Dean Leivers Dean Leivers


Project Updates

April 13th, 2023

The last six months have been busy with project work and various commissions the most exciting however was my work on the ‘Creative Communities’ project which was generously funded by The Mighty Creatives. This project was an opportunity to build on the foundations laid in my Arts Council England funded ‘Dependent Origination’ Project.

This form of the project is an innovation that bridges formal wellbeing tools (mindfulness) with creative practice, led by myself and poet/musician Akshay Sharma (AKA Mr Shay). We worked with all 360 students at Folville Junior School in Leicester (12 classes, years 3-6), the vast majority of which met at least one of the funders priority characteristics.

The project used different creative practices to enable students to explore and experience the strength within each one of them. It introduces and spotlights the importance of Recognising (what’s inside and outside of ourselves), Recording (mentally or physically taking note) and Responding (taking action).

Six classes in years 5 and 6 took part in 1 hour weekly mindfulness sessions following the .breathe curriculum (Developed by the Mindfulness in Schools project) over 4 weeks, integrating artistic processes and tools throughout in the form of drop in lunch time art workshops. These sessions were designed to be spaces where participants could “get away” from the busyness of the school day and take some quiet time for themselves to make art work (in this case illustrations) simply for the joy of creating a small piece of work.

We also worked with six classes in years 3 and 4 who took part in 30 minute weekly mindfulness sessions following the Paws B curriculum (also developed by the Mindfulness in Schools Project) over 12 weeks. They also had access to a half a day workshop in a transparent dome on the school grounds experiencing artist-led sessions which built on the ‘recognise, record, respond’ methodology.

Sessions in the dome were made up of two parts:

-‘Environmental observation’ (paying close attention to the visual landscape) leading to a photographic workshop with photographic artist Dean Leivers using the analogue historical cyanotype process to create images using handmade treated paper, natural found objects and sunlight

-‘Environmental listening’ (paying close attention to the soundscape) leading into a creative writing session with creative writer and performer Akshay Sharma, using sounds from the vicinity as a stimulus for writing poetry.

The project also invited parents, carers, and neighbours to the school to see the children’s artwork and poetry on display in an after school sharing event which attracted over 200 visitors. A book was also created to act as a lasting memento for the school to house in its library for current and future staff and students to view and enjoy. A digital version of that booklet can be viewed online here.

The most rewarding highlights of this work have been seeing the pupils sharing their work (Cyanotypes and poems) with staff and parents/carers in the community sharing. Hearing them explain to parents the process and what they did during the workshops was wonderful and to witness parents actively engaging with not just their own child’s work but the work of other children was really pleasing. Getting to run a variety of my mindfulness curriculums with a range of ages has also given me a great insight into the ways that I can further integrate this into my art workshop delivery too, in order to create a workshop offer that covers all of the facets of my career and life interests and drawing from all of the skills I have to offer others.

The huge success from this project though has been the chance to use it as match funded activity to secure further funding from Arts Council England so that myself and Akshay can further develop the workshops and tour the project in eight schools located in Leicestershire and Derbyshire starting in early May. There’ll be more updates on the progress of that project over the next few months.

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