Bronze in five days: enabling young people to gain cultural capital

Bronze in five days: enabling young people to gain cultural capital

Picture of Guest Writer

BY: Guest Writer
30 Aug 2022

We hear from Cat Lee, Youth Arts Manager at St Ives School of Painting in Cornwall, who tells us about her inclusion project, Culture Camp, and how it has empowered and motivated young people and developed their cultural capital - as well as a Bronze Arts Award!

Since training as an Arts Award adviser at Bronze & Silver levels in 2017, we have helped 127 young people in Cornwall achieve an Arts Award qualification. At St Ives School of Painting, we started accrediting our arts provision with Arts Award as a way of supporting young people in Cornwall to achieve a qualification outside of normal schooling. We now run Arts Award alongside our inclusion projects with at-risk groups of young people.

Cat Lee image 2One of my inclusion projects, Culture Camp, has been supported by the Arts Award Access Fund and involves working with young people who have been excluded from school and attend a Pupil Referral Unit. Culture Camp is a week-long project where the young people work towards achieving a Bronze Arts Award.

The ethos of Culture Camp centres around transformative spaces, high-quality provision and cultural capital. Based in historic Porthmeor Studios in St Ives, the young people are immersed in both its famous history in Modern Art and its vibrant life today with its 19 working art studios. The studios also overlook beautiful Porthmeor beach. These spaces unlock inspiration and motivation, and they re-engage in learning.

‘The outcomes of Culture Camp are beyond incredible for our young people, who so far, have only known hardship. Culture Camp goes one step further. It is total immersion - a week of culture but also about the wider experience of St Ives itself. It is immersive for the young people and makes such an impact because of that.’ PRU staff member

We programme and design high-quality activities and cultural experiences to inspire the young people. We ensure the welcome they receive at any cultural venue is warm, inclusive and accessible. These positive interactions empower them to envision a more positive future because it sets them up to experience success, often for the first time; creatively, socially and academically. It forms a new cultural entitlement, moving from a mind-set of 'these places aren't for me' to one of confident curiosity. It also gets them thinking about what possibilities are open to them.

‘Now I know if I was in St Ives, I could go to visit the Tate gallery again.’ Culture Camp attendee (young person)

In 2021, day 1 and 2 of the camp involved visiting Porthmeor Studios where they had a tour of theCat Lee image 1 building first, which gave them more context of where they were and why. They also visited the beach where they took photos to use for reference when doing drawings and watercolour postcard paintings (Part A). At Porthmeor they met an artist in their studio, learnt about their making techniques and did a Q&A with them (Part C).

Cat Lee image 3On day 3, the young people spent the day at Leach Pottery where they saw a throwing demonstration and made cups and plates out of clay (Part A). For their Part D, they shared with each other the skills they’d learnt and what they had made. The young people also visited Tate St Ives to see the art collection and an installation by Petrit Halilaj (Part B). The Porthmeor Studios artist led them around the exhibition rather than Tate staff as the young people were more comfortable with that.

Culture Camp was cited in the Pupil Referral Unit’s Ofsted inspection as a beacon of good practice. It was highlighted in the report that Culture Camp stands out as a great example of what the school are doing to raise the expectations of young people and increase their cultural capital.

Following on from the Ofsted report, two more alternative provision settings have approached us to work in partnership with their vulnerable young people. This has expanded the inclusion work at School of Painting from two Culture Camps per year to four.

The participation and motivation these young people showed at Culture Camp impressed the PRUCat Lee image 4 staff, who often face a degree of disengagement. Their engagement with the arts and culture before coming to Culture Camp was at a very low level. They had never been to a gallery before or heard of Tate or Leach Pottery, even though they are local. They had never visited St Ives before or even been to a beach. These young people live in the most economically deprived 10 wards in Cornwall which fall under the 10% most deprived areas nationally. Not only did Culture Camp open the doors of cultural organisations, but the young people also had the opportunity to explore St Ives, enjoy the sea view from our art studio and make art on the beach. On top of this they achieved a Bronze Arts Award!

After last year’s project, two young people have since been welcomed back to mainstream school. The schools were impressed with their achievements and engagement in Culture Camp and, as a result, felt they were ready to be reintegrated.

Top tips

The young people who attend Culture Camp are generally very unpredictable, as are their lives. Attendance is more pressured when delivering Arts Award, so I have found I need to stay flexible. This sometimes means programming additional sessions when some have been missed and using contingency funds in my project budget.

The young people’s mistrust of adults is, on the most part, very high. They have been let down a lot in the past and can come across as ‘cold’ initially. Because of this, it is very important to start the bonding process with the young people a long while before the project begins, and to visit them at the PRU. Prior to the most recent project starting, the artist spent a whole day with the young people at their setting; joining in with their art classes and getting to know them – this enabled them to build some rapport with the artist and trust him.

Finally, the young people being chaperoned and transported by PRU staff made this project possible and it couldn’t have happened without them. Due to the barriers the young people face in attending or accessing Culture Camp independently being impossible to overcome, they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to participate in this project.

Click here for more info about Culture Camp.

Images by St Ives School of Painting

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