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The creepy High Street toy shop where nothing is for sale – BBC News

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  • By Pauline McLean
  • BBC Scotland arts correspondent

Image caption, Rachel Maclean outside her Don’t Buy Mi installation in Ayr

A Scottish artist is drawing young people into the world of art by meeting them on their own territory.

Rachel Maclean has exhibited across the world, in Venice and at the National Galleries of Scotland.

But by taking over vacant shops on Scottish High Streets, she is pulling in a new young audience.

Mimi is the colourful character created by Maclean for the Edinburgh sculpture park Jupiter Artland in 2021.

The ambitious work was her first combining architecture and animation.

She always envisaged a spin-off work, which would tour Scottish High Streets and take over empty shops.

Image caption, Don’t Buy Mi will be in Ayr until Christmas Eve

Now, the reality is Don’t Buy Mi – a surreal toy shop where nothing is for sale and all the items come from Maclean’s dark imagination – decaying dolls with a demonic feel, upside-down boxes, signs and a dark animated film.

Mimi has already been to Perth but arrives this week in Ayr where her topsy-turvy shop draws attention to the crisis facing many High Streets across the country.

Her creator has exhibited globally, but she says there’s something special about taking work to people’s doorsteps. No matter what the response.

“A lot of the intention of the work is that you don’t necessarily know it’s art when you see it,” said Maclean.

“Initially you could just think it’s a disused shop.

“There is something really ordinary about a shop, a High Street shop. I think there’s a degree of accessibility to a High Street, you can just walk in, and you are inviting an honest response.

“I am looking forward to seeing what the people of Ayr think about it.”

Image caption, Mimi is the character created by Rachel Maclean

Ready to deal with any questions are the Orbiteers – local teenagers recruited to work on the project.

Daria, a schoolgirl from Kilmarnock, wants to be an architect. “It is so cool to see it in person and see the detail and visualise what it is about and the story behind it,” she said.

“People will probably ask what the story is, what is going on and why does it look rough?

“I will tell them how it explores serious issues in the world.”

Briagh, from Ayr, is in sixth year and wants to study fine art – she said she would spread awareness about the project.

“It’s good for Ayr, to give people the chance to explore art in places where they have lived their whole lives,” she said. “And it lets us all have an opportunity to appreciate art.”

Image caption, An abandoned Mimi doll hangs from a shelf inside the store

Jupiter Artland director Nicky Wilson said an education programme would run alongside the art installation adding that local schools would visit and explore artwork from a world-class artist.

She said: “You walk in and it’s an abandoned shop and you think there is something a bit odd.

“It’s a bit dishevelled and it’s only got one product for sale. You go through to the back and there is the film, an animation.

“That has transformed it into a Disneyesque horror show.”

Image caption, The shop has only one item for sale

Don’t Buy Mi will live in the old butcher’s shop in Ayr High Street until Christmas Eve – alongside a workspace where local schools can make their own art.

After that, Mimi’s tour continues, coming soon to a High Street near you.

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