Artist Commission – Conversation Booth

As part of Sian’s commission, she created a ‘Conversation Booth’ to interact with young people who had visited the GenART exhibition. In return for chatting, people would be given a ‘gift’, usually a portrait, drawn by Sian. Sian wanted to involve the group of young people she had been working with in this part of her commission so they could experience the way in which she works as an artist. We observed how Sian interacted with the children who entered the booth and the kinds of questions she was asking, e.g. “what surprised you about the GenART exhibition?”, “do you see yourself as a child, adult or young person?”. Sian then asked us to take over her role as the artist and talk to people who came into the conversation booth. This was quite a daunting task for the group of young people as it was very much up to us to lead the conversation and took a certain level of confidence to do so. All of the group were reluctant to go in but Sian offered support alongside the booth. As there was quite a large queue of children, who all responded really well to the booth and were curious to take part and share their thoughts on the exhibition, it made the task a bit more overwhelming for the group of young people who would be leading the conversation with them.

Once in Sian’s booth, the young people were engaged in conversation and took part in creating illustrations. However, the experience of talking with and drawing for such a large amount of children was not particularly relaxing as it didn’t come as naturally to us as it did to Sian. It was challenging to work in another artist’s style and find a quick type of illustration that we were comfortable doing.

After this session, where the group experienced how it was that Sian conducted the ‘Conversation Booth’, we practiced being in the booth and drawing each other to find our own style within Sian’s work. This exercise helped to boost confidence and made the group more enthusiastic to take part.

When the booth was set up at Soft Touch, the flow of people lessened in comparison to New Walk Museum and so generated a more relaxed environment to act as the artist. Visitors were intrigued by the booth and really eager to share their views on the exhibition and the kinds of artworks they liked. Due to such positive engagement and feedback from visitors, the young people working with Sian decided that it would be good to leave the Conversation Booth in the exhibition until the end date. As Soft Touch is a more familiar environment for the group of young people, we took ownership over the booth on this site and were much more comfortable as acting as the artist and interacting with different visitors.