- Our Work of Art is a community art project which is inspiring older people as volunteers and participants in socially engaged creative practice.
- Espression Arts Community Interest Company (CIC) with support from Kent Arts & Wellbeing are developing volunteers’ creative skills and confidence through diverse media to produce vibrant, group participant-painted, ceramic murals.
- Project activity is for the community and highly skilled artists are training and mentoring the volunteers in creative activities. This reflects the energy and qualities of older people engaged in group creative-making sessions in Age UK and community centres.
The main project elements and phases include:
- The volunteer training programme and mentoring.
- The creative group sessions with older people.
- Volunteer creative pottery studio practice.
- Monitoring and evaluation.
The volunteer training programme and mentoring
The training was a bespoke three-part sessional programme developed by the project team.
Two rounds were delivered in July and again in September 2018. The content and approach was evolved from the LAPWING project training, developed for Kent artists in 2016.
The project partners
- Age UK Canterbury with Age UK Herne Bay & Whitstable, working with Espression Arts CIC and Kent Arts and Wellbeing, secured funding from Canterbury City Council, Arts Council England, the Big Lottery, Kent Community Foundation (from the Pargiter Trust and Lawson Endowment for Kent). The project volunteer empowerment work is also supported by Kent County Council.
- People aged 50 years and over were the targeted volunteer group. In total 40 volunteers were recruited. 20 were trained in July 2018 at Age UK Herne Bay & Whitstable and a further 20 were trained in September 2018 at Age UK Canterbury.
The creative group sessions with older people
Over a 6 or 12 week programme in the Age UK day centre or community centre setting, the activities encouraged creative participation of the older people to ‘have a go’ and gain technical skills and engage more professionally in artistic making.
Volunteers supported over 100 older people to enjoy a tactile, expressive means accommodating individuals who find holding brushes or pens difficult.
- Working 1-2-1 the volunteers encouraged experimentation and enjoying rich conversations about participants’ sense of place, what it means to them and what is special, remarkable and memorable.
- Playing with ideas and creative thoughts for increased quality involvement and understanding all stages of the creative process.
- Understanding what it takes to make something happen is already happening in the sessions with participants that have taken place.
- Exploring through simple figurative or abstract mark-making, illustration, fine drawing, stencilling, landscape imagery and portraiture.
- Kent Arts & Wellbeing with Espression Arts Community Interest Company are helping vulnerable people to achieve the best art they can and enhance quality in creative work for all.
An Artists Collaborative Approach was asopted to deliver genuine Community Arts, involving partnership working with a highly skilled photojournalist, fine artist, potter and a therapeutic ceramicist.
Volunteer creative pottery studio practice
- 12 of the creative volunteers who undertook the training were additionally mentored in pottery studio practice by professional pottery/ceramicists based at Espression Arts CIC.
- All volunteers gained more insight and practice in practical engagement techniques and practical support approaches designed for vulnerable older people give to older people.
- Volunteers mentored in pottery studio practice will also co-curate a public exhibition of this work.
Monitoring and evaluation
- Our Work of Art builds on the successful LAPWING project methods and also tracks the wellbeing uplift of participants.
- Using a new Creative Quality Evaluation Tool – devised by Fay Blair and Catherine Arnell – volunteers were asked to reflect on the quality of the creative process and outputs at various stages for themselves and make observations about the older people they supported.
- The project legacy is highly motivated, upskilled volunteers, inspired to lead future quality group creative-making.