Holding children and young people in mind; art as a vehicle to connect with creativity.
Keeping our children and young people in mind is always a powerful tool, as is using the arts as a vehicle and a tangible reminder for processing, reflecting and connecting with creativity.
But where we are now, in uncharted waters, having returned to school after lockdown with many restrictions still in place, it’s more important than ever. Many children and young people, aware of the pandemic, have been experiencing a level of unprecedented change in their lives, with their daily routines disrupted and many feeling that the usual transition activities may be inadequate, that the support will need to be different. And we may only be able to begin to fully understand the impact of this pandemic emotional and mental health and well-being as we start to emerge from it.
Oxford Academy School is a school with a thriving art department and hundreds of creative young people; sitting alongside the Mini Car Factory and Oxford United Football Club, the absence of thousands of people across our county singing and chanting (aka the yellow army) is keenly felt.
So when The Oxford Academy, Nora Ward (Headteacher) and Pauline John (Children We Care For Mentor) reached out to the Oxfordshire Kindness Wave to collaborate on building Art Bags for hundreds of their students, it was an honour to be able to work with them to connect, build and create.
Funded by The Oxford Academy Endowment Trust, each Art Bag carries the legend LOOK SEE WATCH WITNESS, created by artist Richard Wentworth, was a Master of Drawing at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art Oxford University and Head of Sculptor at the Royal College of Art. The bags where brought together by designer and artist Greg Orrom Swan, a former student at Wheatley Park School, who now lectures in design at UCL and printed by Wild and Kind Studio Glasgow. Inside each bag is a sketch book, pencils, paint and brushes. Modern Art Oxford sourced catalogues, artist Kiki Smith donated posters and these were accompanied by a poem called ‘Faith, written by Jacob Sam-La Rose and designed as a limited risograph print by Julia U from Common Press East Oxford. The Art Bags were carefully and lovingly packed by support staff and teachers working alongside each other, and then delivered by hand to each home.
This is cross sector collaboration at its best, bringing together creative industries, local educational authorities, academy trusts, the voluntary sector and grassroots organisations, all with the express intention of holding our young people in mind.
This widening participation offers a unique opportunity for cultural and educational institutions to reach out, engage and forge connections.
These Art Bags will act as a communication tool, they will create a chance to open dialogue and to curate a space for powerful expression. It’s the Art of Engagement, using creative tools to provide a vehicle for our young people; the sheer enabling power of independence and a sense of self-determination, and of knowing that a community is ready, able and willing to support you, is everything.
” OMG you could have waited till they came back to school, this is so kind of you”
‘’My niece had an Art Pack delivered and she actually cried with happiness’’
“The young people will really appreciate the art parcels as they have no resources at home, but would feel too embarrassed to tell anyone”