If you visit as many Manchester parks as I do, you can’t help but notice the the variety of public artworks brightening up these public spaces. These range from carved wooden squirrels to giant metal dinosaurs, but my favourites are the colourful mosaics of Manchester artist Amanda McCrann, which can be seen brightening up a growing number of parks in the Manchester area.
To me, these artworks are important on a number of levels. Most obviously, they make your local park look more attractive. Nothing wrong with that, I enjoy having my eye caught by something pretty when I’m pushing my daughter on the swings. But these mosaics are more than that. Amanda works on them with local school children. Getting young people involved in projects which enhance their local area helps to give them “ownership” of these spaces and they’ll hopefully grow wanting to use and look after them. What’s more, it must be amazing to work on a project with a “real life” artist like Amanda, who comes from your community or nearby, and have your eyes opened to the possibilities of working in creative industries.
Hats off to the schools and Friends of Parks groups who make these projects possible. Below are just a few examples of their collaborations with Amanda.
This large mosaic, made in conjunction with local school children, brightens up the side of the bowling pavillion and overlooks one of the playgrounds at Victoria Park, Stretford. It’s one of a number of projects which Amanda has undertaken with the Friends of Victoria Park.
Further north in Clarence Park, Bury.
This is one of the stepping stones in Stamford Park, Altrincham, produced by Amanda. Again, she worked on the design with local school children.
If hanging round the park is not your thing, or perhaps it’s a bit cold out there for you at the moment, there are other chances to see Amanda’s work. Head to West Didsbury, where she has provided the signage for Didsbury Life’s office on Burton Road and also a “West Didsbury” mosaic which is on the side of Folk deli.
I caught up with Amanda to ask her how she originally got into mosaic making.
“I had to organize a weeks work placement for the last year of my degree, to be honest I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. My mate mosaicist Mark Kennedy was really busy working on 3 commissioned mosaics for the 24 Hour Party People premier, they were based on the film publicity posters, which were; Ian Curtis (Genius), Shaun Ryder (Poet), Anthony Wilson (Twat).
I ended up giving him a hand and worked with him in his studio for a week. It was great, we drank beer, listened to tunes and smashed up tiles, he taught me well. After that I was hooked so for my final degree show, I recreated 20th century artworks in mosaic. I love Mark’s work he’s a star and an inspiration.
I’m not very good with the isolation of working on my own in a studio, I’d worked in libraries for 12 years and retail before that and I really missed being around people, so I went down the route of working as an artist and art educator. I’m part of a team of artists who freelance for Manchester Art Gallery it’s an amazing place to work; it also gives my hands a rest from my tile clippers.”
I asked Amanda what she enjoyed about working on community projects:
“Participation is a big part of my work; most of my commissions involve groups of young people designing and creating mosaics with my help. Mosaics are great for enhancing outdoor spaces so a lot of my work involves Friends of Parks groups, schools and youth clubs. It’s such a buzz to see young people creating and having total ownership on projects. The sessions are always really informal and most importantly fun.”
Finally, I asked Amanda for a sneak preview of what she’ll be working on next:
“I’ve been commissioned by an organization called NACRO to work with a group of young people 12 – 16 from Newton Heath. The project is based on the heritage of the Rochdale canal using it for inspiration to create a mosaic stepping stone trail along the canal pathway.
In the New Year I’m working with Oakwood High in Salford, taking Gaudi as a source of inspiration to create sculptural mosaics for the school grounds. I’m mad busy at the moment on private commissions. The exhibition at Didsbury Life has been a great success, lots of people want mosaics for Christmas presents.”
If you’re interested in contacting Amanda for commissions, check out her website at http://www.amandamccrann.co.uk or contact her on 07528 526798. You can tweet her @McrMosaics