So the first stage of the project has come to a close with a very interesting final week. The fourth week in the first partner school saw me finish workshop delivery with the final three classes in the school and also carry out my first community session of the project. The first part of the week I worked with three Year 6 classes who were afforded more time for their workshops (2 hours in total) in order that they really got to experience the full process of preparing and making a cyanotype print. As they are the eldest children in the school I felt comfortable allowing them to work with the chemicals, under supervision and with protective kit on, so that they could take more ownership over the art work that they were creating. The extra time also afforded me the opportunity to discuss with the group the themes and intentions behind my own practice and work in progress project ‘Dependent Origination’. As a lot of my images for the project have so far been created using incense dust which was burnt during my meditation practice I led the groups in short mindfulness exercises before they went off to explore the woodland are to find objects to help create their imagery. I was keen to see how this affected the groups approach, would it inspire them to take a more considered approach to their exploration? Would it simply act as a good way to reset the group prior to the workshop starting proper? It did seem to have a calming effect on the groups that I did try the activity with. It was also interesting as a very small insight into how mindfulness practice could couple with art practice as this notion forms the basis of my next project which was recently funded by Arts Council England.
Following the Year 6 sessions my final workshop of the week was given over to a community workshop delivered to a number of committee members from local arts group ‘Active Arts’. Formed in October 1976 by a small group of volunteers Active Arts aim was to bring a programme of ‘arts’ to Countesthorpe and Blaby, in Leicestershire. Based loosely at the new Countesthorpe College they were regarded as 'the art wing’ of the College and to this day a small group of volunteers continues to provide a programme of all things artistic for the local communities in Countesthorpe and Blaby, making good use of a yearly small grant from Blaby District Council.
I’m very grateful to Active Arts as they very kindly contributed to the schools cash contribution to the project and so was more than happy to provide an insight into the project and its aims and of course allow the committee to get hands on with making their own cyanotypes! It was also a wonderful networking opportunity for me as a local artist, getting to know people locally who may be able to recommend the project to future partners and who are hugely supportive of the work of artists practicing locally. It was also a good way for me to test bed the ways in which I may deliver future community sessions during the project. After a month at the school I’ve come to realise that the groups I’ve worked with have inadvertently done a great job of advertising the project to their parents for me! I’m confident that when it comes to delivering the project in venues local to the school I shouldn’t have too much trouble bringing in participants.
Until then though I’ve said goodbye to my first partner school and packed down the dome. I had such a fun time getting to work with over six hundred participants over the four weeks, it was great to experience the buzz and excitement of the groups they got to experience a photographic practice that a huge percentage had never come across before. I’d better do some stock replenishment before I arrive at my next venue!