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Beauty & Utility Part II

17th March 2021

Melanie Woodhead is the second artist commissioned to create work for Beauty & Utility, an ongoing series of projects that engage with the community, reflect the seasons and capture the changing environmental conditions and biodiversity of floodplain meadows. In this post (kindly reproduced from her blog with the artist's permission), Melanie explains how she is approaching the project...

A railed wooden boardwalk runs through the wetland area surrounded by tall reeds"I am delighted to begin a new project for Meadow Arts at Avon Meadows, Pershore, Worcestershire. Through photographic processes, site-specific artwork and co-creating with the community I will be exploring the commonalities and interdependence of the humans and non-humans sharing the space and capturing the amazing biodiversity of these floodplain meadows during spring to highlight their beauty and utility. Following on from Andrew Howe’s response to the winter period (www.andhowenow.wordpress.com), I am the second of four artists on the project in collaboration with the Floodplain Meadows Partnership, Open University and Wychavon District Council.

golden light shines through a close up of teazels growing close togetherAs an artist and educator based in Redditch, Worcestershire, I explore the entanglements of cultures and natures in transitional urban and green spaces, co-creating with their bordering human and non-human communities. When I first visited Avon Meadows Community Wetlands I was struck by the proximity to the surrounding houses and town centre. As a green space it provides a wonderful connection with nature that people have increasingly come to value during the challenges of the pandemic. The interdependence of the human and non-human community is very evident, and Avon Meadows was established in 2008 as a response to the damaging floods of 2007. Created by the local community, Wychavon District Council and Pershore Town Council, their vital importance is highlighted on the Friends of Avon Meadows website:

Wetlands are a disappearing habitat. It’s estimated that since 1945, the UK has lost 40% of its reed beds and wet meadows and those that are left have become increasingly isolated from each other in a fragmented landscape.  These natural wet areas perform a vital function, they act as buffers from flooding, soaking up and slowing down flood water as well as helping to clean contaminated water before it can get back into our streams and rivers.  They are also home to some rare and threatened plants and animals, so increasing the amount of wetland habitat and linking them together is good for people and great for wildlife too.

www.avonmeadows.org.uk

This relationship between the beauty and utility of the site is a theme that will run throughout the project. Visiting this last week, I noticed with anticipation the transition from winter to the first signs of spring, with bright yellow Marsh Marigolds emerging next to the boardwalks. I am looking forward to repeat visits, connecting and engaging with the space to create a photographic series during March to May and experimenting with digital and alternative photographic processes such as transaquatypes, anthotypes and chlorophyll prints. I will also create a site-specific piece incorporating a series of cloches filled with botanical material, found objects and water that will be clustered like dwellings. These may be partially submerged in the reeds, reflecting the rising and falling flood water and the link between the domestic and managed wild space that the floodplain meadows occupy. You can follow the unfolding project on Instagram @melanie.woodhead and through this series of blog posts on www.artandgardening.wordpress.com"

A blurry closeup photo of gold and brown grasses partly silhouetted against the light

The project is a new partnership with the Floodplain Meadows Partnership hosted by the Open University School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences, and will run throughout the seasons of 2020-21. The artworks are intended to be a love letter to the site and the wider notions of beauty and utility associated with the ancient use of floodplain meadows in managing flood water, providing sustainable land management and community benefit.