingham and Cannon Hill Park for the Cannon Hill School of art summer Show… In executing this, the artist was provoked to explore and examine the restrictions and struggles a parent with a buggy and two kids would have in attending a typical art exhibition night. The mac in this instance, was in fact family friendly-, but there were still major stumbling blocks as seen from the video works and installation processed afterwards.

Raquel’s art practice and new community art ventures share unique parallels therefore, seeking to create awareness and to send ripples of messages to inform and educate a wider audience who are artistic in background or not. She was awarded funding and support from ‘Arts Connect West Midlands’ in February 2016 and was invited to present her ideas and objectives. What is underlying fundamentally, is how her inspiration and ideas to create new evolving artworks and project pieces are inherently drawn out from familiar childhood experiences, deconstructing and re-constructing, testing, being experimental, taking risks and throwing new light onto the ways that something that might generally be associated with our ways of understanding can be seen with fresh ways of seeing.

” It is absolutely key to muster the energy and protect the ‘artistic identity of every child’ and with that, every ‘artist’s child within them’ too. ” – Raquel Macartney