Cosin’s Library
Artists in Residence

We are Sofia and Kitt. We are both artists based in the North East. We have a shared curiosity about how art can be used to build communities and understandings. We both used different art forms to explore this. You can read a little more about separate practices at the bottom of the page.

About the project

As starting points we took:

1. The working title “Miscellanea Encyclopaedia- 4 centuries of un(der)told stories from Bishop Cosin’s Library”

2. Local Stories (historic and contemporary) about people from/connected to Durham. Stories which may have been previously unexplored and which, through the project, can become part of an “historic library for the 21 st century”. We imagined these might be told to us face to face/via social media callouts & collected by us through research into the library collection/archives

3. Investigations into parallels between ableism, sexism, classism and racism of the 1600s and now. Highlighting our belief that these are directly at odds with imagining and developing “Civic Centres to past, present and future”

What we have done so far:

Working with groups and individuals (including schools in county Durham, Ruth First Scholars, New Branspeth Revellers marching jazz band and local artist Steph Robson) using art making to:

  • Share under told stories about Durham and its inhabitants
  • Explore ideas about what a library is, has been and can be in our imagined futures
  • Asked what the stories a library holds tell us about who is invited and welcomed into a space 
What we are planning to do:

In late 2021, to coincide with the re-opening of Cosin’s library we are going to show physical and digital art that has been made as part of the project. 

Some of the art has been made by us, inspired by the people we have worked alongside and stories we have found, and some of it has been made by other people involved in the project. 

Some of the stories we explore are contemporary, some are hundreds of years old. Some are told by people who have lived in Durham their whole lives, some are by or about people from all over the world, including Poland and Zimbabwe.

Hello ! I’m Sofia.

I am a multidisciplinary artist from Newcastle upon Tyne. I love creating bright artwork which is heavily influenced by nature and heritage. My work consists of 2D painting, designing sculptures for Wild in Art as well as digital content. 

A huge portion of my work is inspired by matchboxes and vintage packaging. I love re-designing these to the background and context of places, merging the traditional with contemporary imagery.

This rich influx of diverse cultures with retro postcards, railway posters and Victorian matchbooks portrays a careful study more reflective of a modern society.

Some of the projects I’ve worked on recently in 2021 are: 

  • GemArts ‘Narivad’ (Feminism in Sanskrit): A talk and online exhibition of artwork for the Masala Festival, around female minority suffragettes in the early 1900s.
  • Delivering workshops to reduce isolation and increase community wellbeing. Maintaining and creating connections and in groups to aid mental health. East Durham Creates ArtHit: Creating a fun workshop video around how to make and share your own doodles on postcards. GemArts Hyem Programme: Delivering 8 weeks of workshops around diverse narratives of hope, kindness and home. 
  • Baltic Centre of Contemporary Art: Making a fun art trail map for Baltic Family Days.
  • Navigator North: Celebrating Hidden Middlesbrough. Street Art Matchbox installations to celebrate heritage.
  • Wild in Art: Designing two imp sculptures for the Lincoln Imp Trail celebrating the diverse history of the city.

Exhibitions have included:  Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, ‘Doctor Death’ (Open Submission 2021), Felton Gallery 45, ‘Selection’ (2020-2021), Dockside Gallery, ‘Dollhouse Series’ (2020), Love of the North ‘Northern Dreams’ (2019), Spilt Milk Gallery ‘Members Show’ (2019). 

Hia, I’m Kitt.

I’m an artist based in Newcastle Upon Tyne. I describe the way I make art as

“mess making as social glue”.

My work’s driven by an insatiable curiosity about how the stuff that gets called art can be useful. 

I use performance, crafting, and chatting to create events and exhibitions. I focus on the processes of working with people and am particularly interested in how making art together can support people to share knowledge and understandings. 

The work which develops through projects can be shown in physical and digital spaces: traditional visual art venues and other places. I’ve recently shown work at Atlanta Contemporary (USA, “I am Very busy indeed”, 2019) and Saatchi Gallery, London (UK, “Cash is King” 2019). As well as a bus in Newcastle (“Socially Awkward”, 2019), a garage in California (“Rulers” 2018) and a gallery on my own head (“Plenty up Top Gallery”, 2017-on). 

Some of the things that have happened as part of my work are: 

• The creation of an international feminist art magazine for, and by, children 

• An interactive online exhibition about consent (“Spaces of Consent” Newcastle University and Gender Research Group in collaboration with Dr Tina Sikka 2020-21) 

• Songs to embed community knowledge about the benefits of collaborative making (“Making Manifesto”, 2017

• A tool kit for organisational policy development through collaborative craft (enSHRINE, 2020-21) I describe my practice as: 

In my experience, this socially engaged way of  working is physically, conceptually, socially, emotionally, joyfully messy. The mess is where the most fun, interesting, useful stuff happens; where people can use creativity to make connections, forge understandings and enthusiasms, solve problems, and create change. Finding ways to “tidy up”, make sense of, and value this mess is a huge part of my work.  I think socially engaged art produces some of the most thoughtful, useful and challenging creative work currently being made. I believe practitioners are a powerful resource & I’m extremely committed to collaboratively growing resilience of, and cultural recognition for, our practice.

I am a recipient of an Arts & Heritage 2021-22 “Meeting Point” award, one of nine “Constellations” artists with UP Projects & Flat Time House (London, UK) and currently working on an AHRC funded project researching the potential role of collaborative creativity in organisational policy development.