It may be the season of cheer and indulgence, but it’s also a time when we think about those who are no longer with us. The exhibition Still Parents: Life After Baby Loss at The Whitworth tackles the concept of loss and the most heartbreaking experience for a parent – losing a baby.
Still Parents is the result of a series of workshops which encouraged participants to explore their experiences with baby loss and miscarriage through art making and involved almost 100 participants in the two years of running. The programme has even won a national award for ‘Going the Extra Mile’ for families in the Kids in Museums awards – an award that is certainly well-deserved, with the programme having touched the lives of so many people.
The display is the first of its kind, aiming to shatter the silence that surrounds baby loss and functioning as a platform for people to open up and share their stories. Described as a ‘constituent-led’ exhibition, The Whitworth team ensured that every aspect of the show, including the choice of works, curation and interpretation has been informed by the participants.
The workshops placed a lot of emphasis on the practical aspects of art-making and learning new techniques, so the resulting artwork in the exhibition includes prints, ceramics, photography and embroidery. Works produced by the participants are interspersed with works from The Whitworth’s collection, once again chosen by the participating members of the public. It is easy to see why some of the works were particular favourites, with themes of solitude and community being particularly noticeable.
The participating parents also loaned personal objects to the gallery, ones that were connected with their own, personal stories of loss. These objects, placed in ‘memory boxes’, are displayed side by side in a vitrine. One participant described seeing them together as particularly emotional, because it was a reminder that even in the darkest of places we are never completely alone and other people going through similar experiences can come together to lift each other up, even just by their presence.
Still Parents: Life After Baby Loss is a very special and emotionally-charged exhibition that you will not want to forget. Visitors are bound to feel the intensity behind the works on show no matter what their own experience, and the sense of a group of people deeply connecting both through a traumatic experience and art-making, will prevail.