Published: 08/08/2017 17:00 - Updated: 08/08/2017 14:56

Wise Guys show off talents in Inverness art exhibition

Written byVal Sweeney


Wise Guys
Howard Spenceley (left) and Tony Pinner prepare for the exhibition at the Highland Print Studio

ARTWORK created by a group of older men involved in an Inverness project to combat the risk of loneliness and social isolation has gone on show in an exhibition.

The Wise Guys project was set up by Highland Print Studio after research revealed older men did not appear to take part in social actvities to the same extent as women, and in some circumstances could be at risk of loneliness and isolation.

The group, aimed at men aged over 50 with no visual arts experience, offered the chance to learn printmaking in weekly workshops over a few months – with constant supplies of coffee and chocolate biscuits.

Five years on, the group is still going and an exhibition, Wise Guys Works, has now opened at the studio in Bank Street, featuring recent original prints in various styles and printmaking techniques. It is also due to go on show in the Scottish Parliament next year.

Alison McMenemy, studio director, said the original concept of the project was simple.

"The result is a project that has been so successful it has continued for five years, attracting men from all walks of life to engage in both traditional and modern printmaking such as etching, linocut and screenprinting," she said.

"They have also created a cacophony of social banter in the studio. Artists talks and other social evenings have also helped make Wise Guys a sociable experience."

Funding for the project was originally provided by Age Scotland and High Life Highland and although that came to an end, many participants decided to carry on with the weekly sessions.

Members have given talks on the project at receptions staged by Age Scotland and Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing festival, taken part in radio interviews and met Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop.

In June, they were visited by actor Elaine C. Smith and filmed for her new series of Burdz Eye View, due to be screened on STV in the autumn.

One member, Terry Henderson, said he went along to the project the week after he retired.

"Like the rest of the guys who came along that day, I had no idea what actually went on in the building," he said. "Looking back now, I can’t quite believe how much I have learned and achieved.

"We were all taken through several printing proceesses and then let loose to try to create our own ‘masterpieces’!

"I’m so glad to have done this and discovered a brand new interest with like-minded people."

Another member, Trev Johnson, felt the staff had always shown interest in his work and guidance had always been forthcoming and valuable.

"I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to be a member of the Wise Guys," he said. "I have learnt many printing and digital techniques and have been encouraged to experiment."

In a bid to raise awareness of the issues of loneliness and social isolation, NHS Highland and The Inverness Courier have launched the Reach Out campaign. It invites to make a pledge to carry out a task of their choosing – from chatting to an elderly neighbour or volunteering with an existing organisation.

Wise Guys Works runs until August 28.

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