IN PURSUIT OF THE QUESTION MARK
Photograph by Drew Farrell
The Whysman Festival is one of 24 projects across Scotland to receive a First in a Lifetime award from Creative Scotland as part of its Year of Creative Scotland 2012 celebrations. Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, was in Glasgow earlier this week to announce that the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland have boosted their support for the Year of Creative Scotland 2012 by nearly £2.2m, with total investment now hitting nearly £8m.
Engaging the wider world in his creative vision was always part of the plan for former Customs & Excise officer George Wyllie, now aged 90 and living in a care home for retired mariners in Greenock.
His career as an artist took off in his 50s once he had retired and for the next four decades he blazed a trail for subsequent generations of artists, in a practice which encompassed writing, visual art and music.
“My art is place specific and people specific,” he proclaimed in The Why?s Man, Murray Grigor’s 1990 film about him and his work.
In Pursuit of the Question Mark will send sparks flying across the west of Scotland as the art of George Wyllie inspires citizens of all ages to work together to create a spectacular public art event.
Using new education resources inspired by Wyllie's art, and which focus on the outcomes and experiences of Curriculum for Excellence, pupils from Clydeside schools across all levels will have the opportunity to explore industrial change in their area and learn about skills once used there.
Echoing the creation of Wyllie’s famous Paper Boat, the young people will create a flotilla of Origami Line paper boats. Activities inside The Big Little Paper Boat Shed will form a major part of a George Wyllie retrospective at The Mitchell, Glasgow from 3rd November 2012 - January 31 2013.
Wyllie’s abiding concern for loss of skills once used in Scotland's heavy industries will also raise up a clarion call to action for unemployed and retired skilled workers to engage with disadvantaged members of communities in Inverclyde.
These stalwarts of the shipyards will help create two giant question marks hanging simultaneously from the Finnieston Crane in Glasgow and from Greenock’s Titan Crane, as well as a seascape of varying sized question marks appearing and disappearing on the tidal flow at Port Glasgow.
The grand finale of both The Whysman Festival and the Year of Creative Scotland 2012 will be a fireworks party at The Riverside Museum on Hogmanay 2012 (George’s 91st birthday) at which when thousands of BIG little paper boats will be launched on the Clyde and the BIG question marks will be ceremonially burned.
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, said: "Throughout the Year of Creative Scotland 2012, people and visitors in every corner of Scotland are being encouraged to see, experience and contribute to Scotland's rich, vibrant culture.
"We have experienced an overwhelming level of interest in the Year of Creative Scotland's funding programmes, demonstrating the remarkable impact that the Year is having on Scotland's communities.
"Supported initiatives, like the Big Little Paper Boats project, are helping to showcase, celebrate and promote Scotland's cultural and creative strengths. I am pleased to announce today, that a further £2.2 million will enable the expansion of this important work - taking the total support for the Year to almost £8 million."
Kenneth Fowler, Director of Communications at Creative Scotland, said: “The staggering response we’ve received to the Year of Creative Scotland is proof of what a creative nation Scotland is. It is with great delight we’ve been able to increase the budget, allowing us to take forward even more inspiring and engaging projects.
“This announcement sees the creation of an inspiring range of events that will offer people across the country unique experiences to join in the celebrations of Year of Creative Scotland 2012. George Wyllie’s project on Hogmanay is one of many exciting ways to celebrate the end of the year, but its legacy will continue on towards Homecoming 2014 and beyond”
Wyllie’s daughter, Louise Wyllie, the driving force behind The Whysman Festival said: “My father always said his art was place specific and people specific and for him, engaging with ordinary people through his work was what it was all about.
“So far, he has lived through 90 fantastically creative years in Scotland, bringing social sculptures such as The Paper Boat and The Straw Locomotive to the wider world's attention. We look forward to building on this legacy, thanks to this First in a Lifetime award.”
ANSWERS TO POTENTIAL QUESTIONS...
* George Wyllie, MBE, born December 31 1921, born in Shettleston, Glasgow, formerly Customs & Excise officer, Greenock
* Work exhibited: UK, Europe, India, and the US. Monumental scul?tures permanently installed in urban settings world-wide.
* Whys? Man: Wyllie places question mark at centre of everything. His works asks audience to do the same. (Also title of 1990 film about the artist by Murray Grigor)
* Due to funding by Creative Scotland, his work and legacy will now be explored and experienced by a new generation of Scots. (First in a Lifetime)
* Education Initiative: Up to 575 schools in Clydeside local authorities will be provided with resources and CPD opportunities in order to provide pupils, at all levels of Curriculum for Excellence, with the opportunity to investigate Wyllie's work in depth and to create their own... The BIG Little Paper Boat Project
* Education resources, including videos and digital images of Wyllie's work, will be provided online, and legacy resources will be made available to all local authorities in Scotland
* School pupils' work will be featured in the retrospective at The Mitchell from 3 November 2012 – 31 January 2013
* Community Initiative: Unemployed, employed and retired skilled workers from Clydeside will engage with disadvantaged members of communities in Inverclyde to help create two giant question marks which will hang from the Finnieston Crane in Glasgow and the Titan Crane in Greenock, as well as a seascape of question marks in Port Glasgow... The Big Question Marks
* Up to 32 question marks will be created and hang from the structures
* Around 30 participants will work intensively over a two-month period, developing new skills
* Documentary film of the community initiative to be created as a legacy resource
* Community work will be featured in the retrospective at The Mitchell from 3 November 2012 – 31 January
* Whysman Festival and Year of Creative Scotland 2012 Finale on George Wyllie's 91st birthday.
* Flotilla of paper boats created by young people to be launched on the Clyde on Hogmanay 2012, Wyllie's 91st birthday
* The Question Marks created in the community initiative will be set alight in a Viking Funeral, echoing ceremonial burning of The Straw Locomotive in 1988
* Event will be filmed and archived online
* The Whysman Festival is taking place during 2012 and has been instigated by The Friends of George Wyllie, set up by Louise Wyllie and Elaine Aitken to promote and protect their father’s legacy.