Based in East London, the arts practice Create exists to explore how artists can contribute to the lives of people in cities.
East London is home to more artists and arts organisations than anywhere in Europe. It is also one of the most deprived parts of the UK. Create aims to help artists connect more closely with communities through an ambitious programme. Without a permanent exhibition space, Create are free to commission art anywhere, preferring to work in ordinary places that people encounter every day.
'Getting out of galleries and into spaces where people live their lives is fundamental to our work,' says Create director Hadrian Garrard. 'Many communities are just not connecting with the art world ... If you get out there and spend time (sometimes years) as part of a community you can start sharing ideas and approaches that change people’s lives.'
In the last seven years, Create has delivered a variety of projects, from helping to build a cinema under a motorway, and setting up a new drinks-making company run by local people, to opening a not-for-profit healthy chicken shop, and commissioning over 100 artists to deliver their own ambitious projects.
Alongside these projects, the organisation runs an initiative called Create Jobs, which provides mentoring, support and paid employment opportunities for local young people.
In 2015 Create commissioned artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd to design a permanent indoor soft play centre in Barking, East London. Commissioning a Turner Prize nominated artist famed for her extreme absurdist performance pieces to build a children’s play area in an inner-city, council-run leisure centre may seem like an unusual decision, but this ambitious work perfectly encapsulates Create's mission to bring challenging artworks into the public sphere.
Instead of the typical primary colours one might find in soft play centres, Chetwynd’s creation is covered only in black and white, the walls decorated in fantastical images borrowed from sources ranging from Greek mythology to sci-fi cyborgs. At its centre stands The Idol, a two-storey climbing frame in the shape of a cyborg which allows children to climb up and look out of its two giant eyes.
In the short film below, Chetwynd explains her ideas to a group of inquisitive primary school children, and they test the artwork out for themselves.