Crocus Fields (a respite centre for young people with disabilities) worked at Nottingham Contemporary for 5 weekly sessions. Crocus Fields is a creative place and the young people were already familiar with being experimental and expressive. All of the participants had autism and visited and worked in the gallery and studio with support workers.
The project became an interesting way of measuring the impact of showcasing work made by young people who were sometimes unable to communicate their ideas in conventional ways, through written reflection or verbal assessment. We had a private view of art work created by young people for teaching staff, carers and staff at Nottingham Contemporary. The standard of the work created by young people in both the range of styles and approaches and the depth of engagement was very high. The work was experimental and individual. I believe showcasing this work has changed attitudes about the talent present within the group for all involved. I think the work shifts expectations.
As a facilitator I worked in a very participant led way, developing the interests of the young people as a starting point. The young people involved were prone to anxiety so I shaped the sessions to increase familiarity with the gallery and the studio, and we created a calm setting. We always started with a group activity before branching off – such as creating rubbings of the gallery site to help the young people gain ownership of the space, or taking photographs of the galleries. I also felt it was important that everyone in the room became a participant, we worked alongside each other on individual projects, including myself and support workers. Most of the participants found it difficult to verbally communicate with me; I developed a way of working that included modelling different approaches alongside participants, offering suggestions by replicating the participant’s project and demonstrating different directions to take creative work.
I felt it was important that participants were authors of their own creative journeys. I encouraged group members to document sessions themselves. I also thought of new ways to help with the authorship process when I found communicating with participants difficult. For instance a group member demonstrated an interest in performance and mask work when she started making moustaches and eyebrows with plasticine. I set up a web cam so that she could see what she was recording as she documented her experiments. Another participant was also able to record her own writing experiments whilst being able to view what the recoding would look like to other people. Similarly when working with a participant who created fantastic abstract drawings his support worker and I working together developed a way of helping him consider arrangements and composition for audience viewing.
The sessions were always lively and creative, participants, support workers and myself got very involved in making work. We supported each other in sharing the work on a weekly basis (this was most effective when done with photography and slide shows) and it was interesting to see how much the participants styles developed over the short time. The stimulus of the exhibitions, the gallery space and our way of working has resulted in some fantastic artwork which is really exciting to see. The participants are continuing to be creative back at Crocus Fields and have developed their work along some different trajectories.
Written by Sam Metz