Branscombe House, the city-owned, renovated heritage house at the intersection of Railway Avenue and Steveston Highway, is much more than a simple link with the past.
It’s a meeting place for the community to delve into discussions, using art as a vehicle.
That’s one of the goals Barbara Meneley, Richmond’s new artist-in-residence, has set out for herself.
“I can be a catalyst for facilitating some conversations, bringing multiple points of view into a room,” said Meneley, as she settled into her new surroundings inside the upper floor of Branscombe House, which she will call home for her 11-month term. “And a lot of the time, the conversation about art can serve as a place for people, some with hugely varying perspectives, to meet. And that’s a way into a lot of conversations.
“A lot of the time, when people are busy with their hands, they will start talking.”
And that, she said, is one of the true values of a community having an artist-in-residence.
So is providing the platform for visitors to her planned monthly workshops and ongoing events to share some unique experiences that can provide some learning opportunities. And part of that will be accessing a wealth of information tucked away in the city’s archives.
“I’m interested in those kinds of collections and bringing them out into everyday life with people and asking them how it goes together with their knowledge of the community,” said Meneley, who recently finished her PhD in cultural studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. “And archival material is usually two dimensional, on paper. And we don’t really get to feel that with our hands.
So, I like to look at ways of taking that flat paper and making them three dimensional through a sculpture.
“Plus, there will be things that people get to do at the workshops that they don’t have the opportunity for in other contexts,” she added.
“And if I can be a small part of bringing that experience to a person or a family, that’s another way art brings value to a community.”
She also wants the public to share more than just their time with her at a workshop.
To help kick off Meneley’s stay at Branscombe House, there is a special, welcoming event Thursday evening (Jan. 19) at Richmond City Hall (6911 No. 3 Road) at 7 p.m. According to the city, Meneley will share examples from her career as a professional artist and speak about some of the free community programs, activities and workshops she plans to offer this coming year.