Fresh Fruit – My Experience During a Covid-19 Year – Youth Internship at The Fruitmarket Gallery

Brooke Milliken, Fresh Fruit Intern, The Fruitmarket Gallery

About the project

  • Project title: Fresh Fruit
  • Project overview: Fresh Fruit is a youth programme for 8 – 25 year olds run by The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh. It consists of creative workshops for 8 – 15 year olds, co-production projects with artists and young people aged 16 – 25, a paid internship for a young person aged 16 – 25, partnership working with youth and community organisations, and trips to arts and cultural venues. 
  • Project dates: May 2020 – May 2021
  • Website address: www.fruitmarket.co.uk
  • Region: Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Partner organisation: Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity
  • Funder(s): Young Start, Gail and Lindsay Gardiner, William Grant Foundation

Project summary

My name is Brooke Milliken and I am an artist and producer, student and educator based in Edinburgh. In 2019 I became a Fresh Fruit Intern with The Fruitmarket Gallery – a 6-month position catered to young people aged 16–25 with a focus on diversity. Being from a low-income background, with a history of mental health issues and working towards a career in the arts I felt the role would be ideal. I had already had some experience with Collective in Edinburgh, having worked as Creative Trainee there the previous year. The role of Fresh Fruit Intern gave me the opportunity to plan and co-deliver a new programme for young people alongside freelance artist Louise Fraser.

Upon applying for the position, I was interested mainly in working with young people in order to build confidence (theirs and mine) and to increase other people’s engagement with contemporary art. I know from experience the barriers that many young people are faced with when accessing the arts, and just how valuable creativity can be in the development of ideas and interests for young people going forward. I wanted the opportunity to work alongside an artist in the planning and development of programmes and workshops, and to be given the space and support in order to increase knowledge and skills for me to progress with my career in the arts and in social practice.

The programme, Fresh Fruit Pop-Up, was to be an open creative space for 8–15 year olds to drop-in, make art and chat to peers, taking place in The Fruitmarket Gallery’s temporary space at Waverley Mall during their building development. Fresh Fruit Pop-Up aimed to test new ways of working with young people, leading to the development of a programme to take place in the refurbished Fruitmarket building when it opens post-pandemic.

Beginning by planning in the Waverley Mall pop-up bookshop, myself and Louise worked together to take into consideration the available space, materials and intended outcomes for our workshops. Using the back end of the bookshop we made space for participants by utilising the environment as best we could. By responding to our space within the Mall we came up with a variety of creative activities which encompassed design, sculpture, light and animation. Windows were now chalk-pen canvases and a round table accommodated participants to make and engage in conversation. As well as acting as a drop-in space on Sundays, we also were able to accommodate groups of young people from 6VT Youth Café and Royal Mile Primary School as well as taking our first workshop into the Edinburgh Children’s Hospital. These experiences gave me an opportunity to engage with pre-existing groups with whom the Fruitmarket have ongoing relationships and to experience first-hand the rich collaborative aspects of my role and of the work and people I aim to engage with.

We were later offered a space in one of the shop units on the lower ground floor of Waverley Mall which was welcome as it provided a much larger space for us to facilitate, and opened up opportunities for scale and participation. We wanted to make sure that there would be something interesting for the full age range, 8–15, at each of the Sunday sessions. From zine-making to wall painting, animation and performance, sound and illustration, I believe we managed to produce a good variety of activities. These sessions were created in response to ongoing feedback and evaluation from visitors as we became a trusted regular offer in the Mall. As we began to see returning participants we were able to accommodate suggestions as best we could and young people went on to identify sculpture, print-making and animation as themes to explore further. They also showed interest in the neighbouring shop, Anime Republic, with whom we collaborated to facilitate a costume-play inspired life drawing session in the space. Louise and I met weekly to evaluate and plan the sessions, which involved a focused reflection of the experience of participants throughout.

As part of my internship and after a total of 12 sessions over as many weeks planning and delivering alongside Louise, I was given the opportunity to come up with my own 4-week programme of activities based around my own creative interests. As this would be my first experience of self-initiated workshops I was a tad hesitant at first in being handed over the reins. This is where I would like to express gratitude to The Fruitmarket Gallery, especially to Caitlin McKinnon (Creative Learning Curator) and Louise particularly, for their ongoing understanding and support in my efforts to gain the confidence needed to make the most of this project. I went on to plan and deliver the four sessions with Louise, which included cyanotype, collage and textile based workshops.

With a global pandemic looming and having just managed to responsibly facilitate the sessions at the Mall we now had to think of new ways to deliver our programme. My 6-month internship was over, although now I was a freelance artist continuing to work alongside Louise and looking forward to the re-opening of the Fruitmarket and its purpose-built education space. At this point we seized the opportunity to continue to work alongside Edinburgh Children’s Hospital, and began to work on contemporary art packs for young people isolating during the pandemic. It was evident to me how impactful such remote resources might be and so I was excited to work on the packs. Responding to Fruitmarket’s exhibition archive, myself and Louise worked together to create rotating monthly activities that would engage a broad range of ages and creative interests.

Myself and Louise met monthly to research the archive, each taking points of interest as a springboard for developing ideas. We worked together to pull out interesting elements to develop ideas from. Emma Hart, Ellen Gallagher, Mike Kelley and Cai Guo-Qiang were amongst the artists who inspired our creative activities. We took elements such as Hart’s block colour and interest in domesticity, Kelley’s toy fascination and Guo-Qiang’s paper cut-outs and transformed them into make-at-home activities. After research and planning we both took to illustrating our activities, which I found particularly enjoyable as it encouraged the development of a new area in my own artistic practice.

The monthly art packs were the result of ongoing conversations with Catriona McIntyre, Arts Development Officer at Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity, who was able to direct and advise us on specific interests and requirements. Throughout the pandemic I have found this work to be of great importance not only to participants but to myself. It has encouraged me to work in new ways, at once enhancing research processes as well as developing illustration skills and general knowledge of online working. One of the highlights of remote working was our collaboration with the artist Jacqueline Donachie, who engaged in helping the planning and facilitation of three online workshops, catered to a group of young people at the hospital with additional support needs.

Throughout my experience with The Fruitmarket Gallery I have gained knowledge, skills and confidence in myself. I have worked with pre-existing groups and schools in three different environments including my own home. Although the events of the past year have been taxing, it has given me the opportunity to work in new ways and problem solve to develop ideas. I’ve really enjoyed working with a variety of people, families and artists and continue to do so as I work alongside the Fruitmarket developing new art resource kits for when the building reopens in 2021.

Fresh Fruit is supported by Young Start, a grants programme run by The National Lottery Community Fund.

Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Art Packs kindly supported by Gail and Lindsay Gardiner, and the William Grant Foundation.