Isabel Lima is a UK-based Portuguese artist, whose work focuses on the themes of Identity, Culture and Place. In her practice, she develops socially engaged artworks with groups of people. Isabel visited Tuam in late March and early April, to get to know the town and its people. However, her work began before she even arrived!
Integral to Isabel’s practice is exploring the mechanisms used for development, local decision making and community planning. Her research pre residency explored the plans for the Town set forward in the Tuam Regeneration Masterplan (delivered under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and Galway County Council) Isabel immediately knew that this could provide a really rich basis for her collaborative work in Tuam. What do the community know about the masterplan? Do they feel invested in it? What role does Creative Places Tuam have in making ready Tuam’s communities for the potential possibilities the Masterplan has to offer?
Whilst preparing for her time with us in Tuam, Isabel further explored the Ordnance Maps, the Tuam Herald Archive, Tuam Municipal District meeting minutes, local community social media pages and information on the Public Participatory Network. This research then informed her time with us in Tuam. Once in Tuam, Isabel set off on walks around the town guided by both Creative Places and local residents in order to experience daily life in place.
Isabel’s primary focus was to create a space for listening for Tuam’s residents, the Creative Places community and collaborators and invite those new to the programme in. Thus, we extended an invitation to a series of workshops led by Isabel, to discuss people’s lived experience, expertise and embodied knowledge of the town and hinterlands. Isabel says that “every person is a different living archive”, and everyone’s personal perspective on the place of Tuam is valued and important.
During these workshops, participants discussed how Tuam used to be, how it is now, what has changed, as well as imagining future development and what they want to see. Participants were challenged about what they can do to enact change. These conversations recognised the importance of residents, their knowledge, lived experiences, aspirations, and skills, to planning place.
Isabel uses body mapping as a way to examine these questions. This is a useful tool, used by researchers in health ethnography, psychology, education, and geography, to understand people’s personal experience with social phenomena. Because we experience place through our bodies, using the body mapping tool allows for the unpacking of place in a more holistic form, through senses, feelings and thoughts.
Isabel was guided in the workshops by each participant, and how each group wanted to use the body mapping tool as a starting point to discuss the town and the Masterplan. This is the start of the Tuam Assembly. The next stage is for Isabel to collate all the findings from the workshop, and share them with each participant. From there, those who attended the workshops are encouraged to bring this to their own networks, and share it with their community. Then, action points will be decided and assigned.
“We are responsible for the places we live in”
Where will the Tuam Assembly go next? What action points will be assigned, and when will we see change? How will these collective decisions be enacted? Be sure to check on progress in the coming months, here and on our social media.