Bedford Creative Arts pays tribute to Mira Calix

Tributes have been paid to the artist Mira Calix, whose death was announced yesterday.

BBC 6Music’s Mary Anne Hobbs movingly dedicated part of her radio show to the Queen’s Park-based artist whom she described as “ingenious and whip-smart.”

On Twitter, Nitin Sawhney wrote: “I’m devastated to hear of the passing of wonderful #miracalix.

“She was a brilliant composer who often sent me supportive and thoughtful messages. We shared a lot of views as both musicians and campaigners for the rights of migrants. My thoughts are with her family and friends.”

 

Elaine Midgely, director of Bedford Creative Arts has kindly written this tribute about her work in the community in Queen’s Park:

Mira Calix was one of Bedford’s many artistic treasures.  A powerhouse of talent and yet often found humbly strolling around her home community of Queen’s Park; her warm manner casually hiding her huge international profile, recognising her enormous achievements in boundary-pushing contemporary art.

Living in Queen’s Park with her partner (artist and long-term collaborator with Bedford Creative Arts, Andy Holden), Mira represented one of Bedford’s connections to the international artistic community, often working with prolific collaborators on deeply ambitious experimental works.

Her music and sound compositions were complex, playful, adventurous, uniquely exploratory, and yet so deeply engaging that people of all musical interests could be absorbed in her work.

We instigated a new project, Take Part Queen’s Park, just before the start of the pandemic.  We invited applications from artists who wanted to immerse themselves in the community – inviting residents to collaborate with them on two new works of art that celebrated the rich diversity of the neighbourhood and share that with wider residents of Bedford.

We were delighted when Andy Holden and Mira Calix jointly applied as residents in that community, representing different artforms, who wanted to engage with local people in their home on a new project.

We were at once struck by Mira’s warmth and humility – her interest in deep conversations with residents and her ability to listen and empathise.

Of course, the pandemic immediately prevented us from undertaking the project in the manner we expected.

Whilst we waited for the worst of the pandemic to pass before we started community
engagement, Mira and Andy worked on creative activities for local children to enjoy at home in lockdown, distributed by Queen’s Park schools in creative art packs.

Immediately we could see her playful nature coming through in her Adventures in Sound work pack, inviting children to see the world like she did – where even abstract everyday sounds have their place in a new composition or artistic work.

Naturally, we anticipated that Mira would use sound in her work in Queen’s Park but through her many hours spent talking with residents as the world opened up again post lockdown, she and Andy quickly identified that people were keen to express themselves visually and brighten up the outdoor realm with murals.

Connecting with the community: her ability to listen and empathise

She and Andy ran workshops at sports days, pop-up street events and in October
half term at the community centre to discuss themes such as Communication, Unity and start to invite discussion about symbols and ideas.

Through this, we witnessed her humour and compassion.

She was wonderful with children, supporting them to create and play and experiment, spending hours crouched down at their level and delighted to see their reactions.

“Watching the kids take pride in their drawings and putting them on the wall… kids coming back a second day and getting to know them a bit better and feeling the appreciation for the workshop as a welcome distraction.

“Generally seeing how much the kids loved creative activities was very rewarding.” (Mira and Andy)

It is a great tragedy that we won’t get the privilege of seeing what else she may have brought to this project, along with all the many other works she would have offered the world.

She had a strong understanding of the power of art in communities and in people’s lives. “While it may not be the role of the arts to plug [the] gap in social care, the arts do have an important role to play in providing art for the community at a local level.” (Mira and Andy)

When an artist is lost it is always a tragedy for losing who they were and all that they were going to be.

However, she leaves behind an incredible legacy with a great canon of inspiring works for all to enjoy.  Our thoughts and condolences are with Andy Holden and all her family, friends and loved ones at this deeply sad time.

We will review the Take Part Queen’s Park mural project in due course but for now we remain grateful for the opportunity to have professionally and personally known such a wonderful artist and a generous woman.

Statement published by Warp Records

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