Local Artist Jenna Coleman prepares for art installation at The Dispensary for Fish & Ships Festival  18th & 19th May

Local Artist Jenna Coleman prepares for art installation at The Dispensary for Fish & Ships Festival 18th & 19th May

In discussion with….

Jenna Coleman- Artist


Jenna, a local artist, and customer of our Dispensary shop, Skinner Street, Whitby, contacted us recently, to ask us if we would like her to do an art installation on the theme of marine life, with a focus on animal welfare, for the Whitby Fish & Ships Festival on 18th and 19th May.


We were really excited at this prospect, as animal welfare is an issue very close to our hearts; we are involved in raising funds and awareness for Crustacean Compassion, an organisation which campaigns for the legal protection and humane treatment of decapod crustaceans (e.g. crabs, lobsters & langoustines) in the UK.


We also run the local support group for Compassion in World Farming which campaigns against cruel factory farming, including the factory farming of fish and octopuses.


We met with Jenna and had a chat about what she would like to create for the art installation, and were delighted that she wanted to share her creativity with us in this way to raise awareness of the sentience of crustaceans, fish and other marine animals, within the context of a local festival focusing on the sea.


We asked Jenna if she would mind us sharing some of our chat with you and she was happy to do so!


Jenna, could you tell us a bit about your connection with Whitby and how you became interested in art?


I am Whitby born and bred! I went to Fyling Hall school and was influenced there to be creative; my Great Aunt was an artist, and I grew up around family friends who practiced arts and crafts.


What particular forms of art interest you?


I recently got into the Northern School of Art, and love ceramics, I love the feeling of the natural material, its history, this form of art has been around for thousands of years and civilisations were able to use this as a tool to tell stories and record history. I went to Peru in January and was inspired by the Incan ceramics; they recorded rituals and significant cultural moments on the ceramics - I wish we had these practices today. The clay is a child-like material, like playdoh, but you can get particularly good results with organic and natural forms. I would like to investigate hanging ceramics from the ceiling and displaying some on sticks as part of the installation at The Dispensary Shop.


What inspires you in your art?


The sea, I grew up on the West Cliff of Whitby. I lost my dad recently and the sea reminds me of happy memories on the beach together. It is a peaceful place for me and reminds me of him.


Could you explain a bit about your concern/ link with animal welfare?


I heard that several years ago Switzerland had passed a law banning the boiling of lobsters whilst they were conscious, as there is evidence that they are sentient and feel pain, and that they can only be held in their natural environment, not transported in ice or icy water. I think that we should follow suit, especially since the Animal welfare (Sentience) Bill finally became UK law in April 2022. I volunteered at the Lobster Hatchery in Whitby and realised that the lobsters are sentient and can feel pain, they also seemed to quite like me, and it was fascinating to develop a friendship with them and to learn about their behavioural patterns. I wanted to help preserve them for our environment but also for the fishing industry, which is a massive part of the Whitby economy and keeps tourism booming in the town. But we need to understand the sentience of fish and crustaceans to better understand the role they play in our ecosystem. By practising compassion, we connect with our environment, and we can teach future generations the importance of respecting our local ecosystems and its’ inhabitants. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of disruption to our coastline in recent years at the Teesworks, now known as the “crustacean die off.” This has caused years of speculation surrounding how the crustaceans came to be washed up in this mass “red tide.” Now more than ever, conservation of fish and crustaceans are key to survival of the fishing industry which is exactly what organisations like the Whitby Lobster Hatchery are doing efficiently. Educating others on sustainable practices empowers communities, and leaving professional individuals to killing crustaceans and fish humanely for consumption is imperative. There are more humane ways to kill crustaceans and fish for consumption, and hopefully the installation will allow viewers to discuss and think about more ethical practices and promote the welfare of crustaceans and fish.


Why did you offer to do your art installation at The Dispensary shop?


I’ve seen the shop raising awareness about animal rights & animal welfare issues. As I pass by the shop, I’ve seen the Ban Live Exports posters and the model calf which caught my eye. You have a very eye-catching window! I wanted to explore the same semantics in relation to the sea, looking at crustaceans and fish.


What are you studying and where?


I’m studying at the Northern School of Art in Middlesbrough, on an Adult Learning Access Course. I’m 21 now. After experiencing the loss of my dad, whom I had a close relationship with, I was experiencing grief and wanted to do something different. My Mum suggested that I try art, and I’m so glad she did. I hope to do a fine art degree or ceramics degree. It is down to life experience that I have gone down this path and I have found tapping into my creativity freeing. It is an incredible experience, it started as something to distract me and then I got increasingly interested in ceramics and became skilled at it, and I feel that I could now make artwork that is unique and interesting.


When can we expect to see your installation in The Dispensary shop?


I’m hoping that I can put the installation up in the shop to coincide with the Fish and Ships festival 18th and 19th May.


Many thanks to Jenna and we are looking forward to seeing her installation, showcasing her creativity, and helping to raise more awareness about marine animal welfare and sentience.


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