Opportunity Knocks - GALLERY 37
Approaching the Out Of The Blue Drill Hall on Dalmeny Street, it's likely you may have a sense of not quite fitting in. A group of male youths stand in the foyer sizing up passers-by, looking distinctly unimpressed. And unfortunately, street-cred is definitely not improved by stumbling over a group of young documentary filmmakers in the middle of shooting a scene.
This is Gallery 37, an innovative and exciting employment initiative aimed at young people between the ages of 16 and 24, who are not in employment, education or training. These "apprentice artists" are engaged in one of four disciplines: millinery, jewellery making, digital photography and documentary filmmaking. With very little or no relevant skills beforehand, each group is guided and supported by a team of professional artists.
Wandering through the digital photography section interlopers are barely acknowledged, so engrossed are the apprentices – eyes fixed to the images on their computer screens. In the millinery and jewellery spaces its possible to catch a sneaky peek at some of the creations produced so far. An array of unusual colours and materials are evident in the highly original hats and bags, while the jewellery pieces made from postage stamps dipped in resin are particularly striking. These, and similar must-have items, will be on sale at the forthcoming Out Of The Blue Arts Market, with all the proceeds going directly back into the project.
Already the positive results of the scheme are visible. The apprentices clearly take their projects very seriously and one senses a common goal driving each group. This year apprentices even have the chance to gain a permanent position with established Edinburgh milliner, Yvette Jelfs. Of last year's recruits, 86 per cent went on to further education or employment; some have returned in 2006 to learn new skills and pass on existing ones. The project also incorporates a core skills programme, designed to help them gain transferable skills, such as teamwork, presentation and negotiation techniques. On a more personal level, each apprentice discusses their individual aims and achievements with the staff and the project culminates in a prize-giving ceremony.
Strolling out of Gallery 37, it is hard not to be impressed by the commitment and enthusiasm of the artists and staff. Surrounded by the young and talented it's easy to feel like a fish out of water. And passing by that same group of youths, tripping over your feet as you go, you may feel as if you have never been so un-cool.
The Out of the Blue Arts Market is on Saturday 19th August between 12 and 6pm