Artwork offers insight into the world of drug addicts’ children

An art exhibition like no other at Glasgow School of Art next week, offers an insight into the devastating effects of drugs and alcohol on the lives of the children of addicts in Scotland.

The ‘Trying Childhoods’ exhibition, 10am - 5pm daily from 27 July - 16 August, is the culmination of two years work by vulnerable Scottish children and teenagers on a unique art project led by the Centre for Drug Misuse Research at the University of Glasgow.

Exhibition organiser, Professor Marina Barnard explains: "More than 50,000 children in Scotland have a parent with a drug problem and an estimated 100,000 have a parent with an alcohol problem. Yet, most of us, only become aware of these children when they cause problems for other people. We see them as threatening when in reality they are threatened themselves. The ‘Trying Childhoods’ exhibition aims to show what the world looks like seen through their eyes. It is not comfortable viewing but these are not comfortable lives."

The creation of video, installation, drawing and painting for the exhibition has been demanding for the young people, as well as the talented artists, Liz Mitchell and Jana Prcalova, who worked with them. Every week, the children came to draw and paint, cut and stick and with the constancy of a supportive environment they grew more certain of their capacity for self expression. Reflecting the difficult circumstances they are growing up in, the children have produced some disturbing images which pull no punches.

The images depict families and communities fractured by violence, often closely associated with alcohol and drugs. The children had witnessed stabbings and even shootings and many of these violent incidents involved people personally known them. But there is hope in the despair as one 12 year old girl, who took part in the project, said: “Every child’s life isn’t as easy as others, but every child rises up to their own special victory.”

Professor Marina Barnard said: “Doing this work stirred up complex and often times contradictory emotions for the children and young people involved. When you look at what they have produced, the question is not really one of whether it is great art. It is whether it is right that they are growing up within these circumstances?

“Through an artistic lens, these children show you a world that is becoming increasingly commonplace for young people in Scotland today. These children do not want your pity, they want you to feel sad, but not sorry for them. They want your understanding and your respect, they want your anger, they want to be heard and they want your commitment to change that world.”

Photocall: Photographers and reporters are invited to attend a private preview of the 'Trying Childhoods' exhibition with Professor Marina Barnard
Date: 10am Monday 23 July
Location: Glasgow School of Art, 167 Renfield Street, Glasgow

Further Information:
Professor Marina Barnard – 07753 776383
Professor Neil McKeganey - 07764 659006
Centre for Drug Misuse Research University of Glasgow - 0141 330 3616

First published: 18 July 2007

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