Last year whilst researching for our Street Art Study Day SVAG members were fortunate to meet Kate West of Nether Edge School and Family Voice. This led to Graham Marsden and myself planning with Kate a couple of events for the Nether Edge Festival. We felt that, whilst the provision of practical workshops was not a primary aim of SVAG, we had sufficient experience to make a contribution. We met on a number of occasions and Graham and I scoured the shops at the foot of The Moor for bargain buy resources.
Our first venture was to offer art and craft workshops on two consecutive afternoons at St Andrews Church, Psalter Lane. Children from local primary schools were exhibiting art work on the theme of Miro. Some children visited with a teacher though most children independently brought parents to view their work.
We invited children to join us in making and decorating masks with the suggestion that they might wear their creations at the following Party in the Park. We were joined by two other SVAG members, Vicky Seddon and Denise West who ably assisted us with the activity. Refreshments were available and in spite of torrential rain we had around fifty participants, the majority being from the BAME community.
The children were enthusiastic, appreciative and showed real application. Their creations were highly individual and the product of much concentration. Graham's glitter was especially popular. Materials were shared and there was, in spite of limited space, a positive, co-operative atmosphere. Parents proved to be interested in the exhibition and many joined our activity and became quite engaged. Some regretted that there weren't more opportunities to use their own creativity and one told us that she was a botanist who now specialised in henna body decoration. She had skills to share. There was plenty of chatter and a reluctance to finish -" you can't rush art, Mum". It was evident that there was a real appetite for more of such provision.
Co-operation works !
The second free event involved Graham Marsden and Kate West leading a combined litter pick and Street Art tour of part of Abbeydale and Broadfield Roads. The participants - families and local residents, met at Netheredge School and co-operatively picked litter, resting only to admire the Street Art . Graham explained the background to some of the art works and in one case there was an opportunity to meet the artist. Rob Lee kindly made a contribution by explaining his work and his business practice of working to commission. Rob is currently working on a commission for "Now Then" on a wall belonging to Sheffield Hallam University. One local business man explained how he came to have a piece of colourful art on the wall of his premises. Another businessman expressed thanks for the litter picking. The event was enjoyed by all.
These activities were organised by volunteers with a very low budget as part of what is now a significant local festival itself organised by volunteers. The events were examples of local, inclusive provision and illustrate how the voluntary sector can support schools and other services.
Learning was taking place, creativity was fostered and networks developed. Above all there was active participation in the cultural life of the community and pride in the outcome.
I was reminded of some of the findings of the Arts Council public consultation report produced by "Britain Thinks" earlier this year. In the section on priorities for future Arts Council funding, it is reported that the findings show the public wants --"a local arts and culture offer that is tailored to local areas" along with public funding channelled to a more diverse range of organisations and artists that reflect the communities in which they live. Our experience certainly lends strength to the argument that scarce resources need to be shared more equitably and with a more local focus. I hope the Arts Council is listening.
Meet Rob Lee, the artist
A hidden gem
Graham indicating significant Street Art
Thanks are due to Kate West for the images of the Art and Craft events and Dave Beautyman for the photos of the Street Art/Litter Pick event. Thanks also go to Vicky Seddon and Denise West who gave such active assistance with the busy art and craft workshops.
(Please note that permission was sought before the photographs of the children were taken).
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