Lauren and I devised a community-based workshop to be run with two different groups at Soft Touch; parents and children from New Parks estate in Leicester, and a group of children aged 8-13 from an Adventure Playground, also based in New Parks. The first group, the parents and children, were very mixed in age and so were quite difficult to engage all at the same level. The workshop we provided, we tried to make accessible for all ages by allowing all the participants to react to the instructions quite freely. They were asked to look around the exhibition with viewfinders and pick out particular parts in the artworks that they liked (based on colour, texture, line or other artistic elements). The group were provided with arts resources and asked to create several works, experimenting with all the materials and responding to artworks in the exhibition. When we first explained what we would be doing, a few of the participants reacted by saying that they “couldn’t do art” and weren’t confident in their abilities to produce something of a high quality.
However, as the group looked around the exhibition they seemed interested in the artworks. They stuck together as a group for a short while at the start but then split off to explore works they liked individually. As this happened, the group became more engaged in the activity and studied the artworks in more detail with the viewfinders.
All members of the group created very diverse artworks and played around with the different materials. They responded extremely creatively and crafted three-dimensional and textural works as well as paintings and drawings. As they were a group who already knew each other from around their estate, there was a very relaxed atmosphere, which put no limits on people’s confidence and resulted in a more experimental nature of working.
We asked everybody to go round and present their works to the rest of the group. Again, when first told to do this a couple of people in the group seemed hesitant but as we went round they all gave positive, intelligent feedback and reinforced feelings of confidence. The group were increasingly engaged as the session went on; this seemed to increase because of everybody’s positive responses and a relaxed attitude to making work. There were some difficulties in keeping the younger children engaged for the full two hours as they were unable to take part in the group discussion but they enjoyed doing the practical work. Although they may not have followed the exact directions of the workshop, the younger children still made decisions between mediums and how they applied these to the materials. Rather than rushing to put pen to paper, all members in the group thought about what materials they wanted to use and how they were going to use them.
Everybody was then asked to choose one of the pieces they had created and put this up on the wall for a ‘mini exhibition’. The group spent a considerable amount of time contemplating which artworks would work well together and how they wanted to arrange them on the wall. They showed a lot of pride in the works they had created and at the end of the workshop were surprised at how effective they looked as a collection.