Whitworth Invents: Creating, Innovating and Making Art Useful

In this post, Thameena discusses a new engagement programme she developed at the Whitworth called ‘Whitworth Invents’, a programme designed to inspire innovation, creativity and to ‘make art useful’.  

Whitworth Invents is a programme which invites creative minds to participate in fortnightly challenges posted on our social media platforms. We wanted to see how our constituents interpret, imagine and respond to the idea of ‘useful art’ through their inventions.   

To introduce the programme, we initially ran Whitworth Invents on Twitter, from February to May 2021, to act as a creative outlet for people of all backgrounds during the second national lockdown. Originally designed with students in mind, the target audience for the programme was quickly expanded.

We received a number of fantastic submissions from artists and non-artists from around the globe. With a panel of judges, we selected our Whitworth Invents winners, based on their innovation, imagination and interpretation of making art useful. 

The winning submissions are currently being prepared to be displayed in a video installation in the gallery’s School of Creativity which we are excited to open to public viewing soon.   

We’ll be returning in October 2021, with new challenges to be posted on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. There will also be the option to send in submissions to us via email. Winning submissions will have the opportunity to be displayed in the gallery’s School of Creativity.  

Without any further ado, here are our current Whitworth Invents winning submissions: 

Challenge 1: Take something useless and turn it into something useful.      

Winner: Alice Xiaofan Hong – Student of BSc International Disaster Management and Humanitarian Response.

‘Reducing water waste to protect the environment’ – Alice created a contraption to connect the hot water tap and cold water tap with a pipe. One end of the pipe was connected to her washing machine and the other to her showerhead. This allowed her to control the water yield and the temperature of the water.  Subsequently, she was able to shower and wash her clothes simultaneously which saved water significantly.      

Why did you choose your particular piece for submission?  

‘I love arts and design. I found Whitworth Invents interesting, new and valuable as a programme, especially during the lockdown. I was in an extremely difficult situation around that time as a first year foreign student. I was trapped in a small ensuite when all my roommates tested positive for Covid-19. However, I didn’t give up or complain. I tried to use creativity and the things around me to make my life easier.’      

‘I felt my work might be very instructive for other student who live in a poor ensuite. By using plastic bottle/bags/tubes to resolve my problems, I realized that that there is always a way to resolve any problem with creativity and imagination.’  

What does an art gallery mean to you?  

‘For me, art galleries were places of prosperity and beauty. During the pandemic, my view on this has changed a little bit. This programme made me realise that the art gallery can be a station of spirit, spreading spiritual power to its audience. It’s more like a window for communication rather than display. By learning from others’ living art, you can empower yourself.’      

Challenge 2: Make a piece that celebrates the coming of spring.  

Winner: Serena Begum – Student of Science.     

Coloured pencil drawing of a peaceful Spring landscape.   

What inspired you participate in Whitworth Invents?

‘I was inspired to participate in Whitworth Invents because it was one of the first programmes that I had seen specifically designed for students by the Whitworth art gallery. It was always featuring in the Uni newspaper, blog, twitter, facebook and the digital newsletters so it was hard to forget about!’

‘Secondly, my lecturers started to talk about Whitworth Invents at the end of seminars and how we as science students could participate in the art world and make a useful contribution to society in a hybrid way, combining both science and art.’

‘Lastly, Whitworth Invents encouraged ‘usefulness’ and this idea of everything having a function, a use, resonated with me and so I decided to have a go!’

Why did you choose your particular piece for submission?

‘I wanted to capture the natural world I had started to imagine in my mind after being trapped in the city during lockdown. I wanted to inspire others to remember the beautiful world outside that we’d be able to return to with some patience, hope and friendship.’

Challenge 3: We all see the world differently, what do you see outside your window?   

Winner: Xingchen Guo – Student of Linguistics     

What inspired you to participate in Whitworth Invents?  

‘Whitworth Invents is a way to share your love and joy in life and it’s inspiring to see your own works on display!’    

Why did you choose your particular piece for submission?  

‘I wanted to find and share something beautiful in life during the lockdown period and I came across this magnificent rainbow and sunset outside of my window after a heavy rain, it made me feel hope in the trough.’   

Challenge 4: Send us pictures of how you have reinvented your work/study spaces at home. 

Winner: Lynne Arnison – Artist   

What inspired you participate in Whitworth Invents?  

‘I am a regular Whitworth visitor and have been missing my Manchester trips during lockdown so have been following the Whitworth Twitter site ardently. When the opportunity to interact personally came up I thought it would be fun’.  

‘It was serendipity that the call for a submission was about pets or cats in particular so my Oscar was sat in my studio at the time!’    

Would you encourage others to participate in Whitworth Invents? 

‘Yes definitely- it’s great to feel part of the wider art community accessible to all irrespective of your background’.    

Challenge 5: Turn your food leftovers into edible works of art.   

Winner: Serena Begum – Student of Science  

Why did you choose your particular piece for submission?   

I was thinking about how to reduce food waste and at the same time create something delicious and beautiful. I hoped to inspire others to limit their food waste and get creative with leftover items in the fridge or cupboard whilst helping the environment!

Feeling inspired? Keep an eye out on our social media platforms for our upcoming #WhitworthInvents challenges – we look forward to seeing your submissions!     

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