Robert Singer has two passions in life: art and his hometown of Ayr. Now he’s bringing the two together in a community project aimed at providing creative spaces in some of the town’s neglected places.
“freshAyr” kicks off on Friday, November 18 2016, with a ‘60s-style Happening (google it) featuring a performance piece based on the allegory of the long spoons.
Robert, who is chair of the committee organising freshAyr (“We’re all volunteers” he points out) has commissioned a jeweller to make a set of spoons with very long handles for the Friday night Happening.
He explains: “The performers will attempt to eat a lavish banquet spread before them but will find that, with only the long spoons available, they can only do so if they feed each other. So it’s an art work about nourishing creativity through collaboration.”
And if that sounds like Robert Singer is speaking from a proverbial ivory tower, he later reveals that his background is very down-to-earth.
Born in Glasgow, he moved to Ayr when he was a year old and left school – the eldest of five siblings – before his 15th birthday to take up a weaving apprenticeship in a local carpet factory (since closed down).
Later, he went into the catering industry, working in bakeries and restaurants before setting off in another completely different direction by training as a yoga teacher.
“Yes” Robert agrees “that was a bit unusual for a man in Ayrshire in the 1990s – unless you were from California!”
He finally achieved his dream of going to the Glasgow School of Art in 1997 at the age of 45, graduating in 2001.
Although he went on to set up his own studio in the town centre, holding life drawing sessions for adults and art classes for children, Robert had bigger ambitions for Ayr: a proper arts and crafts centre, run for its users by its users, where creativity could be encouraged and nourished.
“We’ve got a population of almost 50,000” he points out “more than enough to support a project like this. Local people, and young people in particular, shouldn’t have to go up to Glasgow to get involved in the arts. It should be on our doorstep.”
Now 64 and able to spend more time on a project he’s been working on for more than a decade, Robert believes freshAyr will demonstrate that providing space for the artists, artisans and craftspeople around Ayr’s historic High Street will regenerate and revitalise the once thriving market town.
“We’ll be looking for more permanent premises once freshAyr finishes” he says “in particular a place where we can stage, in August 2017, the first all-Ayrshire degree show, featuring work by anyone from Ayrshire who has graduated from an art college that year.”
Robert and co. also have their eyes on a plot of land behind the Town Hall, left vacant since the demolition of renowned furniture store Afflecks of Ayr, possibly for some kind of temporary out-of-doors arts project.
In the meantime, there’s work to be done getting the old Watt Bros. shop ready for the launch of freshAyr on November 18; and so, with a firm handshake, Robert is gone.
*The Happening at Watt bros will be open to the public from 19 – 24 November from 12-5pm daily, with a public closing event from 5-8pm on Thursday 24 November.
A Fringe programme of creative performances, events and workshops will run from 20 – 27 November in Watt Bros and surrounding venues – including The Town Hall, Wee Windaes, The Newmarket and Smoking Goat – all events are free but must be booked through Eventbrite.
For more information visit – facebook.com/freshayr.info/