Our venue is home to many local groups that support wellbeing through the arts, as well as schools, families and artists – you make our venue vibrant and inclusive and we have missed you so much – we are so happy to be welcoming you back into our centre over the summer.
For those of you who haven’t met them yet, I would love to introduce you to Attenborough Arts Centre’s Learning team : Marianne Pape-Scahill, Bob Christer, Hannah Pillai and Caroline Rowland. They produce ongoing high quality cultural engagement activities for our local communities, children and young people, schools and families working collaboratively with artists, companies and colleagues from across AAC and the University. You can contact them here: firstname.lastname@example.org
When lockdown began, our team worked quickly to respond to the most immediate needs, to maintain communications and connections with people most impacted by the pandemic. This meant learning (a lot!) about procedures / technology / blended approaches, co-commissioning work online and remotely, and how to deliver authentic sensory arts activity through a screen! As the months passed, and we learned more, refined our methods, consulted further and established new partnerships.
We have made some incredible discoveries and developed approaches that have provided much needed social connections during this devastating time of isolation. Looking forward to a period of creativity and recovery as we move through this pandemic, we are refining our offer for schools, local groups and communities to help us get through this time together. We continued to liaise with funders, consult with partners and participants and develop projects remotely, all with the aim of reconnecting us and supporting resilience through this time.
Our exhibition at the time, Kelly Richardson’s Mariner 9 had only launched a few days before the first lock down, and much of our community and school engagement work was designed in response to this.
We commissioned new performances inspired by Mariner 9, developed resources and explored new ways to engage people remotely. We distributed 500+ packs of materials and crates of materials to Special schools. These were designed to be opened alongside new artist commissions filmed with Studio Attenborough which were then live streamed or pre-recorded and facilitated to enable children to access great cultural experiences from the safety of their own homes.
We have now reopened our beautiful venue and launched our free resources gallery – The Salmon Gallery. Generously supported by The Salmon Family and The Art Fund, our Learning and Curatorial teams collaborated to create an engaging, ambient and flexible space for you all to dwell, reflect, and play together.
Our free family gallery workshops start up again this August on Wednesdays and Saturdays 1pm – 3pm – where family bubbles can book a space to respond to our Mik Godley Exhibition – Considering Silesia, with all materials provided and support from our friendly team.
From September, we launch The World is a Work in Progress, a group exhibition that invites us to consider our power in shaping the future. Featuring work by Bob and Roberta Smith, Ruth Beale, Khush Kali and Michael Forbes, we will invite you to #HelpArtSaveLives and be part of a movement to raise funds for life saving charities that have been made even more essential by the pandemic.
Some of our key projects for this year include…..
Watch this Space
Across the last 15 months we commissioned and co-commissioned 3 performances for digital access at home. Lori Hopkin’s space themed mars exploration, ‘The Mariner’, Infuse dance company’s ‘Bloom’ and Foan & Fortune’s ‘Little Mess’! co-commissioned with Little Angel Theatre.
All are suitable for family audiences and have been designed to be inclusive and accessible for young people with learning differences and disabilities.
Our first 2 years of the SENsory Atelier programme have seen us working with 9 local special schools and an international community of artists, businesses and educational experts to develop a creative educational pedagogy for young people with learning differences and disabilities.
In this time we have developed:
Our community of learning with Teachers exploring the Reggio Emilia approach to education within the unique contexts of their schools.
Nurture Network, a bi-monthly get together for artists interested in developing their practice in working with young people and adults with SEND.
Artist Residencies in Ashmount, Ellesmere, Nether Hall and Children’s Hospital Schools.
An emerging evaluation framework to evidence best practice in creative, collaborative approaches to education, gallery education, and embedding arts across the curriculum.
More information on the programme, including the previous two year pilot, can be found on our blog:
Little Inventors in Space
Little Inventors is national programme that brings the imaginings of children to life. Working with 3 Special Schools from our SENsory Atelier programme, Nether Hall, Ashmount, and Ellesmere College we supported children with learning differences and disabilities to think about what they could invent to help an astronaut survive in space. Working in partnership with Inspirate, Meggitt, artists Helen Duff, John Berkavitch and Sian Watson Taylor, we created a cohesive series of films, lesson plans and resources that supported children to explore science and abstract space concepts to come up with inventions.
Tim Peake worked with us to create a digital resource to help contextualise life aboard the international space station, which is now available free of charge to all education settings. The project embedded Arts Award evidencing, and experiential play through designing inventions with a range of unusual an intriguing scrap store materials. 6 of the children’s inventions were selected to be brought to life by magnificent makers Tom Cleaver, David Wilson Clarke, Meggitt and Sean Clark.
This exciting project has resulted in a new way of working for Little Inventors, and an exhibition of inventions currently on tour in the schools, before transferring to the launch of the new Space Park in Leicester as part of the University’s centenary celebrations.
Sign up to receive the Tim Peake Resource here: http://eepurl.com/hwZQ11
SENsory Atelier at Home – with Sian Watson Taylor
In March 2020 we responded to the first wave of lockdown restrictions by creating accessible resources for home based Atelier explorations. Designed by artist in residence Sian Watson Taylor, we produced a series of resources aiming to utilise everyday household items to explore the properties of materials and environments including paper, colour, light, space and paint.
Activities were designed for large scale and table top activities catering for ASD, SEMH, MLD, SLD & PMLD, creating opportunities at home for discovery, play and learning.
Inclusive Youth Arts Programme – Wai Sum Chong, Helen Duff, Louise Kay, Sian Watson Taylor
For 6 years, we have provided free, out-of-school cultural and creative activities for children and young people with the most complex needs and the least access to the arts, generously supported by BBC Children in Need. During this time, hundreds of families have taken part in workshops, performances, and exhibitions co-produced with artists and companies that specialise in sensory and inclusive practice.
Hannah and Caroline worked even more closely with families during lockdown to design activity that explored access in all its forms, pushing the boundaries of what it meant to work remotely, engaging parents and carers as creative collaborators, supported by skilled practitioners. We experimented with pre-recorded and live performances, workshops and packs of props and materials sent in advance, with visual timetables, tailored to the needs of each individual child. The outcomes have been outstanding, and we are delighted to be finally bringing everyone back together in August for our first in-person event since the pandemic – our annual Sensory Garden Party at the Botanic Gardens.
We are incredibly grateful for the 6 years of support this work had received and wish to thank BBC Children in Need for helping us make a difference to children’s lives.
We are thrilled to have secured an additional year of funding from the Peter Sowerby Foundation to continue this important work.
START Arts Awards – Catherine Infants School
We have been working with Catherine Infants School in Leicester for 3 years through the START cultural education programme. The pandemic had a devastating impact on this area of Leicester and we were keen to maintain an offer for the school, and we were able to do so thanks to support from The Mighty Creatives.
We adapted our Arts Award project with Catherine Infants for a safe, blended distance-learning approach. We commissioned Sian Watson Taylor to create video challenges for 120 children in year 2. Inspired by Mariner 9 by Kelly Richardson, the children created space characters and puppetry that was then displayed in school. 105 children achieved their Arts Awards and we are so proud of their brilliant work!
We are now extending this project with support from the University of Leicester for the net academic year to support the school on their Gold Artsmark journey.
UKNA Outreach – Between the Lines, with Christopher Samuel
Between the Lines is a collaborative outreach project led by artist Christopher Samuel, AAC Producer Hannah Pillai and NextGen. Creatives, a group of disabled and non-disabled young ambassadors at AAC. Samuel and NextGen. Creatives worked collaboratively to explore their lived experiences of shielding from Covid-19, and coping strategies for living, the power of communication and the politics of redaction in messages.
Samuel introduced his practice and ‘Exploring the Voice behind the Redacted’ series of works, and the team worked remotely over Zoom, post and email to create a new digital artwork, installation and interactive elements. Young people invited audiences to rethink how Covid-19 has affected some of the most marginalised and vulnerable young people in Leicester.
This was a new way of working for all of us. We build it a lot of relationship building and delivery support into the project, to ensure communication and pedagogy could be as effective as possible working with a blended approach.
Between the Lines now exists as a short film, which appears to run like one of the zoom sessions. The young people present their work and reflect on their experiences of lock down. It is presented alongside an interactive artwork, of a magnetic photograph of an empty supermarket shelf, where participants curated a series of objects and things they miss that have been taken away / restricted by the pandemic. Audiences are invited to restock the shelves and curate the space with the redacted objects.
The young people’s artwork is also printed as a set of cards, with the invitation for visitors to the gallery to write/draw on the back the things they have missed most during this unprecedented time.
You can see this important work at The Salmon Gallery until 26 July.
NextGen – Semaphore Poetry with Emma Lewis-Jones
Our young ambassadors also work with interdisciplinary artist Emma Lewis-Jones to explore forms of communication, movement, and owning our space during lockdown. We wanted to hold space for our participants, enable them to be however they needed to be, and to carve space for creativity under the most challenging circumstances. The created a series of flags from materials packs that reflected their experiences, and then moved with them, filming semaphore dance motions and messages.
Gallery Outreach + Where We Are: British Museum
The pandemic hasn’t stopped our gallery engagement work – you can access all our interactive prezi’s and resources packed with activities, films, prompts and ideas for creative activities inspired by our exhibition programme here:
We are building on the brilliant work of our curatorial trainee Jenny O Sullivan and the Trans Postcard Project with a new project : Where We Are… :
Where We Are… is a new collaborative project with young people identifying as LGBTQIA+ aged 18-24 from Leicester, Pedestrian, AAC and The British Museum.
If you would like to get involved in this paid opportunity, work with artists, respond to our autumn exhibition The World is a Work in Progress, please sign up here: https://www.pedestrian.info/apply/
We have established a new bi-monthly forum for artists specialising in Sensory Arts and Inclusive Practice. With over 50 members, this vibrant network includes a key note speaker, breakout sessions, and time to think and reflect on best practice for creating work tailored to the needs of participants and audiences with learning differences and/or complex needs.
We are looking forward to the start of next term, cautious and hopeful about our next season of work. Schools are welcome to visit our galleries again, and we look forward seeing you then!