Developing environmental awareness through art

Developing environmental awareness through art

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BY: Guest Writer
30 Nov 2023

Concluding our sustainability theme on the blog this month, we hear from Marinela Caldarus, Artistic Director at Art Classes Group in Slough who tells us about a collaborative art workshop their Bronze students delivered for the Part D Arts Skills Share, as part of an Arts Award exhibition to raise awareness of environmental issues.

Established in 2016, Arts Classes Group is a visual arts centre which supports young artists and promotes engagement with the visual arts through a range of inclusive activities such as exhibitions, workshops, demonstrations and remote learning. Our visual arts and art education approach focuses on creating art, appreciating art, promoting art, critical practice, collaboration and achievement. The core value of our centre is to implement environmental awareness within our art workshops and curriculum. We deliver Arts Award at Discover, Explore and Bronze levels.

This summer, for the Discover level we engaged students in creating art pieces from recycled materials (Part A Discover), emphasizing the importance of repurposing and reducing waste. They learnt how to use different painting mediums on cardboard, how to recycle plastic trays to mix the paints and how to repurpose household items into decorative objects. For Part B (Find out) students explored how artists such as Christo and Jeanne-Claude use their creativity to raise awareness of environmental issues and inspire action. The students took part in our bi-annual art exhibition for Part C (Share) to showcase their environmental artworks, share what they enjoyed from their Arts Award Discover, and discuss with visitors the messages behind their pieces about the environmental issues depicted. 


At Explore level, the students integrated multiple drawing techniques like charcoal, inks, and pastels to create a comprehensive artwork addressing an environmental issue (Part A Take Part). We also introduced mixed media collage techniques to represent sustainable practices and eco-friendly solutions. We discussed how incorporating recycled materials into collages can convey messages about conservation. For Part B (Explore), we discussed how public art, such as murals and street art, can convey powerful messages to a broader audience. Students explored the work of street artists like Banksy and we looked at how the Natural History Museum uses its exhibits and programs to communicate the science and impact of climate change and the importance of storytelling in conveying complex environmental issues. The students created a painting project for Part C (Create) which explored the beauty of the environment and promoted a sense of stewardship towards nature. For Part D (Share), along with students from the Discover level, they took part in our bi-annual art exhibition to showcase their environmental artworks and shared with the visitors what they enjoyed/achieved from doing their Arts Award Explore.


Students doing Bronze Arts Award worked on a large collaborative art project for Part A (explore the arts as a participant) with the scope to foster teamwork and to promote environmental awareness through a visually impactful collage. The students visited our bi-annual art exhibition for Part B (explore the arts as an audience member) which was a transformative experience; combining education, inspiration, and artistic expression to deepen their connection to the environment. For Part C (arts inspiration), they researched local artists who create artworks from recycled materials. A local artist visited us to share information about their arts practice, career and work and they offered guidance on future actions contributing to environmental awareness. For the Part D arts skills share, students delivered a creative session with a group of young people during the bi-annual exhibition at our venue.

The aim of the workshop was to inspire young people to connect and express their concerns about the environment through a collaborative art project as part of the Arts Award exhibition. A large stand was provided with poster paper and pens, and participants were encouraged to write comments, advice, or even doodles in reaction to the current environmental situation.

The Bronze students created a positive and inclusive atmosphere with a brief icebreaker activity to encourage interaction among participants by discussing the importance of environmental awareness and how art can be a powerful tool. They delivered a hands-on art workshop, providing guidance and support to the young participants.

The workshop began with a brief discussion about environmental art, explaining how artists use nature as inspiration and materials. The Bronze students then facilitated a conversation about environmental themes including the beauty of nature, biodiversity, climate change, and conservation and asked the participants to share their thoughts and feelings about these topics.

Each participant was provided with a large sheet of paper and was asked to use natural materials (leaves, twigs, etc), along with paint and other art materials, to create their own environmental masterpiece encouraging creativity and expression.

There was also a communal mural space where participants worked together on a larger piece of art that reflected their shared commitment to the environment.

Each participant wrote a brief artist's statement explaining their artwork and its connection to environmental themes, which was then displayed alongside their individual pieces. The completed artwork was arranged on easels, creating an immersive gallery experience. We ensured that the collaborative mural had a central place in the exhibition.

Visitors walked through the gallery, and we encouraged the young participants to share their thoughts and inspirations with them, fostering a sense of pride and accomplishment. A large stand was provided with poster paper and pens and the Bronze students encouraged visitors to write comments, advice or doodles in response to environmental issues.

The exhibition extended beyond the boundaries of the physical space. It left a mark on the participating children, fostering a deeper understanding of the environment.

Looking forward, we aim to inspire future initiatives, fostering a community of environmentally aware and creative individuals. Whether through additional art projects, or collaborations with local schools, the project initiative strives to create a lasting impact on the community's environmental ethos.

Through this event, children not only discovered the joy of artistic expression but also embarked on a journey towards becoming champions of sustainability, ensuring that their voices resonate for years to come.

Watch this short video for a glimpse of the project.

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