I was over the moon when I was approached late in 2016 to get involved in the Wolverhampton City Council's public art project 'Wolves in Wolves' as the designer of not one, but TWO of the 30 5ft tall wolf sculptures dotted around the city. (Actually, 3 if you count the miniature Wolves FC one, but more on that in a later article).
I'd admired several similar art projects in previous years: 'The Big Hoot' Owls in Birmingham, the Gorillas of Norwich and of course Liverpool's Superlambananas (and, later on, Penguins) and always thought it would be great to get to design and paint a sculpture such as this, so this is a case of a dream becoming a reality.
My brief was to design and paint the suicide prevention and mental-wellbeing wolf. Part is this brief was to hold art workshops with different agencies who deal with people at risk of suicide: P3, Haven, Papyrus : prevention of young suicide and Base 25, to get their ideas about what design should go on the wolf.
Very early on came the idea of a jigsaw puzzle, which I tried to get away from, feeling it was too much of a visual cliché. However, I kept coming back to: usually a sign of a strong idea. It seemed to facilitate showing lots of viewpoints on the subject of suicide and mental well-being.
Also early on I knew that not all the pieces would be in place and actually one of them might be missing.
What was coming out of the workshops was this notion of people feeling disenfranchised and unable to talk about feelings. I thought it was important that the design address that, as well as other issues that came up.
Some images from the workshops: Snakes and Ladders, noticing artworks (in this case Mondrian), Home, Family, LGBT (the photos are mine, the artwork belongs to the artists)
I was really pleased with the work that was coming out of the workshops and so the next step was to collate all the imagery and start planning the design to go on the wolf.
Watch a video of the final bits of design going on:
The Official bit......
The design for this wolf came about following several workshops with different agencies. The jigsaw idea relates to how different aspects of life make up a whole person.
The five ways to mental well-being are picked out in the vibrant orange pieces and other imagery and words are used to support these.
Also shown is the board game ‘Snakes and Ladders’ which refers to how life can be full of ups and downs. The ‘missing piece’ can be found on the plinth.
Alex dedicates this wolf to the memory of his good friend Rich McMahon.
In Wolverhampton, between 2013-2015, 66 people ended their life by suicide. The majority of these 66 were men, a trend which is seen across the country and abroad.
Organisations’ and services across the city of Wolverhampton recognise the importance of taking proactive action to prevent suicide because suicide is preventable. In Wolverhampton, groups have come together to form the Suicide Prevention Stakeholder Forum. Coordinated through the Public Health and Wellbeing Team within the City of Wolverhampton Council, the forum is independently chaired and consists of a range of organisations from statutory, education and third sectors. Together the forum has undertaken a needs assessment on which basis a strategy and an action plan has been formed.
In January 2018 'Support Life' was relocated to Wolverhampton University.
Watch a video about the relocation project:
Alex Vann is a true all round creative. As well as owning Alex Vann Design he is the founder of the community arts group: Real Arts Workshops, a portrait artist and a gigging musician.