Finding the Flow

HeartEdge cultural development coordinator Sarah Rogers kicks off a regular new blog, with a look at flow - through your church event, or installation. How to get flow?

I am very pleased to share an update from the first official month of HeartEdge cultural development, culture visits and conversations.  Over the past month, I have had email and Zoom conversations as well as the pleasure to visit a few church leaders who are in various stages of developing a cultural programme in their parish and communities. We also hosted the first Culture Clinic and had attendees from Hull to Pretoria, heard about some fantastic cultural projects - some at the conception of an idea and some looking to expand and grow after a successful launch.

One of the topics that came up in the Culture Clinic was ‘flow’ - in other words how to help people move through an exhibition or installation’s narrative. So here are some tips: 

Integrating a colour theme, numbers or an image can help, then it’s up to the visitor to decide to follow this route or not. The question is often: as the curator, do you guide the visitors’ interpretation of your exhibition or let them move through it in their own time, reflection and understanding? I suggest a bit of both but certainly, if personal storytelling is a key component, then some interpretation and labelling is important. When we frame information about an object, we focus attention on certain aspects of that object or its history, highlighting different qualities of the artwork. Framing is less about the information we feature in a label and more about how we present that information. Your visitor will appreciate a bit of guidance or context, and this doesn’t have to be expensive. QR codes are increasingly popular but if budget is an issue, some tips from the museum sector can help here.

Churches often have a natural flow, colour themes in the stained glass, patterns in the floor tiles, floral motifs and shapes that repeat throughout the building once you start looking. Taking advantage of these existing themes and details to build or expand a cultural identity is a great place to start. 

The building is one of your main assets and figuring out how to work with the light and space is an important first step. Start by taking photos of the church space you want to work with or in, at different times of the day, so that from the very beginning your project will be integrated and connected to the building and visual history.  Even a small detail will reflect something unique to your church and add to the curation and signposting of new exhibitions or in developing an ongoing arts programme. This can be achieved easily on a smartphone or digital camera and the National Churches Trust has a fantastic series of four, You Tube tutorials on taking great photos of your church to help you get started. Who knows, maybe this will become a project itself - the NCT run photography competitions every now and again with some nice cash prizes, so it's worth keeping an eye out for these. 

It's often hard to know how to get a project off the ground and get people involved. For me, putting together this storyboard is often the first step, to engage enthusiasm and set the vision with some visual brainstorming. Out of this, some practical next steps will emerge as will new storyboards when your idea gains momentum. The same approach works as well for music, poetry reading or heritage tours as well as visual arts - there is a lot of information available online from heritage sites, museums and churches who have tried something similar. Take screenshots, be aspirational and have fun.