Anyone Can Be an Artist: Observing the Museum of Things

The first thing I notice is colour. Every shade of blue, green and orange you can imagine coats the white walls in vibrance. The second thing is that everyone is smiling. There is laughter trailing out of the room in Civic House where the Museum of Things exhibition is being held.  

By Olivia Sykes, Refugee Festival Scotland volunteer

Maryhill Integration Network (MIN) has been running this art group since February 2021. It began online as a space for refugees and asylum seekers to stay connected and practice art during lockdown. Some members of the group are new to the art world entirely, others were creative tradespeople in other spaces. All are new residents of Scotland.

The Museum of Things is led by two artists, Paria Goodarzi and Mousa AlNana. I had the joy of briefly meeting and talking to Paria who was explaining one of the artworks made by a Ukrainian refugee. I could tell by the love and joy she used to explain the piece just how much she cares about this exhibition and the group.

As I wandered around the room, I spoke with a couple of people attending the exhibition. Farima, a fellow volunteer with Refugee Festival Scotland, told me that she was a refugee from Iran and felt that she had really found home in Glasgow. She said that sometimes people could not understand her and she also couldn’t understand them, but that in Glasgow she felt very understood and listened to.

Farima pointed to a particular artwork, a print of two hands touching. She said that what she loved about this work was that even when you don’t speak the same language everyone can find something that touches them in art. To me this was a wonderful way to understand why this group is so special and why it means so much to everyone involved. Even when people who don’t necessarily speak the same language or understand the world in the same way, they can feel connected through art. I hugged Farima, gave her a smile, then kept walking around the room.

I was introduced to Yamamah, one of the Museum of Things artists and a refugee from Iraq. She walked me around the room, a twinkle in her eye as she pointed to each one of her art pieces. I could tell how much she cared about art and that it really meant something to her. She told me that she loves sculpture most of all. It was a form of escape and connection for her when she first arrived in Scotland, a new place where she was struggling to find a sense of home.

Charmed by Yamamah’s love of art, I asked if she wanted to pursue it in the future. She told me she is currently an art student at Kelvin College! In fact, she has won an award for another exhibition of her work, which was on display that very same day. I what this meant to her and she responded, simply and so eloquently, “I feel free.”

This exhibition shows the possibilities art brings for people from anywhere and everywhere. There is an underlying scepticism that to make art you need to have exceptional skills and training. But the Museum of Things demonstrates that anyone has the talent to be an artist and thrive in their creativity. All you need is something to create with, a little bit of bravery, and some encouragement.