Jean Joseph is one half of a creative partnership aiming to foster intergenerational relationships

Jean Joseph is the co-founder of EARTHworks, a multidisciplinary art project focussing on intergenerational relationships

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Can you please introduce yourself to the reader and explain what EARTHworks aims to do?

I am Jean Joseph, a visual artist with an art practice represented as Artmaroon, which is posited on creative experimentation of mixed media narratives. Artmaroon signifies origins and geographic placement across three continents: Africa, Europe, the Americas. My work is influenced by interests and knowledge-gathering and aims to challenge issues that are timely, or revisit past issues. As Artmaroon, I have supported and hosted creative, educational activities from art workshops, literacy events, to cinema screenings which are catered to all age groups.

EARTHworks is a creative partnership that focuses on raising awareness about the fruit of intergenerational relationships. The project grew as a consequence of a timely meeting with my creative partner, Gaynor Tutani, a History of Ideas graduate, at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, while attending an event. We got talking and she expressed an interest in gaining more insight and finding pathways into the art sector. As a habitual mentor and educator, I recognised our common ground and agreed to work with her. This was a mutually beneficial and symbiotic partnership/friendship due to Gaynor’s enthusiasm from day one. 

EARTHworks produces work and discusses intergenerational relationships. Can you tell us why you decided on this particular focus? 

We have been working together with an objective to develop projects and engage in collaborations across generations, partners and creative genres. We want to reach out to those who might benefit from enjoyment of the arts, and due to forms of exclusion have not accessed it. In 2019 after having delivered several projects, we embarked on formalising EARTHworks to sit side-by-side with our individual roles and interests. 

Intergenerational relationships and partnerships are the basis of what EARTHworks is all about, as Gaynor and I are not only at opposite ends of the age range, but we are very aware of the limitations for older artists (from my lived experience) and the voids in the art sector that restrict such creative generational engagement.

How does EARTHworks go about fostering community?

We have fostered community by inviting the public into spaces to participate in activities and drawing upon our backgrounds of art facilitation and producing. For example, we have invited schools to participate in World Book Day, book launches, exhibitions, hosting live performances by musicians, dancers, artists, poets and spoken wordsmiths and others, activating gallery, community and library spaces. We have also participated in local community group events, in particular hosting events for African and Caribbean children. 

Tell us about a recent or ongoing project.

Combining our respective experiences, we have continued to actuate further projects in public spaces as well as pursuing individual interests that compliment our collaborative goals. Gaynor, my collaborative partner, returned to academia and then as a producer/curator currently works within the museum sector. As Artmaroon, I produced, exhibited and co-project managed an exhibition of my work, combining forces with a project at University of Bristol, presented through our EARTHworks platform. 

An intrinsic participatory element of this project involved working with a group of young people seeking asylum and awaiting decisions on their status. Living with daily uncertainty and on the fringes of greater society is a common experience of migrants who are stateless. The interaction enabled and provided welcome relief from that daily experience and focused on their individual humanity and skills. One particular exhibition we curated with a wellbeing tendency was held at University College Hospital London’s gallery, staged towards the end of the pandemic, focussing on the existential and determined output of artists to overcome obstacles

What advice would you give to those who want to start their own creative community?

I would say that it all begins with building a network of like-minded people. I developed my circle of creative contacts over a period of time – as my meeting with Gaynor Tutani will testify, prior to social media at an in-person social space. I suggest the same – enjoy in-person cultural events while meeting genuinely interesting people – whether creative or not, as well as using social media tools and building contact lists.

How can people get involved with EARTHworks?

EARTHworks is a self-funded partnership that has much potential to grow, with support from institutions, partners and other resource opportunities. This would enable our ongoing projects to be built upon. We also welcome voluntary involvement and participation to realise our objectives and sustainability. 

Author

Sienna James

Sienna James Voice Team

Sienna is the Assistant Editor at Voice. She spent three years studying History of Art at Cambridge University and loves to explore the intersection between politics, history and visual culture. She also loves to hear how young people and artists are engaging in various innovative forms of socio-political resistance whether that's activism or art-making.

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