Thursday, 10 March 2011

artistic persuasion

Last night I watched a TV programme about an educational experiment.
English readers will probably know the programme I’m talking about, but for the benefit of those that aren’t they’ve got a group of 17yr olds, all of whom left school with no qualifications, and have set up a school where they have invited several well known public figures to teach them, some in subjects that are not traditionally taught in our schools.

The teenagers are, I guess, the kind of kids that might be seen as rebellious, this was evident from the behaviour shown by some of them. It was also evident that at least a couple of the adults teaching them were somewhat fazed by this.

pavement drawing
But this is what struck me the most.
They have Rankin as an art teacher, and were given a project to take a photo of themselves home and change the picture into something that represented themselves.
Every single one of them came back with an outstanding creative picture.

And it was also obvious that not only were they very pleased with the work they had produced but the praise Rankin gave them for it meant so much to all of them.
The beauty of using art as a teaching medium is that there is no right or wrong - like there is with any other subject. And raising self esteem is good for everyone, but especially for those who have little or no self belief.

Art reaches everyone.

look closely
A couple of years ago I was working for a charity that ran community projects, the young people from one of the groups I was involved with made a video for a safety campaign. They knew they would get a voucher for doing this but when the day came for the presentations the thing that these guys were most pleased about was the fact that they were each given a certificate.
That piece of paper meant more to any of them then the vouchers.

 Any art project would always spark interest and be well attended.
 Many times I’d hear one of them say that there was no point in them coming because they were ‘rubbish at art’.
With a little persuasion they could usually be talked into coming along anyway - I’d tell them I’d find them something to do, but often it was these kids who ended up getting the most involved and getting the most out of it.
south bank street entertainer
Once they realised that art doesn’t have to mean drawing a bowl of fruit or painting a masterpiece and it’s really just about being creative however you can.
And because it was always a fun thing the kids would relax and enjoy themselves which was great for building relationships.

I ran a project with a bunch of kids during the school holidays where we made a giant mural to decorate the main room in our new building, the way this was funded meant that the young people got a recognised award at the end, and also a trip as a reward.
We took them to the Tate Modern.

For anyone who doesn’t know the Tate is on the South Bank of the Thames.

Walking from the train to the gallery we passed all the various street entertainers that are always there (none of the kids we had with us had even been to London before, and they were fascinated).
These were all young people who are considered to be a ‘problem’ in their neighbourhood, anyone who saw them that day would never believe that. Professional terminology for these kids and others like them would be 'Hard to Reach'.

river thames sand culpture
For me the biggest reward and the absolute highlight was as were walking back to the station

As I was taking a photo of the view one of the girls - a kid who never went to school and was always in trouble with the police - linked her arm through mine and said to me,

“I’ve realised today that anything can be art if you think it is”

Art can touch even the 'Hard to Reach'.
It's a powerful and empowering thing.

perfect end to a perfect day


  1. Very uplifting report. Thanks.

  2. Excellent! I now feel justified fancying myself as an artist (emerging).

  3. I got into buying my friend's and other local artists pieces over the last few years. I think it's important to support the arts weather it's the visual arts, music, stage, whatever. I have an artist friend that I bought a piece from and I gave it this past year to my nephew for Christmas. I think she's an amazingly talented artist. She lives in Austin, Texas now. Here's a link to some of her work . . .!/album.php?aid=2230&id=506366443

  4. Here's a link for the actual piece that I gave to my 12 year old nephew for Christmas. He loved it!!/photo.php?fbid=21262016443&set=a.4280011443.2230.506366443&theater

  5. @retch. just looked, they're all pretty amazing - left a comment, except now she's prob gonna be wondering who the hell I am.

  6. @DCG: Yeah, saw that in my gmail inbox, because I had commented on it way back when. I think she's really talented.

  7. artists are awesome. i can only use music and words for my craft ... i appreciate that they can do more than my mere stick person :)

  8. The South Bank of the Thames is a marvellous place, is it not? Did you see any mimes in funny costumes?

  9. @Andrea..I love the way you use the word 'only', you're too modest - you're music is amazing.

    @gorilla, yeah there were loads - a couple of the kids were a bit freaked out by them at first, until one took one of their hats off. I have pics but I could only use the ones here that didn't have the kids in them.


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