After a calm ferry crossing, artist Jo Chapman arrived in Lerwick last week to begin her ten week residency here. During these next few weeks, Jo will be out and about meeting people with her ‘Fish Van Collection’ inviting communities to join her in workshops, capturing images and learning more of Shetland and its rich heritage in the pelagic fishing industry.

It is hoped that, through her travels around the islands, Jo will be able to form a group of community advisers who will assist her as she thinks about possible designs for the sculpture.

Jo was appointed through a competitive selection process to design a sculpture for Lerwick’s harbour front. The four Shetland business partners, who have sponsored and commissioned the Pelagic Sculpture Project, are delighted to appoint Jo who has over 20 years’ experience as an artist. Her public art commissions can be seen in the UK, India and France. LHD, Shetland Catch, Lerwick Port Authority and the Shetland Fish Producers’ Organisation, in association with Shetland Arts, were enabled to support the project with match funding from Arts & Business Scotland through their New Arts Sponsorship Grants Scheme.

Arts & Business Scotland’s Chief Executive David Watt said “The Pelagic Sculpture Project is a fantastic example of a true community project and encapsulates perfectly the type of activity our New Arts Sponsorship programme is in place to support. We’re delighted that the residency is now underway and look forward to seeing the results in due course.”

In commissioning the sculpture, the four business strong partnership are keen to avoid the artwork looking like it has ‘landed from outer space’ with little reference to its surroundings or without input from the community. As Sandra Laurenson, of Lerwick's Port Authority stressed,

‘The ten week artist residency was an important part of the project from its inception. We wanted whoever was appointed to spend time researching the fishing industry, learning what it means to people here and working with communities. We want the design that is selected at the end to reflect those conversations and activities and it is intended that the final sculpture is fabricated in Shetland.’

Working collaboratively with communities is integral to artist Jo Chapman’s practice. As she states, ‘The idea behind the ‘Fish Van Collection’ is that it will be a community project to tour, gather and meet people all over the islands, I will be collecting anecdotes, objects and memories related to fishing as well as running art workshops that explore sculpture. For me it is important that public artworks are developed in consultation with the community and that there is a sense of ownership. This project is to celebrate the importance of the fishing heritage to Shetland and how deeply it is woven into the social and economic heritage of the Island and the people. I live in Suffolk, close to Lowestoft, and since being here the strong connection between Shetland and Lowestoft keeps arising, I discovered that the Herring gutters would often travel down to Lowestoft to work, following the fish, from October until Christmas which is exactly the same period of time that I am here, in Shetland from Suffolk.’

By Christmas, Jo will have created three potential designs, one of which will be chosen as the final design to be constructed.

You can follow Jo’s journeys around Shetland with the Fish Van Collection through Facebook and on her blog using the links below:

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