New programme to help explore creative potential of disadvantaged children

Youth engaging with art. Pic: Talk About Art

Talk About Art are working with Lewisham Virtual School (LVS) and Youth First in a 10-week programme aimed at helping children who cannot attend mainstream schools to provide them with a creative outlet and social interaction.

There are a number of activities throughout the duration of the programme. Youth Stories of Lewisham will encourage 13-29 year olds who have some affiliation with the borough to discuss a transformation or success story. They are conducted in the form of interviews with camera and equipment.

A two-week exhibition, called Colours of Me, running from March 21 until April 4 at Catford Library, will start the 10-week initiative. It will feature original artwork created by young people. The aim is to help them with mental health issues such as high anxiety and clinical school phobia to combat their isolation.

Local MPs like Janet Daby, for Lewisham East, will continue to visit Youth First to discuss youth in Lewisham, and even be interviewed by members of the group.

Compass, a service which works with young people aged 10-25, will work with Talk About Art, Lewisham Virtual School and Youth First to offer support to any young person in Lewisham needing help or advice with emotional wellbeing, sexual health or substance misuse. They are open from Mondays to Thursdays at 9am-5pm and from 9am-4.30pm on Friday.

Youth First will also host sports activities. Last Sunday, a football match between Brockley Police and Youth First took place to promote a healthy lifestyle and teamwork.

Colours of Me will cover the visual representation of individual and group identity issues, and a variety of media is used, including film and animation.

Melanie Jones, from Talk About Art, devised the project to engage young people in South East London, regardless of health, financial, cultural or social issues.

She also encouraged Talk about Art to collaborate with Youth First and Lewisham Virtual School to help disadvantaged young people.

Jones told EastLondonLines: “The activities throughout the programme provide a range of choice for young people so that they can feel part of a strong local community.

“Art, media, sport and other areas of life can fulfill the needs of every young person in Lewisham, especially those who feel disadvantaged or isolated in some way.

“Our aim is to provide arts experiences where participants feel safe to explore their inner creativity, have confidence to form opinions of the art that surrounds them and express those opinions, to develop an ability to think creatively, outside the box, to find their creative voices.”

Participants were collected from their homes and given the opportunity to work in Youth First’s Art Studio with Amy Ison and Simon Purins who are the two professional artists from Talk About Art.

Amy Ison graduated from Howard Gardens in 2005 in Arts and Aesthetics. Since then, she obtained a Masters in Art Psychotherapy at Goldsmiths, University of London and featured in numerous exhibitions across the UK. These include Salon: New British painting, Works on Paper, The Jerwood Drawing Prize and Anticipation.

Simon Purins is a visual artist, independent filmmaker and teacher. He is known for his work in education, communities and charities that help those that are vulnerable or have disabilities.

They learned about a variety of artists, including Nikki De Saint Phalle, who had a difficult and traumatic childhood and education.

Jones told ELL: “Initially, there were some issues with engaging the young people. They had to be encouraged out into an unfamiliar environment when they rarely leave their homes and to build trust with the two artists.

“It was not long before they were requesting longer sessions and engaging with the surroundings. As part of the ten sessions, they learnt about and were inspired by a variety of artists including Frank Auerbach, Henri Matisse, Peter Blake and Leonora Carrington.

“A third of participants have asked their families to take them to art galleries. To have work publicly exhibited is a great confidence building experience for any young person, but for the Colours of Me artists, it will have the added dimension of showing them to be contributing to the local community through their art.

“They may be dealing with major personal challenges but they can still be valued members of society. LVS have expressed interest in repeating the project and we are also exploring ways of rolling the model out to more young people over a wider area.”

Patrick Ward, head teacher of Lewisham Virtual School, told ELL: “These activities are essential as they will help everyone in the community feel included and valued. Colours of Me is a powerful reminder of how the arts empower and inspire young people.”

The exhibition is open every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8.30am until 5pm and on Tuesday and Thursday from 8.30am until 7pm

During the weekends it is only available on Saturday from 9am until 5pm.


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