Funding meant I could host my first solo exhibition

girl in glasses standing with a book in front of her artworkAlina at the launch of Native, her first solo exhibition

Alina received youth project funding in 2019, using the money to further develop her final project for university and put on an exhibition: Native. Here she describes what inspired her and what she learned from the experience.

I used the youth project funding primarily to exhibit and host my very first solo exhibition: it was amazing!

When I applied for the funding, I was in my final year studying photography at the University of South Wales. I’m inspired by pre-Raphaelite and Dutch paintings and wanted to explore how painters used flowers to symbolise a story within their pictures.

For my final project, I reused their techniques and style – of models, of painting, of the flowers they used. I wanted to achieve that same style, but through photography, and choose flowers that are UK native to emphasise their importance in the pictures. I also wanted to bring in a fashion element, where the garments correlate with their surroundings.

artistic photo of lady in white dress leaning into a green-festooned riverbankImage credit: Alina Hibbert

I volunteer with a guy called Stephan, who runs the plant shop Eartha, he told me I should apply for funding to take my project further. He put me in touch with Grow Wild, who talked me through how to apply, which included having to make a video application.

I hate my face – I’m behind a camera for a reason! Making the application video was interesting for me: I can talk for England, but I’m not so good at planning a structured speech. By the end I was a lot more comfortable and I must have done an ok job because I got the funding!

There’s no better place to celebrate native flowers than a place in Cardiff that celebrates native plants and protects nature. Bute Park, which is in the heart of the city, was my supporting organisation. They helped me organise where I could do the shoots and hold the exhibition, as well as being the organisation that received the funding on my behalf.

artistic photo of woman covered in leaves and bracken on a woodland floorImage credit: Alina Hibbert

I approached Bute Park because we used them as a base for a project in my first year, that’s how I got to know them. They have this lovely greenhouse where the light is diffused and so nice, that’s where I held the exhibition.

It was great to hold it in the nurseries that were open anyway, where people interested in horticulture could see me enjoying horticulture in a different way. We held special free events for the public as well: Shay ran a nursery tour, for people to look around and get a behind the scenes look at what goes on in the park; Liam from Buglife did a talk on pollinator insects, how they help native flowers and what we can also do to help.

The scans were most looked at because when they were printed they looked so real, you felt you could pick them off the paper. I saw people standing there trying to take it in.

two pieces of botanical artwork - a fern and a plant in a vase, exhibited from slats of woodImage credit: Alina Hibbert

I had a few prints people could take away, which they did. I had chats with people about how much they loved nature and that it’s totally unappreciated sometimes; we should stop and look more.

I got a lot of experience out of it. I found out what people thought of my work, what they want to see more of. I learned what to do better next time. I know where I am in my professional career - what I can do to improve, where to go next.

It doesn’t sound like much but there’s so much you can do with £500. I’d recommend it to other artists with similar interests, who want to do something to help people change their views on nature.

I would definitely recommend it. I even made my very first fabricated book that I can use for my portfolio, to prove I did something great. There’s nothing more I could ask for!

several colourful books with the word 'Native' embossed on the coverAlina's fabricated book

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