Essex-based artist and activist Elsa James hosts Art Club, an intergenerational after-school club for Barking and Dagenham-based foster carers and children in care. Art Club has been meeting regularly since autumn 2020 to spring 2021 through a series of online, in-person and postal sessions, to engage with the identity of place, and explore what makes people feel at home. Together, the group has been creatively examining under-explored local narratives, customs, and histories to generate new memories and legacies for the future.
Through this durational collaboration, Elsa James’ Art Club will culminate in a new artwork for The White House Dagenham, ‘A Place With A Heart: A Place To Grow‘ a permanent flag to be unveiled in 2021 as a new beacon to the house. The unveiling will coincide with the group taking part in a procession as part of the Becontree estate’s centenary programme in 2021.Elsa James is an artist and activist living in Essex since 1999. Her work intervenes in the overlapping discourses of race, gender, diaspora and belonging. Her black British identity ignites her interdisciplinary and research-based practice, located within the fields of contemporary performance, text-based art, socio-political and socially engaged art; occasionally dabbling with drawing and painting.
Solo works employ recollection and the archives to examine ideas surrounding regionality of race and black subjectivity. Recent works Forgotten Black Essex (2018) and Black Girl Essex, Here We Come, Look We Here (2019) explore the historical, temporal and spatial dimensions of what it means to be black in Essex; England’s most misunderstood, and, homogeneously white county. Her social practice includes advocating for the inclusion of marginalised voices and communities in the arts sector; New Ways of Seeing, Making and Telling (2018), a visual provocation and live debate, challenged how the art sector can ‘genuinely’ address barriers to participation and involvement in the arts for Black, Asian and other minority communities.
Recent exhibitions and projects include WE STAND WITH YOU (Firstsite, Colchester, 2020); Policy No. 1 Disrupt The Existing Narratives (Beecroft Art Gallery, Essex, 2020); Black Girl Essex, Here We Come, Look Me Here (Firstsite, Colchester, 2019/20); Circle of Blackness (Furtherfield Gallery, London, 2019); Love in Social Practice (Going Places Festival, Cubitt and All Change, London, 2019); Forgotten Black Essex, (Metal Southend, Essex, 2018).