We previously heard from adviser Michael Appleyard, from Stepping Stones Creative, about how they supported young people to choreograph a performance for their Explore Arts Award. Here he tells us about how they’ve worked with partners to produce visual art for their own creative festival
Stepping Stones Creative works with young people with special needs, using the arts as a vehicle for the development of personal growth, and encouraging aspiration. One way it achieves this is by identifying different locations in the community where their creative work can be exhibited, giving the young people the sense that they’re professional artists.
I had connected with the baritone David Wilson Johnson, who is the founder and organiser of Ferrandou, a summer school in France for emerging classical artists. Together, we decided to create our own arts festival in this region, exhibiting our young people’s art work in local restaurants, which we called the ‘Naïve Arts Festival’.
Our aim was to produce work for the festival with our Saturday club for young people aged 8 – 11, who have been working towards their Explore Arts Award. The pupils were first introduced to the Ferrandou Atelier through the gallery’s website, exploring its location in France, and its links with Royal Academy of Music students. We discussed how the intention was for the children’s art work to visually support several classical performances given by the musicians to the paying public.
Through our strong relationship with the Whitworth Art Gallery, the group were able to view an exhibition of work by artist Alice Kettle, and take part in a question and answer session with Alice at the gallery. Within the session the group explored Alice’s use of colour, and this became the stimulus for the group’s work and their festival pieces.
During our Saturday morning workshops, we would constantly refer to Alice’s pieces, discussing her imagery and how this might influence their own individual pieces. The group produced visual art work themed around 'birds'- imagining what attributes their birds might have, and exploring the environments they might live in. This is where Alice Kettle’s work had its greatest impact, as her exhibition demonstrated several environments and cultural images, in bright vivid colours.
We discussed with the group how we might present their artwork. We approached The Whitworth Gallery to enquire if Amy George, curator, would visit the group. A session was arranged for Amy to answer questions on curating exhibitions, and the group were able to gain advice on how to curate the work in Ferrandou.
We evidenced their work in their Arts Award log books through visual documentation including; photographs, a collage of events and annotated diagrams.
Now that the art has been produced and is on display at Ferrandou, the plan is for David Wilson Johnson to Skype into the group to report on the impact their work has had on the audiences. Through streaming, the young people have also been able to share the exhibition with their peers at school.
Children from local schools in the Correzze area were invited in to view the work and give feedback. A local professional artist was amazed by the standard of art produced by children of this age group.
Having their work viewed by so many people has been a huge boost of self-esteem for the young people involved and they are all very keen to carry on with their creative journeys.