Drawing on their creative backgrounds, our artists in residence help us share and reflect on the history in our collections, in new, innovative ways. Our AIR collaborations encourage all of us to challenge our ideas of museum curation, presentation and engagement.
British-born Canadian folk musician Saskia Tomkins is our first AIR, starting her digital residency at The Mixed Museum in 2022. Saskia is a master of violin/fiddle, viola, cello, and nyckelharpa. She is classically trained with a folk background, holds a B.A. (Hons) in Music (Jazz), and won the All Britain Champion Irish Fiddler Award. She has appeared with countless artists including The Chieftains and she is credited with developing the Celtic elements of the international hit musical Come From Away. She performs solo, with multiple ensembles, and is part of several orchestras.
Saskia is also the daughter of Susan, one of the approximately 2000 children who were born to Black GIs and white British women during WW2 and whose story features in our award-winning 'Brown Babies' exhibition.
This year's pairing and focus intentionally relates to our ongoing efforts to examine race and equity issues in our global community through the lens of folk music.
Aengus Finnan, Executive Director of Folk Alliance International.
In 2021, Folk Alliance International (FAI), the foremost global nonprofit for folk music, approached us to ask if we'd be interested to host Saskia as part of their AIR programme. Created to foster cultural cross-pollination, diversify audiences, and nurture artistic growth, FAI pairs folk musicians with non-music institutions and community organisations.
This year, FAI's goal is to examine race and equity issues in their global community through the lens of folk music.
Given the connection between The Mixed Museum and Saskia's family story, we were delighted to accept FIA's invitation.
To begin her residency, Saskia composed an instrumental piece weaving Roma, traditional fiddle, and blues elements. The music accompanies a narrated photo/video essay exploring her family's search to find her grandfather, Calvin, a Black American G.I. forbidden to marry his white girlfriend Sylvia, and required to return to the US while his daughter Susan (Saskia's mother) was twice forced into an orphanage.
Saskia's powerful piece was presented at the 34th annual Folk Alliance International Conference in Kansas City, on the 18th May 2022, where it received a standing ovation. The video of the piece, which was livestreamed to virtual attendees, can be seen below.
Thanks to support from ARU, a discussion of Saskia and her musical and family history and journey will also be incorporated into our award-winning 'Brown Babies' exhibition, curated in collaboration with Professor Lucy Bland. We will also be working with Saskia to explore opportunities for further creative collaboration over her time with us.
For more about Saskia, visit: https://saskiatomkins.com/
For more about Folk Alliance International, visit: https://folk.org/
Learn more about the history behind Saskia's music at our Brown Babies exhibition. The exhibition won the Museum Association's 'Museums Change Lives' 2021 award for best digital engagement: