ArtScapers Being and Becoming Creative

To ArtScape – verb/ArtScaper – noun

  • To affect and be affected by art and nature and space  
  • To create a response from materials and feelings in order to express new ideas
  • To enhance the environment in ways that delight

ArtScapers explores creative place-making and activism with children and young people and their communities. It was established in 2016 as an art-in-education programme as part of the University of Cambridge’s North West Cambridge Development. Current commissions and projects (explored through posts below) include: Shirley Pocket Adventures with Shirley Community Primary School; well-being focused workshops with students from North Cambridge Academy and family therapy charity Cambridge Acorn Project; future visioning workshops for young people in North Cambridge for the developers of the Core Site.  

A manifesto for ArtScaping was created with Mayfield Primary School in 2019 which we carry with us to new projects. As ArtScapers we want to:
Be free
Imagine anything
Have fun
Know anyone can do it, there are no wrong answers
Share and talk
Not rush
Try things out and experiment – make a mess
See that art is everywhere
Keep trying
Move around, be comfortable
Be brave and trust

We are the experts and it is much better to be ArtScapers together with someone new to it then they will see and feel what happens… which is much easier than trying to talk about it. Benjamin, 9

ArtScapers: being and becoming creative - an account of the impact of the work on the community linked to Mayfield Primary School, written with Co-Headteacher Paula Ayliffe, Esther Sayers (Goldsmiths University) and David Whitley (Fellow Homerton College) - was published in June 2020. This has been made possible with the generous support of the Art Fund, the national fundraising charity for art, and can be read online here or purchased from our shop. The article Creative Activism – learning everywhere with children and young people in Forum (2020) also offers an account of the work alongside our colleagues in Bath Spa University and their programme Forest of Imagination.

A singular quality of the ArtScapers programme is its capacity to awaken young people’s attention and keep it awake. A characteristic ArtScaper activity will include imagining, attending, reflecting and ‘mixing up ideas, as well as working with materials to make art.  From ArtScapers: being and becoming creative and Forum

The book includes a foreword from Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition movement and author of From What is to What If  -  In these pages you will find something glorious, splendid and deeply familiar blinking awake, but for too long marginalised and forgotten. Don’t avoid its gaze, rather allow yourself to fall in love with it, to trust what you discover and allow yourself to be transported by it. This is a precious gift, and I am deeply grateful for it.

And also words from Melissa Benn, writer and journalist - Artscapers: Being and Becoming Creative is not just pleasurable to read, it also serves an important function. It will act as an encouragement and inspiration to thousands of others in the English School system, including the many school leaders and teachers who currently feel lonelier that they should, following the unimaginative turn in education policy and unnecessary privations of austerity in recent years. It will act as a vital resource for their own boldness and practice.

Artscapers – an inspiring account of the Art-in-Education programme run in Cambridge – shows just what can be done.  Children, artists, teachers and creative leaders tell of an astonishing variety of activities that brought children, art and nature together.  While no-one knew where it would lead, the creative energy, curiosity and imagination it unleashed was, frankly, astounding. Now imagine all children, everywhere, given such a chance … how could we resist the simple message?  Nature is good for you, and nature with art is even better.  If we do nothing else after the coronavirus crisis, let’s make every child, everywhere, an ArtScaper.
Dame Fiona Reynolds, Master, Emmanuel College and former Director General of the National Trust

As the world struggles with a climate emergency, a Covid crisis, and a racial injustice crisis, there can be no better time to imagine how things could be different. Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination is an inspiring example, showing that learning and teaching can be re-imagined and that the next generation is not bound to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Daniel Zeichner, MP Cambridge

The impact of our work on young children’s well-being is currently part of ongoing research funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council with colleagues at Anglia Ruskin University – the Eco-Capabilities Project. This webinar recorded during lockdown with colleagues from Mayfield and their nursery next door gives a flavour of how educators and artists are working together to transform children’s lives.

beech avenue of Wandlelbury County Park

In 2020 ArtScapers accepted their first formal commission: they worked with CCI artist Caroline Wendling to co-create a 'Forest of Imagination' for Cambridge Youth Opera's new production of Hansel and Gretel (shown above when they were displayed as part of the Tree Charter celebrations). The film below by Sally Todd was made in the two college gardens that inspired the children – Murray Edwards College and Girton College - as a way to celebrate and share their brilliant imaginations.

In May 2019 Ruth Sapsed, together with Co-Headteachers Paula Ayliffe and Sarah Stepney and Rose and Ella (age 8) from Mayfield Primary School, presented the programme to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Design and Craft in Education, sharing our learning from the programme and its impact on children, educators and parents. Tracy Brabin MP (chair of the meeting with Nick Trench, Earl of Clancarty) commented:

What fantastic young advocates you are. Your message to us to slow down is so important. I saw too how important ArtScapers has been for parents and teachers too. An extraordinary presentation. Thank you.

Follow this link to view three films made about various aspects of the programme and visit the public art website for resources to support ways of engaging with the programme. An article by Dr Esther Sayers in the Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education (September 2018) explores the concepts of community engagement and active citizenship in more detail.

A partnership between CCI and Dr Esther Sayers, an artist educator and researcher from Goldsmiths University, the Artscapers programme has worked with Mayfield Primary School, University Primary School and Girton Primary School as well as run events and exhibitions. The posts below give detailed insights into the process whilst this short film celebrates the day when over 300 children from Mayfield Primary School explored Waves, arcs and sparks as they worked creatively together in Storey’s Field Centre:

Gabby Arenge from the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education researched alongside us during year 1 of the project, and reflects here and what it meant to be an artscaper for everyone involved.

Being an ArtScaper means to look at something and make your own ideas. Then, just think of the idea you thought of before and mix it up so you can make something even bigger and newer. Then just design it.. then just find stuff that might be used in the future and use that to help you build it.
Jared, 8, Mayfield Primary School

CCI artist Susanne Jasilek initially lead the planning and facilitating of the workshops in the programme  She reflects on her experiences in year one here. Caroline Wendling took over from Susanne in 2017 and has been joined in 2019 by Filipa Pereira Stubbs.

Work from the programme has been re-imagined as interactive resources and accompanying display materials. These have been shared through many exhibitions and events through the years. Recordings from two events in the 2021 Cambridge Festival run by the University of Cambridge are shared below:

Children are Place-makers - hosted by Contemporary Arts Society and chaired by Dr Esther Sayers with opening remarks from Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, and contributions from Paula Ayliffe (co-headtteacher Mayfield Primary School), Dr Penny Hay (Reader and Research Fellow, Bath Spa University and Director of Course of Imagination), and Andrew Amondson (Artist and film-maker).

CAS Consultancy Talk: Children are Place-Makers from Contemporary Art Society on Vimeo.

Introducing artscaping: creative adventuring for children’s well-being - hosted by Anglia Ruskin University and chaired by Dr Nicola Walshe with contributions from Jake Holt (teacher Mayfield Primary School), Ruth Sapsed (Director CCI) and Filipa Pereira-Stubbs (CCI artist) can be view here.

A recent project with Howard Community Academy is here. Other examples of projects with Primary Schools in our region can be explored through our Fantastical Cambridgeshire work.

The programme in the past has been supported by North West Cambridge Development, InSite Arts, Contemporary Arts Society and the Art Fund.

'I wish this could carry on for ever.'


I wish this could carry on for ever

Highfields is an amazing place to go and relax and find some quiet space……I don’t know why, but I feel happy on a Monday…..Welcome to our exhibition...

(by Hilary Cox Condron) We gathered the group to share our creativity and reflections during the final session at Highfields at the end of March. It was such a pleasure to see R welcome Ruth (from CCI) and City Councillor Alex Collis and then, having checked the trail with his zombie-detecting stick, confidently lead them through the nature area to introduce the other children and the artwork created to celebrate the area.

I wish this could carry on for ever

There are many reasons children today don’t spend time outside  - but a lack of confidence, fear and caring duties have been some of the barriers for these particular children (some who never play outside, others who didn’t know Cambridge had a river).  Watching their confidence grow as they start to connect to nature and relax in this space has been a huge privilege.

I’ve been building artscaper links with these children, their safe-guarding team at North Cambridge Academy and colleagues from family therapy charity Cambridge Acorn Project over these last two terms. Our workshops have focused on being creative with natural materials in outside spaces we can walk to – this term we were able to work in the dedicated City council forest school space called Highfields, which is tucked away near the school.

Jacob, the therapeutic practitioner from Cambridge Acorn Project we have been working with, commented:

Many of the children have stated that they look forward to the session coming around each week - some saying it is their favourite two hours of the week. The simple truth is these children do not have a place they feel they can go out to in the community where they feel safe. Most of these children spend little to no time outdoors. Many have regularly spoken about death but have said that for reasons they do not know they feel happy outside at Highfields. The list of positives feels endless as children who rarely speak or make connections are starting to say a few words and work with other children. The positive effect this has had on this group of children has been commented on by teaching staff and parents who have seen a noticeable difference to the children since the visits to Highfields began.

Having this relaxing space to gently connect to our senses, emotions and each other has nurtured support networks as the children (some who barely spoke) formed friendships through creating together, expressed complex emotions through their drawings, and established relationships with Jacob that were able to continue throughout the weeks back in school and we hope into the future too.

I wish this could carry on for ever

I love the sound of the wind, it’s like a waterfall.

I witnessed many significant moments. One week I watched how C dug a hole with a stick – like a small tunnel to another world. He has never dug a hole outside before he says. He never plays outside. Other children joined him, creating a fantasy world made of sticks and leaves, their gaming worlds starting to take shape in the earth. There were lively debates, fantastical stories, laughter and tears as villages, guardians and complex emotions played out in the mud.

My ADHD can relax here.

I wish this could carry on for ever

Some of the children found a space and quietness at Highfields that - in their words - they don’t have with their ADHD. Sitting under trees, working with clay, drawing and talking together – we could see how their energy has relaxed over the weeks and allowed the opportunity to express conversations about identity and connect with gentler conversation.  

As we finished the final sharing session, I noticed that one of the children, who has barely spoken and, for the first few weeks didn’t engage at all, had created a beautiful and delicate display amongst the branches.  They pick up a small white feather and hand it to me as a gift. I put it safely in my pocket to add to my jar of treasures.

I wish this could carry on for ever, says T.

I wish this could carry on for ever

This work was made possible with the support of the Leys Communities Fund. Cambridge City Council and in particular Cll Alex Collis have also been hugely supportive. The Highfields area is one of five across the city that have been designated as appropriate for these activities by the City Council as they recognise the educational value and the challenges many young people in our city are facing.
These experiences can offer different, creative ways of learning – often to pupils who might struggle in a classroom setting – and bring all sorts of benefits in terms of connecting young people to their environment. These sessions can help them think about how to look after nature, which is absolutely vital for the future stewardship of our environment and our planet.
Alex Collis, Executive Councillor for Open Spaces, January 2022

CCI works with CAP and the Fullscope consortia to create a mental health system for children and young people in the county that is more accessible, relevant and inclusive. These artscaper programmes focus on outcomes for the young people that include more positive outlook, improved self-belief, more likely to seek help in the future, improved self-awareness and improved mental health coping strategies.

Marshmallows, diamond trees, Rick Astley and tears


(by Hilary Cox Condron)

Toasting marshmallows over a fire

We gathered to celebrate the end of ten weeks of Artscaping work at Thongsley Primary School on The Oxmoor Estate in Huntingdon earlier in July. I have been working with fellow artist Tonka Uzu and thirteen 7, 8 and 9 year olds who were chosen to take part in this Empathic Communities by their SEN tutor and together they hosted us and also their headteacher, Mat from the Cambridge Acorn project and Ruth from CCI.

Banner of work hung between trees
Banner of work hung between trees
Banner of work hung between trees

We sat  around the fire surrounded by the trees the children had named -  The I Am Here tree, the I Remember Tree, the Goodbye Forever Tree, the Nightmare Tree, The Diamond Tree of Hopes - and their beautiful artwork and I invited the children to share their experiences.

Lyrics to a Rick Ashley song

I noticed how M, who had been writing about death for weeks but last week wrote the lyrics to a Rick Astley song instead, today said he would cry because we were leaving.

Clay snail

T had said she hated exploring and hated clay but it turns out - after a few sessions being creative amongst the trees - that she rather likes them both.

Bonds had clearly formed. L and O made friendship cards for each other (and the cat too).

At the Goodbye Forever Tree the children made memorial messages and talked about friends they missed, and people and pets that they had lost.  They remembered early days at the school, imagined memories and stories they had been told and shared hopes for the future.

Children working
children working – drawing

We reminisced about how, during the ten sessions, we had experienced all sorts of weather - how the hail had got in our eyes, but then we’d made a shelter and braved it out. We cheered at how resourceful we had all been.

I’m struck by how this is what ‘wellbeing through arts and nature’ looks like when we are Artscaping together - it is about being together, about finding awe and learning to experiment and explore and feel proud, it is about making friends and being resilient and trying new things, about having a cry, talking, making up fantastical stories, having fun and being kind - to each other, to nature and to ourselves.

My heart was a little bit broken as I said goodbye.

Silver tree
Goodbye forever tree

Eco-heroes and Time Travellers



(by Hilary Cox Condron) The small forest area at the bottom of Thongsley Fields Primary School is so overgrown the group is swamped in green and look up to the flowerheads as they walk through it. Having spent a few sessions practicing different ways of looking, marking and recording, the children now naturally fall into conversation and questions about their environment: they stop to look closely at seeds and blossoms; they stretch and stoop to collect treasures; and they find charcoal in the firepits to make their marks as they make their way through the ‘jungle’ sharing fantastical stories of beasts and birds.

Holding a flower
Drawing on clipboard
children drawing resting on a tree
Drawing on a clipboard

On sharing our finds some children held a snail for the first time.  I have never seen him like this before, said their teacher, he’s very shy but today he has talked to me so much.

Holding a snail in the hand

Heavy rain saw us back in the classroom, where we continued to explore our own identities and connection to the environment. I ask the children to list and decorate all their nick-names, making up the names they would like to be called and creating their own Eco-Hero personas and super-powers: Lady Sas clicks her fingers to replace litter with hedgehogs; Plant Boy shoots out water for plants with one hand and sucks up rubbish with the other; Diva Destruction teleports trash away; Nature Boy fires out new forests; and Summer has the power of flower transportation to create beautiful meadows for insects and bees.

Drawing of a super hero

As Tonka and I leave we pass a parent with one of the children and she calls out: He loves the art sessions and he talks about them all the time!

The following week – for the first time – the sun shines throughout the whole session and we spend it under the willow. Children are keen to start to explore as we get there, and find comfortable spaces to settle down with paper, watercolours and pencils to draw both from observation and imagination.

One of the teachers had earlier reminisced about her time as a pupil at the school. She wrote about her memories of a swimming pool, now tarmacked over, on the site.

It was heaven on a hot day.
The water was always cold
But we didn’t care.
I learned to swim in this pool.

The children tried – with barely stifled giggling - to imagine Mrs Frampton their age. We visited the pool site to travel in time – we imagined waiting at the side, dipping our toes in and splashing in the water under the shade of the trees.

Swimming images
Swimming images
Swimming images
Swimming images
Swimming images
Swimming images

We invited the children to recreate the pool – they used chalk, fabric and found materials to imagine playing in the water with past Thongsley Fields’ children.

Swimming images
Swimming images
Swimming images
Swimming images

Empathetic Communities Project


(By Hilary Cox Condron) I’m working with artist Tonka Uzu across this term to build a new community of Artscapers at Thongsley Fields Primary School on the Oxmoor Estate in Huntingon. We were invited to work there by the Cambridge Acorn Project, a therapeutic charity supporting families, whose work we really admire.  Matt Edge, their chief operating officer, explains how the link came about:

We consult in schools, delivering classroom sessions and listening carefully to children and young people about the kind of things which they feel most benefit their mental health. One of the things which is consistently identified is being outside and in nature, in blue and green spaces, and exploring and creating. As a result of this, we are delighted to be working alongside Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination who are experts in this field as part of a wider Empathetic Communities Project (funded by the National Lottery Community Fund) in this school. This work is also part of a wider piece of work around Environmental Enrichment (EE) and thinking about children's mental health in a broad sense outside of the clinic room, and thinking about the kind of ecosystems organisations can work together to create and nourish which will benefit the mental health of children, young people and families.

Our group of twelve children are all in years 3 and 4 (8 to 10 year olds) and we are coming together for ten Thursday afternoons across this term. The school has a large playing field, rolling green spaces and a forest area – where the Head likes to sit around campfires with the children – and it is such a pleasure to spend time creatively exploring the areas with the children, connecting to the elements and enjoying the weekly bursts of sunshine, downpours and hail!  We are relishing the time and space to be together outside like this.

Exploring the forest
Exploring the forest
Collecting treasures
Collecting treasures
Using all our senses listening to birdsong, mark making and thinking about poems
Using all our senses - listening to birdsong, mark making and thinking about poems
Exploring markmaking with found charcoal and dandelions
Exploring markmaking with found charcoal and dandelions
Exploring markmaking with found charcoal and dandelions
Exploring markmaking with found charcoal and dandelions
Studying our treasures
Studying our treasures
Studying our treasures

The children have started to work together to map the areas around the school – from the Library to the dancing trees and a space they call the gruffalo den.


We have also been thinking about our heritage, and sharing stories and hopes. One child commented he did not know his friend was Greek, another taught us how to say hello in Nigerian: Napila. The children are working side by side drawing and nurturing friendships.


Each week I take time to listen to where the children want to explore and just the other day they led Tonka and I to the willow tree where we practiced observational drawing from different perspectives and view-points. Look, I can see the ocean in this leaf one child exclaimed as they showed me.


One week when we were back inside, we introduced the children to using water colour paints, working carefully to mix colours, clean their brushes and experiment with brush strokes to record their findings.

Children painting
Children painting

It is wonderful to see these young artists growing in confidence to experiment and explore their own ideas.

Children painting
Children painting

The Museum of the Wild and the Wonder


This was our theme for the Open Eddington Day this year - to join artists Filipa Pereira-Stubbs and Caroline Wendling and together curate a new museum of all things wild and wonderful discovered around the University of Cambridge Primary School and beyond. One hundred and sixty one people visited us during the day and everyone was invited to create their own sketchbook to help them in their exploring, with the request to return and record something for the Museum.


Many different rooms emerged in the vision for this new space; some were outside, some indoors, all were extraordinary. We heard about; a room of wild creatures; a dining room for non-humans (with a man who might invite you to sit under the table); a room where gravity is suspended; a cloud museum: a petting room; and a museum within a museum that has a lift, large tanks of squid and a turtle. Here’s just a flavour of their work:


Many commented on what they sensed as a gift of a generous space and plenty of time to immerse themselves in drawing and talking together –

We will draw for the whole day given half a chance. Alison

Thankyou very much for inspiring us. Please keep on keeping on. Liz, former headteacher.


A first ArtScapers residency


Twenty artists worked in the studio of the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education

There has never been a primary school aged artist residency in a Cambridge University Institution according to Professor Pam Burnard, Chair of the Faculty of Education Arts and Creativities Research Group. Today, working with CCI artists Filipa Pereira-Stubbs and Caroline Wendling there was not one but twenty together with their Headteachers Paula Ayliffe and Sarah Stepney, their ‘Out and about’ teacher Jake Holt and 6 of their parents – Sophie, Isla, Anna, Tricia, Cheryl and Hulya. Esther Sayers also joined us from Goldsmiths University (writer of the original ArtScaper strategy) and as a group we thought about being ArtScapers in this extraordinary space.

Time was taken made to ‘meet’ the building and think about the work that happens there. The children explored together in small groups having set themselves the following questions they were interested in thinking about as they were looking and sketching:

How old is it?
Where does it come from?
When was it made?
What does it represent?
Is it for something?

Twenty artists worked in the studio of the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education

We thought together about what learning is..

It goes in your brain… it goes in your brain and it stays there.  
You make a mistake and you learn from it.
There's a new strand in your brain.
You see things other people didn't.

Work was made in response to these explorations and installed around the bridge area (the corridor into the studio) and in the studio itself.

It’s a portal based on the black hole Yotam It mesmerises you and pulls you in. David

It’s a portal based on the black hole Yotam
It mesmerises you and pulls you in. David

(the library represents) letting the imagination come free. Yotam

(the library represents) letting the imagination come free. Yotam

This room has big windows for inspiration. Athena There are big trees outside to give oxygen for our brains. William

This room has big windows for inspiration. Athena
There are big trees outside to give oxygen for our brains. William

ArtScapers has reawakened my interest as a parent and encouraged me to think about things I used to enjoy.

ArtScapers has reawakened my interest as a parent and encouraged me to think about things I used to enjoy. It has re-engaged us. We’ve been playing at home with mapping our life on big rolls of wall paper. I notice how everyone chats more and friends join in too when they come and play. Tricia (parent)

Visitors arrived and the parents shared their manifesto they’d created together:

As parents we should help ArtScapers:
Be free, without constraint
Be who you are
Look at things in different ways
Tune in to where you are
(show that) Art is not just about sitting down with a pen at a table
(show that) Art is everywhere
(know that) Anyone can do it and there is no wrong answer
Everyone feels valued and can join in
Be excited by life
Take time to stop and stare and slow down
Feel free to use your head/own ideas
Re-imagine and experiment with tools and materials
Share experiences
Have space to talk and listen
Let our children lead and be curious
Value all skills
Value the power of art
Show that it’s good to make a mess
Be a companion and do things together, being open to being surprised
Give space to work things out together

The day ended calling together for us all as ArtScapers

The day ended calling together for us all as ArtScapers to:

Be free
Imagine anything
Have fun
Know anyone can do it, there are no wrong answers
Share and talk
Not rush
Try things out and experiment – make a mess
See that art is everywhere
Keep trying
Move around, be comfortable
Be brave and trust

As they left the children began to talk about who they wanted to share ArtScaping with. Benjamin (9) put this really well - We are the experts and it is much better to be ArtScapers together with someone new to it then they will see and feel what happens… which is much easier than trying to talk about it.

Conversations about the day carried on in the taxis home:

 (I especially enjoyed) meeting new people and making new friends. I’d like the opportunity to work with others again. Toprak

Art doesn’t have to be perfect. Athena

(I enjoyed) going to the different places and thinking about them. Art doesn’t have to be the same can be different. We don’t have time to learn at school. It’s too quick. Venya

With many thanks to the Arts and Creativities research group for inviting these artists from Mayfield Primary School and CCI.

Waves, arcs and sparks


On a Monday in early March we were joined by 360 ArtScapers from Mayfield Primary School to think about what energy looks like and how it moves. The children came in 3 groups throughout the day, taking time on their walk into Eddington to watch the wind and sketch together. Artists Filipa Pereira-Stubbs and Caroline Wendling introduced them to different ways of playing with paper before inviting groups to work collaboratively to create new sculptures. By the end of the day the hall was full of extraordinary pieces and we took time to lie under it and wonder at at our work together. All the materials were then recycled.

We liked how there were ideas but we used our own...making something so large…..that today I folded the paper more than 7 times..making new friends.

We will remember the really high roof, the sounds, the ropes coming down and the stone wall patterns.

We noticed how if you look at the structures at different angles it looks different … can make art with anything…. that what we do is right and not wrong.

Inspiration for the day came from the work of  Hertha Marks Ayrton, a female scientist working in Cambridge 150 years ago and the focus of a new commission for the centre by artist Yelena Popova.

Out and About in 2019


I feel more awake and open now (not like our usual training days)

Year 4 of our ArtScaper programme began on January 4th with the staff of Mayfield Primary School spending the day in Ashlyn Woods, a piece of woodland south west of Cambridge. The school’s twenty teaching staff and their two Headteachers spent a day of quiet exploration and reflection together in this ancient landscape.

Artists Caroline Wendling and Filipa Pereira-Stubbs led a day of thinking together on how to settle and be in this space and what the outdoors can offer their children back at school.  They shared work and ideas by artists including Nancy Holt, Robert Smithson and Nan Shepherd.

Yet often the mountain gives itself most completely when I have no destination, when I reach nowhere in particular, but have gone out merely to be with the mountain as one visits a friend with no intention but to be with him. ……….This changing of focus in the eye, moving the eye itself when looking at things that do not move, deepens one’s sense of outer reality. Then static things may be caught in the very act of becoming.

Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain: A Celebration of the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland, 2011

Reflections on the qualities of the day included:

connections with others, calmness, time to be surprised….to settle and feel comfortable, slowing things down and not overplanning, invitation not instruction.

And the desire to think further about:
how to help children be unselfconscious and do their own thing, how the outdoors works so well as a place to get things wrong, how to offer comfort so can be confident and brave, shifting mindset so I can relax even when not looking how I expected.

Planning prompts were collected in specially created bags for the staff to take back for their second training day as they began to plan their spring term ‘out and about’ work. This initiative at Mayfield begun in autumn 2018 timetables a half a day outside the classroom every week all year for each class. Filipa and Caroline will be supporting one of these sessions for each class after the February half-tem whilst on 4th March the whole school will be visiting Eddington for a day of ‘Waves, arcs and sparks’.

Launch of Storey’s Field Centre


ArtScapers old and new and their families joined us in the garden of this award winning space to share work created this year and together build a new city scape. Working with just wire and wool, space blankets and tissues, an extraordinary community emerged as people of all ages joined in over the afternoon.

The most delicate thing in the world


(by Caroline Wendling)

Strutures for wandering in by Nora and OrlaStrutures for wandering in by Nora and Orla (left) and Ella D and Iriyana (right)

Strutures for wandering in by Ella D and Iriyana

There was great excitement as we set off from the Storey’s Field Centre to Eddington lake. I planned to get the children looking at a distance at the incredible structures by artists Winter and Hörbelt.

from the Storey’s Field Centre to Eddington lake

As we looked carefully at the Fata Morgana building from a distance across the water we saw a hare and made eye contact. Nature once more decided to give us its full range of beauty. Hares were included in many of the drawings.

Maks Drawing

We also drew the Pixel Wall from a distance first before experiencing it close up. Both structures provided us with tactile and visual wonders. Sofia noticed that if she looked closely at the pixel wall small squares edges she could see double!

Pixel wall small squares edges she could see double!

The children moved through the Fata Morgana Tea House many times, observing the landscape from within. Drawings were produced from every corner of the structure.

Drawings were produced from every corner of the structure.

Drawings were produced from every corner of the structure.

Drawings were produced from every corner of the structure.

The experience of the structures and their position on the side of the lake made for an enchanted moment; we gave the children time to be enchanted and absorbed in the beauty of the place. There was time to see their world from a different perspective.

These experiences fed into the afternoon session. Children were asked to work in groups of two first planning and then making their very own Tea Houses. The weeks of working together today demonstrated true collaborative skills. A group of boys decided to join forces (Tommy, Telis, Noah and William) and delighted in what they were creating….It's so delicate!! It's going to be so delicate. It's going to be the most delicate thing in the world.- Telis added - It will be made of plexiglass the colour of diamonds and the softness of marble so people can see in and out.

Iriyana and Ella D. planned a building with a - rainbow waterfall - on its roof.  Whilst Alesia and Esha’s building had - a ghost with a mud staircase and a translucent elevator and it has an entrance with traffic lights so that people know when to go in and out. The building is for ladies only.

Drawing by Sofia and Ella PDrawing by Sofia and Ella P. drawing

Structure by Alesia and EshaStructure by Alesia and Esha

Alper and Tobias resolved where to draw their flowers by including them in the sky and on the ground.

Alper and Tobias resolved where to draw their flowers by including them in the sky and on the ground.

From their drawings and plans the children made their Tea Houses out of materials challenging to sculpt with such as space blankets and gardening wire. They worked hard. I was struck with the idea that all structures might be entered for the London Serpentine Gallery yearly pavilion competition and some might be considered good enough to build! I believe we had a class full of architects and artists with very good ideas of what we need for a better society.

Tea Houses out of materials challenging to sculpt with such as space blankets and gardening wire

Communities for all


(by Caroline Wendling)

We began our day by asking children what is a community? - Everything around you said Orla. Then we invited them to create their own mind maps of what a community might include. Giang described it as where you write down your ideas…. you can share your ideas. And their shared mind maps proved brilliant spaces for the children in pairs to think, discuss, debate and share their ideas. They were striking in their individuality.

Ella P, Stella and Waka’s had the weather, bug toilet, ghosts and a love room.
Alper, Esha and Sofia’s had muddy puddles to get dirty in and sewers
Rezwan and Ayaan’s had a cave shelter, a tree house a hospital and a mosque

Tommy and Noah, and Maks with Bradley and William creating their mind maps

Boy drawing

Tommy and Noah, and Maks with Bradley and William creating their mind maps

Tommy and Noah, and Maks with Bradley and William creating their mind maps

Then using these mind-maps the children began to work with large scale outlines of Eddington, creating new communities for themselves. The exercise was taken very seriously by everyone. Children’s drawings often went beyond the line circling the built area -  just like developers they moved into the landscape. George added to the school an orange pool with orange water.  Alper, Esher and Sofia wanted spaces for veggies and fruits and greens and trees and spaces to play.


We had arranged for the older residents (known as the ‘Mayfield Seniors’ who meet monthly in Mayfield School) to join the children for an afternoon of ArtScaping. Together the children ended their morning discussing how best to invite the seniors to join in with them in the afternoon. Plans were elaborated, questions noted down. 

The Eddington maps were the focus for rich conversations, many about communities but also about life and friendship and even teeth:

Orla heard how Michael used to draw railway lines as a child

Orla heard how Michael used to draw railway lines as a child, his job in the police and the yellow and red ambulances of Cambridge. Together with Tobias they drew a helicopter pad for their community.

Bonny was born around the corner and has lived in the area all her life. She added a hall to Emi-Lou, Chaaya and Ella D’s map. A big hall where everybody can go and be together and play games.

Ella P talked with Liz about what a community needs – You need nice people, they need to be safe and happy. Kindness and respect makes a community.

Alper and Jean discussed how Jean was 92 and they both had wobbly teeth.

Lilian and Sofia

It was wonderful to welcome so many new ArtScapers. The room was full of kindness, laughter and joy. I do hope that these year 2L children will play a role in the future of our communities. Age 7, they demonstrated a deep understanding of what makes a community and what a community needs!

Friend old friend


Our morning exploring newts ended with Alesia (7) singing this song of love and friendship she had written as she drew:

You are all alone
But you meet a boy
He had a home
And you are friend now
Then you are all again
Friend old friend
Come for ever with me

Words to the song in a drawing

Sharing ArtScaping


By Caroline Wendling

Darwing by Cansu

by Cansu

Our focus in Week 4 was the insects that can be found in the school grounds and how the year 2 class might invite a class of the youngest children in the school to become ArtScapers too.

Thanks to Dr Ed Tuner (University Lecturer and Curator of Insects, Insect Ecology Group at the University of Cambridge Museum of Zoology), we welcomed Matt Hayes assistant researcher this week to help us discover the world of insects in the school playground.

Children using a sweep net

The children shared with Matt and also our new volunteer Aoife what it means to be an ArtScaper – you design things…you make things…you look at things the way you want to were some of their comments. Alper said it was as working at things the way you want to. Making things in your own ways.

Children looking at insects

At first we thought about how insects use camouflage and made our own.  Children learned to move slowly in order to see more; a difficult task for some of them but they all adapted.

Drawing of a fly walking to a spider web by Iriyana

a fly walking to a spider web by Iriyana

There was the opportunity to hold some stick insects too. The handling changed children perceptions of insects; some had to overcome initial fears but others invited them to crawl on their heads! Children learned that these these don't bite and that the stick-insects swaying motion was a camouflage trick so it looked like moving grass. George was curious about scale and asked Why do they not get scared by giants (us)?

Many small hands holding a stick insect

Then the children had the chance to use sweep nets to find their own insects. These were compared, studied and drawn guided by Matt’s expert knowledge. Children learned not only about the differences between an ant, a fly, a moth, but also the characteristics of beetles, true bugs and crickets.

Drawing moths by Hugo and Ayaan

moths by Hugo and Ayaan

Year L2 children really embraced the idea of teaching Reception class about ArtScaping.  We thought together about how they might do this, planning group sizes and activities to share that they thought the reception children would enjoy. Chaaya taught Jiawe everything she knew about insects and how to draw them; working side by side demonstrating both interest for the subject and immense patience.

Drawing by Chaaya and Jiaweby Chaaya and Jiawe

Children drawing outside

Children drawing outside

I noticed that many children drew to scale (very small) and still managed to give their collected specimens many different details on the paper.

We aren’t scared because these insects don’t bite. Hugo
Insects like green spaces more than built area. Noah

The insects of Mayfield school grounds were released and Matt received a round of applause.

It was a pleasure to have Aoife (studying illustration at Anglia Ruskin University) and also Gladys with us as volunteers supporting the children’s explorations.

Children drawing

Children looking at a stick insect

Aoife also documented the session by drawing:

Sketches by Aoife to document the session

Sketches by Aoife to document the session

Sketches by Aoife to document the session

Different ideas bring different drawings


By Caroline Wendling

Both the year 2 classes from Mayfield Primary School joined us this Thursday, becoming ArtScapers for the morning in Storey Field Centre’s main hall.  Fifty two children sat in front of three fifteen meters strips of brown paper ready to explore, make, tell and imagine.

Children drawing

Carrying on with our investigation into how we live beside the wild and share places with different species, the focus today was newts. A population of newts and great crested newts in particular were found on Eddington site during the wildlife surveys prior to construction and special measures have been incorporated into the site as a result, including a newt tunnel. Images of this and other sketches and films of newts invited the children to think in depth about how and where they live.

The morning would not have been the same without real newts from Ruth and Gladys’ back garden!

Children drawing

The children were able to gather round the large jars; observe and study the species. Each child produced a series of incredibly accurate drawings. They had been good listeners and observers of nature; the drawings demonstrated their understanding and interest in trying to capture the creature’s personalities, features, and behaviour. All were serious attempts to capture the life of the newts.

Telis’ drawing was exceptionally accurate and true to nature; he recorded the knobbly and crackled skin and the expression of the face. He had used his pencil with skill but then expressed disappointment at having added felt pen marks. We discussed it and agreed that the use of felt pen might have been better in another drawing. The conversation I had with Telis about his mark-making choices was no different to those I have with my Foundation students who are training to be artists.

by Telis

Newt drawingby Rose

In pairs, I invited the children to transcribe their sketches into large drawings on to the long brown paper. One child asked if their drawings could be imaginative! We encouraged them to work to the scale of the paper. Parent volunteers helped and worked alongside the children. Even William D.’s little sister Daisy joined in. During reflection time Alexander’s observation captured beautifully the morning session:  different ideas bring different drawings. Rose added that everyone thought of their own ideas, some wanted to work small, some large and some in three dimensions.  Rose understood that the materials provided the children with the possibility to express their own ideas creatively.

Newt drawing

Newt drawing

The children also observed that nobody copied; everyone made his or her own drawing. This reflection, I like to think is the gift of nature, nature gives us the chance to interpret the world in a personal manner. Science helps us to understand and make sense of nature but art gives us the possibility to imagine and create.

Newt drawing

Newt drawing

Newt drawing

Robert MacFarlane poem Newt in The Lost Words was read aloud and not a sound heard except the melody of the word associations.

Children looking at the Lost Words book

The newts that the children had the chance to observe, discover, draw and imagine today gave us all a sense of excitement. 

Long roll of paper laid out in hall

Muster Point as underground space


By Caroline Wendling

Artists Karen Guthrie and Nina Pope were some of the first artists to work on the site now known as Eddington. They worked with the community to create a cob model of phase one on a scale of one to 30. The model still exists, albeit somewhat weathered. This week our ArtScapers spent time amongst the cob stuctures before immersing themselves in thinking about the animals that might live close to or under our feet.

Looking at the site

Having made their own models of wren viaducts last week, I noticed how easily the children could visualise, compare and understand the models against the real buildings. They were able to represent the near and the far, the model and the built, without difficulties in one drawing.

The children worked together to create an extraordinary collection of imagined fantastical animals, working just with the materials they had gathered on their walk around the cob structures.  It felt as though the children applied their own alchemy; they managed to make earth look like ‘fur’, stones became bodies and flower petals like ‘feathers’. An atmosphere of study and engagement was apparent through the process of making and later sharing. As the children talked about their creations we further discovered children had thought of names, characteristics, and behaviours for their animals.

A Furgy with big claws and fur. He eats buds. By Noah & WilliamT

A rabbit called Unibear  by Ella D. & Eleanor

A magical creature called Ellectro, he looks like a mosquito and can fly. He moves by electro gravity  by Ayaan, Rezwan and Alper

An ant mound with stones for the ants' bodies.  by Emi–lou, Esha and Stella

A lizard called Spiky. A poisonous lizard that can hold his breath under the water for 1 minute and 20 seconds. by William M. and Telis

A snapple that eats apples and slivers along, he throws off mud and eats it off his tale. By Tobias and Orla

For the afternoon we transformed the Muster Point outside building (Mayfield's outdoor classroom) into an underground space. Here the children drew and later annotated underground homes and passageways for these morning creatures. They remembered brilliantly how their creatures had looked and where they lived. They provided them with all things necessary, modelling on our human needs and ways of life. Children were particular and precise; some thought of pampering their creatures, others provided them with communal places such as cafes and even discos.  Snapple had an automatic secret room with stairs to an automatic prison and a slide to an automatic secret room, whilst another had a stone house for him to survive, and  Spiky had an underground Pool. These worlds underground became as sophisticated and diverse as the world above ground. Nothing was spared and all was done on a grand scale a little bit like Eddington!

Only for Wren


By Caroline Wendling

Only for Wren

ArtScapers returned to Eddington last week on a glorious sunny day. Mrs Lisa LeMoal’s class of six and seven year olds (year 2) from Mayfield Primary School are leading the way this year and I will be working as the CCI artist helping them explore and discover the site. This year we can work in the centre created for the community – Storey’s Field Centre. The group will be joined at various points over the next two months by the youngest children in the school (a class of 4 and 5 year olds), their parallel year 2 class and also the Seniors Group (older local residents around their school) who are keen to get involved.

As in earlier years, we invited the children to look carefully as they walked into this new landscape, noticing the changes to the skyline and thinking about might be above them. They recalled some of these in the sketchbooks they made to start their workshop.

Drawings of Eddington

Drawing of Eddington

Drawings of Eddington

We thought about what has changed in Eddington – for animals as well as people – and shared a detail from the work of artist Melanie Manchot and her performance piece The Choirs (premiered in the Storey’s Field Centre at the end of last year). She writes of a community of Wren birds that had used the site of the new Eddington housing development as a crossing. To protect the birds, a viaduct was built as an alternative route as their old route would have houses built upon it. This idea had intrigued us and we offered the idea to the children to now explore – what is a wren? How has it become known as the king of birds? How might we help it navigate this new development?

Together we watched a film of the wren spell being created from The Lost Words, a book created to celebrate and revive once-common “nature” words. I noticed children holding their breath as they listened. Their drawings beautifully captured some of the characteristics of this tiny bird – Orla’s included dashes on her wren to show how fast it was moving.

Drawing a wren

Then children were asked to become architects, planners and ‘maquette’ makers as they designed and found solutions for the construction of their own viaducts for wrens.

Nest above building

Viaduct with windows

The 3 dimensional models were made over the afternoon back in the school grounds. One had signs so that if wrens were flying really fast they would know not to hit the tree. The signs say turn left or right. I felt that they cared deeply for the wren.

Stop and arrows for Wren

Ella P., Stella and Giang thought how to protect the wren from the rain and the sun. They made plates of food showing great concern over the well being of the birds. The comfort of the wren was discussed. Iriyana told me as she was making furniture with tape and paper I want to make the wren feel at home even if they don’t have homes.

Making food for teh Wren

Many children worked on through their breaks. I noticed William M’s quest for the ‘perfect plantation’ as he positioned and repositioned the ‘trees’ in front of the wren viaduct he was part of creating.

Structure for viaduct

Cansu and George took great care in finding ways of creating a similar structure to the Pont du Gard.

Viaduct drawing and maquette ( Pont du Gard)

Writer Helen Macdonald had talked earlier that morning on Radio 4 about the importance of ’early connections to the natural world’ and the need for ‘hands on experiences for connection of love’.  I believe these children‘s investigations as ArtScapers will forge a closer relation to the wren and nature in general.

New ArtScapers


(by Susanne Jasilek with Esther Sayers) We shared a wonderful creative session with Anglia Ruskin University students on the  BA Primary Education Studies undergraduate degree in November. Thinking about ArtScapers as explorers/prospectors/artists/archaeologists, the group looked at the work created to date and talked about the values developed from the work there - slowing down, looking differently, not knowing, imagining and being curious. They then played with the entity and tea-house resource created by the work of ArtScapers in year 2:

Entity cards

Choosing from a materials table of carefully prepared packaging materials, students were invited to create a maquette -  a scaled model of a dwelling using their own ideas and adopting some of the ArtScaper values. 

Maquette - a scaled model of a dwelling

They had to work with scale, volume, balance, purpose, and think how different materials, shapes and weight could work together.   There was generous time to reflect, adapt and add or discard elements of their dwellings, many returning for new bits of card. They used fluorescent tapes and duct tape to aid construction. Unique structures quickly developed and evolved. Mostly places where people would live but one was an astronomy centre and another a garage.

Think how different materials, shapes and weight could work together

Fluorescent tapes and duct tape to aid construction

Fluorescent tapes and duct tape to aid construction

Once dwellings were developed, participants were invited to take their building and pair up with another building (and colleague) and find a way to make these two buildings relate through juxtaposition, form, mathematically, aesthetically. They were offered additional materials (cloth, smaller pieces of card) to help link the dwellings visually - to think about community to make the idea visible. We asked how linking to another dwelling felt. Photographs of unusual environments taken from the air were given out and again the participants were invited to imagine where their dwellings would be placed in this environment and why and how would they need to adapt them for these often inhospitable or challenging places.

Unique structures quickly developed and evolved

Finally we introduced the larger themes from the North West Cambridge Development site Art programme - Sustainability, Archaeology, Place, Community, Environment – and asked students to work in small groups and develop a lesson plan using some of these creative ways of working and keeping the themes in mind. To end the students also watched Ruth Proctor’s film about her artwork ‘we are all under the same sky’.

It was great to work creatively with the education students to demonstrate aspects of the theories of creativity they have been exploring in practice. I really enjoyed the conversations about creative working and the willingness of the group to emerge themselves in making with all the inherent imagination, exploration and problem solving that it requires. We drew out ideas about choice, decision making, risk and slowing down to give time for people to think and consider. Students were very willing to apply those ideas to potential classroom situations.
Esther Sayers

Tutor Nicola Walshe commented how they all genuinely really enjoyed the session. It not only gave them space to explore some of the creative pedagogies we have been talking about, it also gave them ideas as to how to work with students in the classroom themselves.

An everlasting tea party


Family playing

The Open Eddington day on Saturday 9th September was the first opportunity for everyone to visit this new development.  People came from far and wide – an estimated 4000 visited the site during the day.

ArtScapers had created a new resource for the day that invited playful ways to think about future worlds and communities. Based on work made by the children during our year 2 workshops, we were delighted to be able to share them with artists Winter and Horbelt, on site to open their extraordinary new tea house, whose work the children had explored.

Open eddington materials ready on a table

Image showing the entity cards

artists Winter and Horbelt

Based in the University Primary School, artist Susanne Jasilek had planned workshops and drop in invitations. There was also exhibition of work and films created in the project over the last two years. One hundred and fifty two people of all ages made with us, shaping a breathtaking collection of plasticene ‘entities for future worlds’ which they curated themselves into an exhibition that grew throughout the day. Many more enjoyed visiting this and hearing about the project. New communities were also planned on the huge site maps we offered.

Family looking at the cards

Family paying with the cards

Open eddington new community

Children playing

ArtScapers curating

Family curating

Can we get in it?


We want to engage ArtScapers with some of the site challenges and introduce them to members of the development team. Previous visitors have included the Operations Director and the Procurement Manager.

Alistair Dunsdon, Operations Project Manager with Ruth Sapsed with a storage unit

It was great that Alistair Dunsdon, Operations Project Manager was able to join both the recent workshops for the two classes from the University Primary School ArtScapers when they visited Gravel Hill. He came well equipped with props to illustrate how he stays safe on site – including boots, hat, glasses, and high vis jacket and he told the classes about was the extraordinary and elaborate underground waste system that is being installed. An example of the bin was there for the children as well as images of the specialist trucks and laser technology that will be used. The children were fascinated and as well as asking if they could get in one, their questions and comments included thoughtful observations about how far people might be prepared to carry rubbish from their front door and how the bin lorries will know when it is time to empty the underground storage units.

Alistair left with one of the model tea-houses made by the children to share with others in the team.

Alistair Dunsdon, Operations Project Manager wearing hat, glasses, and high vis jacket

Alistair Dunsdon, Operations Project Manager with one of the model tea-houses made by the children to share with others in the team

Maybe…what if…perhaps


Tea house on the grass

(by Gabby Arenge) I caught up with the ArtScapers project recently, joining the final workshop for the two classes from the University Primary School.  CCI artist Susanne Jasilek had planned a beautifully immersive session, inviting the children to think about the work of artists Winter / Hörbelt and their tea house for the new site.

tea house by Winter / Hörbelt

Artists Winter / Hörbelt and their tea house

I was struck again at how ArtScapers offers a place of possibility for everyone, grounded in the NW Cambridge community’s evolving reality. The most resounding element that struck me during the ArtScapers Tea House Construction session was the children’s use of the words “maybe,” “could,” “what if,” “what about,” “perhaps,” and “might.” These wondering words seemed evidence of their wandering minds and the potential for possibility, which are cultivated in the ArtScaper space. This strikes me as a critical mode of learning, one that is exploratory and open to risk, failure, problem solving, discovery, adaptation, and creativity. Students are allowed to ‘not know’ and instead engage in a process of discovery and experimentation, which inevitably leads to valuable learning. As some students reflected in the session, this exploration allowed them to discover the limits and potential of the materials they used to build their Tea Houses. They were also open to/able to test different ways of working collaboratively to construct a meaningful structure.

Children making their tea houses

Children making their tea houses

Because Susanne introduced the activity as an open-ended challenge, only showing examples of what could be, students were able to freely enter a world of creative discovery. The skills students cultivate in ArtScapers, as well as the actual project, seem deeply linked to the community growth and transformation happening at the NW Development site. This new space is full of ‘what ifs’ and the social, physical landscapes of the new site remain largely unknown and are open to possibility/definition/etc. And yet, there is also a deep connection to the creative transformation and sustainable development movement in which challenges for efficiency and resource conservation frame and structure the “possibility” for the development and community development in Cambridge.

Children making their tea houses

Children making their tea houses

It seems critical to have children involved in this transforming community site, not just because the processes for creative learning are a particularly relevant way to learn about sustainable development—and not even just because these children will cohabitate in this space in the future as they age and the community grows—but the combination, the creative learning, thought processes, and skills cultivated in ArtScapers are essential for children to successfully adapt and embrace this community. The NW Cambridge site will be transient and internationally diverse and full of cutting-edge, experimental technologies and spaces. The NW site is an experiment in itself and thus, it seems critical that children, the future inhabitants of this space, are adaptable, open to changes and possibilities and willing to contribute to the positive creative transformation and development of a new community.

Gabby Arenge was a masters student in the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education and researched the ArtScapers programme for her final thesis.  She writes about this process here.

It’s the future


(by Susanne Jasilek) It’s the future. The ArtScapers have arrived as explorers and prospectors at a site they do not know (actually this is the school) - a building shaped like a donut with space inside. They don’t know what it is - all they know is that it is over-populated and it’s going to be necessary to build extensions to accommodate them. As with previous ArtScapers projects - in this future we can no longer manufacture new materials or take anything further from the earth. We do have the technology though to upcycle old buildings - turn them on their head, cut them up, or place them one on top of another at odd angles.

Extra-ordinary and new ArtScaper architecture emerges from the discarded buildings. Functional buildings for plant making, palaces and one never ending paradise. Dazzling shapes and purposes are allotted to structures The children also think about practicalities and aesthetics. At the end the new individual extensions are place together creating a whole new future extension to this building. 

It's an explorer vehicle..these are for protection from lightening by FelixIt's an explorer vehicle..these are for protection from can be like a department or people can live in it that's why I've put washing lines here. By Felix

A hot air palace by KatharinaA hot air palace

A shiny sliver hot air balloon palace 
fashioned from pure silver. 
Giant garden. 
Free hot air balloon. 
Fly high with a hot air balloon of your own 
and land in a giant garden full of breathtaking flowers.
By Katharina

My building is called the grand olive by OliverMy building is called the grand olive. It can fit 22 children and 14 adults. By Oliver

By ThomasMy building is creating plants. There is a long water tunnel that transports water around to plant storage areas which are filled with plants. The two buildings send deliveries of plants to the shops or sell them. By Thomas

Having created a new architecture, I invite Artsacpers to think about communities and town planning. With their large maps of the North West Cambridge development site as the outline they plan this new place. These are not communities developed over hundreds of years. They are starting from scratch. I ask them to think about:

What is a community?
How can it be created?
What will it need?

These questions are pondered collaboratively - lively discussions take place, solutions are found and the maps are filled in with buildings and spaces for new societies. Beautiful imagery, playful additions, and stunning maps are made. Children stand back at the end and talk about them to the group. 

Archaeology of now


(by Susanne Jasilek) We have returned to the University of Cambridge Primary School this term, working again with the two classes we met last year to help artist Ruth Proctor make her film - We are all under the same sky. Our theme for our first workshop was Archaeology of now and I invited them to explore their own school - a new and contemporary environment -  as prospectors, inventors, explorers, ecologists, imaginators and artists. Could they imagine themselves arriving at this place for the first time with fresh eyes, as the archaeologists and prospectors of the future? We used specimen jars, small boxes, and all kinds of pots to collect the minutiae in the green area just outside the ring of the school building.  Viewed from afar this area seems quite straightforward - grass, wood chip, trees - but the children gathered a huge array of brilliantly diverse objects for drawing, analysis, inspection and naming, creating a new museum as they worked.

Having investigated the area outside the building circumference children took viewfinders to examine more clearly the structure of the building. I invited them to focus on details, perspective, shape, materials, noticing where the man-made and natural meet.

Their observational drawings became the working sketches for developing new ideas. Looking at the work of William Scott (1913 - 1989) and Aboriginal artists such as Ivan  John Mawurndjul and Samuel Namunjdja, our ArtScapers thought how to repeat, pattern, scale up or copy and add to the drawings they had made.

Willliam Scott

Samuel Namunjdja

Ivan Namirrkki

The work was really expressive and experimental and a wonderful gallery of work resulted for the school to view. Here’s just a few examples by Julius, Thomas and Monty.

I drew on the interests, research and processes of previous chosen contemporary artists in residence at the North West Cambridge Development site to shape this workshop and am looking forward to meeting the children again this week for our walk to the Gravel Hill site, an adjacent part of the Development Site, to explore new ideas and spaces.

Bob can talk to his friend through his hair!


(by Susanne Jasilek) A weird and wonderful collection of new and diverse entities and environments were made by the Girton ArtScapers on our final week together. I invited them to think about identity, difference, connections and what it might take to make future communities.

The subject of our workshop was inspired by Melanie Manchot, the current commissioned habitation artist on the North West Cambridge Development site.  She generously shared with us some of her processes and the starting points of her current new work based around what a community might be from different perspectives. It was fascinating to hear some of her ideas and plans and very exciting - local people will be able to witness and attend some of her work in future months.

We decided to think about what a future community might be and also the inhabitants of a future community.   The children were invited to each design and create a new entitiy or life form in plasticine. They could be animal, plant, machine or a new type of future human. Some extraordinary designs and hybrid forms evolved - a new type of population. Diverse, original and full of possibilities. 

Drawing of a zombie robot - A scary one: It can kill everyone with his expensive golden sword….paralyse everyone with his weird eyesA scary one:  It can kill everyone with his expensive golden sword….paralyse everyone with his weird eyes

Plasticine model of the zombie robot

Pencil drawing - A peculiar one: A half human, half worm - he will eat anything including the moonA peculiar one: A half human, half worm - he will eat anything including the moon.

Plasticine model - A peculiar one: A half human, half worm - he will eat anything including the moon

Pencil drawing - A beautiful one: The dream flower is a strong and powerful flower. It takes all your dreamsA beautiful one: The dream flower is a strong and powerful flower. It takes all your dreams

Plasticine model - A beautiful one: The dream flower is a strong and powerful flower. It takes all your dreams.

Pencil drawing - Mr Smart Face is a house

Mr Smart Face is a house. It has a gun and a wand. Also bracelets and lots of cool stuff.It is a walking house that talks

Pencil drawing - A sinister one: It makes people do anything it wants and its an electric jupiter that keeps the eye in the skyA sinister one: It makes people do anything it wants and its an electric jupiter that keeps the eye in the sky

Plasticine model - A sinister one: It makes people do anything it wants and its an electric jupiter that keeps the eye in the sky

Pencil drawing - A practical one: A walking washing machine robot called BertA practical one: A walking washing machine robot called Bert who lies in any household with dirty washing and has a user warning - May eat the odd sock!

plasticine - A practical one: A walking washing machine robot called Bert

Pencil drawing - And a kind one: My creature is a flower that can walk, move and only say kind words. It is yellow and smallAnd a kind one: My creature is a flower that can walk, move and only say kind words. It is yellow and small

Plasticine model - And a kind one: My creature is a flower that can walk, move and only say kind words. It is yellow and small

In order to create some unity they brought their figures together in small groups with other entities. They had to look at the shapes and colours and personalities of these different characters and talk to each other about their entities requirements - eating and sleeping patterns, habits, interests and habitats. With this knowledge to take into consideration they began to design an environment where their group of entites could live together and where all their needs might be addressed and met.  This involved lots of discussion, problem solving and resolving a dispute or two. Our new small communities were created! We walked around them like visitors to a miniature model town.

In order to create some unity they brought their figures together in small groups with other entities

We had:

COMMUNITY OF LIFE’ -  we are all different and we are happy about itIf too many creatures come the land disappears.

THE PLACE OF EVERYTHING - we share everything. its happy and always has fun activities. It has everything that the things need.

MUSHROOM NIGHTS at Freddies - their awesome life was about Freddie the evil animatronic and a hero called bob who always says ‘I’m a cute fuzzball’.

MUSHROOM LAND -  a giant mushroom community that provided food which always grew back and shelter.

INFSSY - where every morning there is a meeting after which they can go to the beach, park, river or theme park. They have dinner, go to a disco and go to bed at 11.30 pm.

Wolf carpet and a boxing ring


(by Susanne Jasilek) We enjoyed a really stimulating 2nd day with ArtScapers at Girton School. Having visited the North West Cambridge development site together a couple of weeks before, we started by thinking about architectural plans and aerial views. I asked the children to imagine their bedrooms with no roof or ceiling and being a bird or even a drone looking down. What do familiar things in our rooms look like from above? What shape is a person (a circle blob - some children suggested) or a familiar object? What is the relationship between objects in the room? This involved a lot of concentration and working out as extraordinary drawings evolved. I then asked them to add an object into their rooms that they did not have.  Here are just a few:

A dragon’s egg, a chocolate machine, sushi, time machine, doughnut, studio lighting, a wolf carpet, a unicorn, a money maker, a magic staff, puppies, kittens, magic handbag, slide, owl, pet horse, flying horse, boxing ring, flower pillows and a rocket.

The children carefully placed them as if in an exhibition in order to view and admire each other’s work.

The children carefully placed their artwork as if in an exhibition in order to view and admire each other’s work

Then we thought about the new Fata Morgana tea house by contemporary artists Winter & Hoerbelt currently being installed at the site; the materials, how it might be used, how they can soon visit it with their families. Having viewed pictures of other tea houses and pavilions old and new from around the world, they worked in pairs to design and make  models of their own ‘tea house’ type structures. What emerged were rich dialogues between partners and innovative and complex shapes of buildings -  each tea house had particular functions and uses. Some were executed religiously from working drawings and some changed as they were built. All were totally original and unique.

by Jacob and Dylan

Sketch, tea house and prototype by Freddie and Zaki

Zaki and Freddie said we are making a prototype in case it goes wrong. It’s going to be a bit like a pyramid.

William and Mason

William and Mason talked about what they would find tricky and struggle with - I’m struggling with what to make the walls out of.

A material teahouse by Freya and Coco

Freya and Coco called theirs a material tea house. We’re going to add a roof and you can enter from all sides. We just liked the shapes. they look really vibrant and different. It involves an obstacle course through it.

by Ellie and Ella

Ella and Ellie thought about the quality of the light in particular - we’ve called ours the little green tea house. When you walk under the green roof it will be all green above you.

A kitty milk room by Tristan, Ruth and Hannah

Tristan, Ruth and Hannah created a kitty milk room with a spiral to the roof terrace There will be 9 or 11 kittens at a time. We’re going to add more and more and more.

Evan created a unique tower working quietly and determinedly on his own. Their teachers also enjoyed taking the time to work alongside them.

Group of children working

Evan created a unique tower

Ms Christie drawing

Conkery and Gonga


(by Susanne Jasilek) Girton Primary School joined us as Artscapers this week. Two classes walked from school to the North West Cambridge site – well over 2 miles - and arrived full of talk of the recent political events.

The invitation as before was to prospect, explore, collect, analyse findings and imagine the future. Together we played with different techniques of cataloguing and identifying including: drawing around shapes and forms; observational drawing; scaling up and down; representing and looking at textures; leaf rubbing; and also making colours from the leaves themselves and naming them. Freya created a new green -  hoola  baloo -  and a brown - fab weena.

Strong individual drawings emerged and the room was soon transformed into a gallery of beautiful work. 

ArtScapers drawing

Conker incorporated into a drawing

ArtScapers Drawing

As new explorers arriving at a strange place for the first-time names needed to be found and invented. The leaves, berries, chestnuts and sticks collected on the walk there were called things like  joy, tiny chest-natongas, medium stoneongas, tangaboo, conkery, gonga and abcdefg.

You use a tobba for making chairs.
Mern is used to make animal feed.

Leaves, berries, chestnuts and sticks collected on the walk

With a mixture of materials both natural (wood, leaves etc) and the type of things archaeologists will find in the future (computer and electoral components) the children worked in groups to create extraordinary sculptures. This involved negotiating, working collaboratively, talking, reflecting, and experimenting with ideas of balance and combining. New worlds and creations emerged -  a secret den, a control tower that controlled the wind and an amazing huge futuristic tree where three girls gave me a description that sounded like a poem:

Trees and berries,
Tree from the future,
Snails grow on trees, 
and only maybe 
one berry,
one leaf

Leaves, berries, chestnuts and sticks collected on the walk re-imaginedIsland of Paradise by Ella, Coco and Ellie

Tectonic nature island by Kirsty, Hannah and BeaTectonic nature island by Kirsty, Hannah and Bea

Space machine by Sofia and JessieSpace machine by Sofia and Jessie

by Sonnie, Yusuf, Jake and Finlayby Sonnie, Yusuf, Jake and Finlay

Space ship by Dominic and SethSpace ship by Dominic and Seth

Pecas playhouse by Ashanth, Abisaiyen and JanPecas playhouse by Ashanth, Abisaiyen and Jan

We will be sharing more ArtScaper adventures with them in school after half-term.

Aid and Abet and Pope and Guthrie are contemporary artists who were both chosen as Habitation Artists working on the North West Cambridge development site art programme. Their work and processes acted as the catalysts and springboards in the designing of the workshops for local school communities. 

What is a tea house?


What is a tea house? What does it feel like? How was it made?
Who designed it? What did they have to think about?

(Susanne Jasilek) There is a brand new tea house designed by artists Wolfgang Winter and Berthold Hörbelt's on the North West Cambridge Site (image shows artists’ visualization). It will soon be open to the public and Sam Wilkinson, Director of InSite Arts and part of the public art programme, came to share news of it with the children.

New tea house designed by artists Wolfgang Winter and Berthold Hörbelt's on the North West Cambridge Site (image shows artists’ visualization)

She talked about the plans, intentions and processes of the artists, describing the materials used and the way they worked with them. We thought about the interior and how people in the future might use it. Sam also talked about the theme of WANDERING as the idea behind this work and its placing beside the lake on the site.

Image of a tea house

Image of a tea house

Image of a tea house

We looked at examples of the tea houses from all periods in history and different parts of the world that I shared with the children before inviting them to work with a partner to create their own. I modelled how they might use materials - unmade up boxes, curving card using tape and glue to make a  form that is not necessarily square or box shaped and Indicating how they could then colour or decorate it with felt pen, pastels, tin foil, coloured cellophane. There were also tubes and sticks and different types of tape, a tube of silver insulation material, tissue paper, cut up coloured plain plastic bags.  I emphasised that ideas might not work, that things might fall down and that this was all part of the task. Things could be rebuilt or worked out a different way.

There were no rules or instructions other than to use their imagination and to work in collaboration with their small group or partner just as Winter and Hörbelt had done. If they didn't drink tea they could make a milkshake or a juice house.

Boy making

Girl making

At first it was hard for some to think of 3 dimensions and how to make it stand up but soon everyone was constructing innovative shapes and complex uses for their buildings including the interiors.

I cut out cardboard for the roof and I made a box. I played with it for a bit. I sat down for a bit. Then I stuck these on. Morley

Images of Tea Houses

Giang and Chunhe made a dinosaur boat to go the tea house. Yashoda, Juno and A’Sharia made a haunted café with spooky flowers and a glistening floor that was spooked by real bats. All the teahouses held stories, how they came to be made, how the different materials and shapes were, how things had been difficult, and how the building would be used.

To end the session the children curated a make-shift exhibition in the hall and had a chance to introduce their ideas and finished works. They are finally exhibited in the library for the larger school community to enjoy.

Having had to consider so many things around being an artist, thinking creatively and constructing, they are very excited to visit the full scale Fata Morgana Teahouse one day.

Curating teahouses

Curating teahouses

Playing with time


(by Susanne Jasilek) We worked with Jake and Lisa, teachers from Mayfield Primary School, last year and were delighted that we could work with them again this year and their new classes. The children were invited to be ArtScapers and to think about themselves as people from the future - as prospectors, adventurers, botanists, scientists, explorers and ARTISTS. In this workshop the community room at the development site was to be like a time capsule where we could be masters and inventors of our own time.

Together we experimented and explored ideas around the subject of time and how we might represent it with symbols, shapes or words. Our prompts were the work of artist Ruth Ewan and historic ideas about measuring time (using water or pyramids or sticks). Ruth, one of the habitation artists for the site, has created Another Time at the site with the help of school children and the community. This is a field that has been planted with 5 million seeds chosen for their reliable flowering times that can be used to indicate time, an idea hypothesised by Carl Linnaeus in 1751.

A previous project by Ruth we also shared was based around the French Republican Calendar (used between 1793 – 1805) where days were named after tools, plants, seeds, equipment - things that were part of everyday life in France.  In Back to the fields, Ruth had filled the space at Camden Art Gallery with trees, animals, fish, seeds and everyday farm implements to form a calendar.

Camden Art Gallery with trees as implements to form a calendar by Ruth Ewan

To begin with we invited the children to gather some autumn leaves as they walked to meet us. They placed them in a formation in the centre of the room to become the ArtScaper calendar and thought about how each day was represented by a leaf (someone’s birthday, a festival) and how by next Autumn they would be gone and could be replenished by a whole new season of leaves.

Autumn leaves placed them in a formation in the centre of the room to become the ArtScaper calendar

Working in groups they continued thinking about time and had free reign to number, name, or re-design new ways for measuring time. They quickly grasped this most abstract of concepts using things from their everyday lives to personalise time:

  • groups renamed days after people they knew, things they liked, things they had
  • one group decided they would have 100 days in a year and created a colourful pictorial calendar to signify these
  • another created a calendar of games images and names

Image of new ways for measuring time

Image of new ways for measuring time

You boy working on new ways for measuring time

As children presented their idea to the class, they tackled the renaming of minutes, days and seasons - ‘Thursday’ became ‘not a day’, Friday became ‘unschoolday’ and ‘butterfly hours’ were drawn.

Children presenting their idea to the class with Susanne Jasilek

Stephanie’s clock was a sock clock

Another group described theirs as:

Each minute is a symbol. 
Each heartbeat is a second. 
One minute is a cheetah step. 
When we are happy the days are longer. 
How the ball rolls will tell the time.

Stephanie’s clock was a sock clock. My red socks would say time to go to bed. Misha’s socks would say time to have a bath. Bananas is breakfast. Dogs is go to school.

Finally with found bone type archaeological objects which everyone had personalized and hung on bamboo sticks, we created and played a brand new irregular ArtScaper minute!

Bone type archaeological objects which everyone had personalized and hung on bamboo sticks

Bone type archaeological objects which everyone had personalized and hung on bamboo sticks

Bone type archaeological objects which everyone had personalized

Meeting real people


We wanted this year’s ArtScapers to meet a few of the people working on this development we are exploring together. We also wanted the team to meet some of the children discovering this new part of their city.

A few members of the development team were able to come and share a flavour of their work. They met the two classes from Mayfield Primary School we have been working with during November. Warren (Operations Director), Richard (University client representative for project team delivering nursery and community centre and key worker flats), Michael (Procurement Manager) and Sam (Arts Consultant) all visited and together we thought about questions like: What happens to the rain water that falls on the site? How is energy made for the site? Where does the rubbish go?

We found out about water conservation and  filtration on the site through the special sand in the lake, how one man is in charge of buying EVERYTHING and furnishing the apartments, how high the pile of building design drawings were for each of Richard’s buildings projects (higher than one of the children he thought), how bricks were made and what happens to the tea house when it gets wet.

It was good to see these two different communities meet each other like this.

This year’s ArtScapers meet some of the development team

This year’s ArtScapers meet some of the development team

Advice for new Artscapers


It was brilliant to catch up with the two classes from Mayfield Primary School who were our first ArtScapers last year. They had time to see their work now re-imagined as a resource for others to play with as they think about cities and making communities. We shared news of the websites their work is discussed on and events their work has been framed around. We also asked them to write some guidelines for any new ArtScapers who would like to create their own ‘recycled house’. Here are a few but the full instructions can be downloaded here:

  • First think about what you’re going to build.
  • Top tip - You don’t have to think about it.
  • You can draw what you want.
  • You can make it out of anything.
  • You can make it anywhere. I put mine in space.
  • Share ideas as a group and tell each other what you are doing.
  • Think of what materials you’re going to use. I used oil pastels.
  • You need masking tape
  • Use all the materials you want but don’t steal other people’s unless you have asked them and they said yes.
  • Don’t’ draw things that are possible today – you can, but try and draw things that are made up and in the future.
  • Try and have fun.
  • Don’t use real bricks, glass and doors – you might get hurt.

ArtScapers from Mayfield Primary School

ArtScapers from Mayfield Primary School

ArtScapers from Mayfield Primary School

ArtScapers from Mayfield Primary School

ArtScaping in the city


Images of families making

We were joined by local families but also visitors from much further afield for our day of ArtScaping as part of this year’s Festival of Ideas (run by the University of Cambridge). The chancel of Michaelhouse began to fill with fantastical houses recycled from materials and homes from the past. We thought about the spaces we’d like to live and what was important for a community.

Here’s just a few of the new contributions to our ever growing city:

University Campus library

This is our library in the middle of the University Campus. It will be really high, have amazing views, glass all the way round with a moat around the outside and grass. There are no cars. It can be a place to work and study and be creative in but also help with community needs like a dentist. It would have arches and bridges.
Charlotte, Maire and Gaille

Nina, This is my house and Maya’s house and Hugo’s house. Mummy and Daddy live with me. There is pond with ducks and a bridge linking them together.

This is my house and Maya’s house and Hugo’s house. Mummy and Daddy live with me. There is pond with ducks and a bridge linking them together.
Nina (3)

Rumi, This is my water machine. It has medium water, good water and bad water and a water master. The water is for drinking and swimming.

This is my water machine. It has medium water, good water and bad water and a water master. The water is for drinking and swimming.
Rumi (7 on the 8th Nov)

William This is London because everything is so tall. There is a blue tree from nonsense land juggling the balls.

This is London because everything is so tall. There is a blue tree from nonsense land juggling the balls.
William (6)

Thinking about ‘ArtScaper-ness’


(by Susanne Jasilek) This was a unique experience for me as an artist and artist educator. It has allowed me to share, develop and evolve my practice in new ways. Although I have often facilitated art sessions using another artist's work as inspiration - both in gallery/museum settings and in and out of schools, this was a site specific project with diverse possibilities and special relationships that enriched it.

The placing of Esther (NW Cambridge), Ruth (CCI), Gabby (researcher) Lisa and Jake (teachers) and the teaching support staff, parent helpers and of course the children themselves in the position of ArtScapers and artists in residence fostered a new and different dynamic that felt more equal and democratic.

The broad spectrum of the habitation artists practice together with the emerging and constantly changing environment both natural and man-made was a rich resource for us all and inspired and enabled me to research and plan in quite a different way. I had to think how to synthesise the many artists, components and ways of working into something new, some approach which would make sense to young people. The scope, the variedness and complexity of the stimuli and context was unusual, fantastically exciting and a challenge. There were overarching themes for the public art programme and each artist had also been partnered with a University department. I wanted to help the children comprehend in a very real way what it is to be a contemporary artist working in this environment, how artists work, and how this creative thinking can be useful, even essential in other contexts.

My own process of working with people as a CCI artist remained the same. Namely to make a moment in time where young people can experience first-hand and authentically some of the practices and challenges faced previously by other artists.

To invite children to be artists in residence in their own right seemed necessary and wonderful, but also highly unusual. I had no idea how they would respond to my prompts, plans, questions, materials. I had especially planned for them to only encounter the work that had already been made about the site once they too had had the chance to respond creatively. I think this helped them to really value their own ideas and not think of themselves as imitators.

Looking back I feel that they exceeded my expectations on every level. It was valuable too to see how Jake and Lisa engaged with their own work and their pupils in this environment. Their openness and enthusiasm was also a rich experience for me and the children. It has helped me a great deal with thinking how I might develop working in the future with teaching support staff and parent helpers.

It’s been a powerful learning experience - I tried many new things that I had not tried before. I arrived everyday excited and ready for a new adventure and came away  stimulated, humbled and enthralled at the imagination and originality of the children - their far sighted vision for a future, their imagery and ability to embrace creative thinking, take risks and push their own boundaries.

The children’s work will become a public interactive art activity at the open day on 2nd  July. It will also be transportable and other settings will be found for it.  As an artist it’s inspiring and re-assuring to see that the work can go somewhere else and be valued and appreciated in a wider setting.

I have continued to think and talk about 'ArtScaper-ness' - where it begins and ends, its potential, longevity, where it belongs, where it works and where it can go next.

It’s been a great privilege. Thank you to all my fellow ArtScapers.

Being an Artscaper


What does it mean to be an ArtScaper? …to ArtScape? …to embody, embrace or exhibit ArtScaper-ness?

As an MPhil candidate studying Arts, Creativity, Education, and Culture at the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education, I (Gabby Arenge) have been chewing on these questions over the past two months. During that period, I have planned, participated in, and examined the ArtScapers programme as a part of my Master’s thesis research.

Soon after joining the initiative, it became clear to me that I could not answer these ArtScape(r)(ness) questions alone. Although originating from the work of Dr Esther Sayers with Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination, the NW Cambridge Development team, and the NW Cambridge Artist-in-Residence programme, ArtScapers has truly become a community-based and community-driven initiative. Children, parents, teachers, charity coordinators, artists, and researchers have been the lifeblood of the programme. Their experiences, perspectives, personalities, and values have influenced ArtScapers’ development and continue to mold its direction and identity.

Thus, upon completing the final workshops and reflections, I consulted many of the ArtScapers in Mayfield Primary School together with the programme team with hopes of discovering how this multi-faceted and vibrant community has come to describe and identify itself. I was not disappointed with what I found:

To be an ArtScaper, you have to change—change yourself and change your community. Heinrich, 8, Student

You’re a collective of artists working together on ideas and explorations and findings ... you’re archaeologists, collectors, curators, conversationalists, researchers.  I don’t just see it as “I’m an artist and I’m painting pictures.” It’s quite broad, really broad actually, because… a really huge part of it is making and creative thinking.
Susanne, CCI artist

It’s just exploring ideas.
Tarnia, Teaching Assistant

Having and giving alternatives to be more free … and a space for exploration. It’s like looking at the same place with different eyes.
Elizabeth, Parent

I think all ArtScapers are co-producing knowledge about the NW Cambridge Development. I include the habitation artists in that. In a way I think they are ArtScapers, too. We are all using art to explore the landscape of the NW Cambridge Development—whether we are residency artists, children, adults that are helping—that’s the thing that we are doing.
Esther, University Lecturer and Researcher

It’s been thinking about the uses of the land in a sort of artistic way, and the connection of the children to the site. I quite like the idea of connecting the re-designing of the site to re-designing yourself.
Jake, Teacher

To be an ArtScaper is to look at something and make your own ideas—just think of the idea you thought before and mix it up so you can make something even bigger—and then just design it and find stuff that you might find in the future and use those stuff to help you build it.
Jared, 8, Student

I think it involves using a kind of lens, it’s like seeing that world through the lens of these contemporary art practices – and it’s kind of opening that sense of what a contemporary artist might be doing … It’s like serious play and being very, very thoughtful about it. It’s being seriously playful and about trying to hold that space.
Ruth, CCI

It means how something is molded and how something changes. It suggests constant changing of something and shaping something and relating that to the artwork and its relation to the environment that you’re in. It’s that link between the environment and how you can use that in your activities.
Lisa, Teacher

These reflective conversations with my fellow ArtScapers have been enlightening and inspiring—and have helped to enrich my understanding of what it means to be an ArtScaper.

I have therefore come to believe that being an ArtScaper is about being a member of a community in which everyone engages freely, plays seriously, and creates artistically whilst exploring and grappling with issues related to community development. ArtScapers work together; they build, they imagine, they design and redesign. They are collaborative, curious, and inclusive. They are open and welcoming to change and they are NW Cambridge’s ambassadors for the future.

I believe that ArtScapers have become an invaluable aspect of the Cambridge Development project. They have become models for how to build a creative community within a changing community. In just a few months, they have begun to craft a shared history for NW Cambridge, which is a narrative that I hope will continue to inform and feed the growth of this place as buildings materialise, residents relocate, and the community flourishes over the next ten years.

This wordle was created from all the ArtScaper conversations I have had:

Under the same sky


In our final workshops exploring Ruth Proctor’s piece We are all under the same sky at the University of Cambridge Primary School, each class created imaginary people for different countries. Then in pairs they set out to find their countries and measure the number of paces in between. Esa and Francesca carried their characters between Sydney, Australia, and New Delhi, India (44 paces) whilst Dhanvika and Eleanor were moving between Havana, Cuba and South Georgia, trying out different ways of moving:

We’ve tried running and jumping and big steps and footsteps stuck together and this kind of running. We’ve going to try hopping now.

Their final invitation was to bring these characters together into new communities and create a piece of work in celebration. We had dances, recipes, stories and even this brilliant, and importantly as the boys explained, non fiction rap (not one you can eat) that was performed with actions to illustrate:

World Rap

The moon is round with see-through clouds
The sun is bright and the moon comes out at noon
Stars stars in the night
The bright night is high
Sometimes you can see the moon in the day
Sometimes you can't see the night because it is bright

by Caleb, Daniel, Louis, Aaron and Hayden

The globe covered with all these new characters now hangs in their exhibition from last week spinning gently.

Ruth Proctor’s film made with the children will be available soon.

Thinking about sky


Our ArtScapers community expanded this week to include the year 1 and 2 classes at the University of Cambridge Primary School. This beautiful new building is full of light and space with their own piece of public art set into the courtyard canopy – We are all under the same sky by Ruth Proctor.

CCI artist Susanne Jasilek invited the children to really spend time under the many skies depicted in this extraordinary piece. They had time to lie underneath a favourite panel and dream and imagine before re-creating it as first a monochrome sketch and then a painting before finally travelling in pairs across the courtyard to find a new country to think about. Their individual interpretations were particularly striking.

Headteacher James Biddulph had invited us to celebrate their work by transforming part of their dining area. We heard this week that it was ‘ultramegallycool’.

We return tomorrow to explore more, inviting the children to talk to Ruth Proctor herself about her work and motivations in creating the piece. Questions they have planned include: why do artists have to use colours? And why did you design it about the sky?

Imagining our future selves


(by Susanne Jasilek) What an amazing last week

We began with an ArtScapers walk, counting our paces down the long beautiful tree-lined avenue until arrival at the studio. There was an invitation to make up a number if we ran out of names. Some children counted very accurately, some reached fantastic numbers of trillions and millions. The sound of all the numbers being counted made a really interesting sonic piece and was recorded.

On arrival at the studio we attempted to write the longest number ever on a long roll of paper before visiting the mock-up apartment built by the developers on the site. In the apartment children were invited to explore and lie on the floor. We imagined a future where the planet was over-populated and thought how would we feel about sharing the space permanently together? The children explored all the spaces, even the cupboards. We sat and talked about what was missing and what was needed, what they liked and didn't.

On our way back to the studio we took some time to lie down and look at the sky through different filter gel papers and to reflect how these colours made the sky different and to imagine what was up there.

Back in the studio Esther showed images of Tania Kovats' (shown above), a previous artist in residence at NW Cambridge, 'One Billion Objects in Space'. This sculptural piece was made as a result of her collaboration with Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy. We thought about how impossible it was to imagine such large numbers.

The children had created new recycled buildings and cities in previous workshops, so the final invitation was to re-design themselves. No two were the same and we ended with a wall of faces - unrecognisable, individual, diverse, colourful and inspirational.

The ArtScapers have now returned to their own time and spaces but they will be invited back for an exciting exhibition of their work and celebration on 2 July 2016.

Imagining the future


(by Susanne Jasilek, artist) Returning for the second week the ArtScapers used their walk down to Gravel Hill Studio to imagine how future people might move in space. They had to copy their partner who invented a new way of walking - silliness was encouraged!

In the studio we worked on recycling houses from photocopies of 1960's and 70's stark architecture.  Thinking about ecology and sustainability, their brief was to make new habitations out of old. We were imagining a period where we were no longer allowed to take materials from the earth or manufacture any man-made ones but did have the technology to turn buildings upside down or sideways, to add bits on and cut bits out.

Everyone created their own unique imaginary house of the future and we made a city on the wall where the children chose where to place their houses. No streets evolved instead it was a city of connections and layers and levels - a labyrinth. We imagined navigating through it - where and how it could be explored.

Then we worked in groups to collaborate and discuss what a city needs. We worked on large scale site maps to plan a city from an aerial view. The year 1 class agreed a city needed: the sun to keep us warm, ducks with a pond weed centre, a hospital, a zoo, grass and trees for animals, 5 parks, millions of churches, a football stadium, tennis, a hotel, a museum for sculptures, some pigs, a school, cars, a police station, a swimming pool and a building site for houses, explosions and fireworks but no weapons as they hurt people.

Our future world was spectacular - with many well thought out aspects, great sweeps of innovation and some beautiful imaginative art and design. It was frequently deeply practical. I was transported.

ArtScapers have arrived


(by Susanne Jasilek, artist) A new group of young artists in residence from Mayfield School arrived today. As ArtScapers they came as  prospectors, collectors, explorers and artists. I asked them to imagine that it was the future and they were the first arrivals on this site.  We listened and observed our surroundings and collected natural and man made objects, including some very tiny things that would normally be overlooked. We wondered if the building site in the distance was an old ruined city or a new one emerging.

On arrival at the Gravel Hill Studio, the children examined their finds carefully, drew around them and gave them new names just as early explorers had done. They scaled them up and examined and drew details. After they used bigger finds from the site - bricks, metal, stones and components likely to be found in landfill in the future and created sculptures. They had to think about colour, texture, balance, relationship. Some worked on their own, others collaborated and worked in groups. There were many discussions and conversations and decisions made as a series of orginal and unique sculptures were created.

Finally I invited them to curate a show - a Museum of Things - both inside and outside and afterwards we came back as visitors to own wonderful exhibition. We tried to make sure that everyone felt they had a voice and was noticed.

The workshops were designed to link closely around themes that arose from former Artists in Residence at the NW Cambridge site who had each collaborated with a Cambridge University department.

We are also referring to the 5 framing themes of the North West Development Arts Programme:


The ArtScapers will be returning this week with their amazing ideas and perspectives.

Working with children’s ideas


We began the process of mapping where children’s ideas have led us in Cambridge at our workshop with Historyworks at the Cambridge Arts Network conference in March.

This process will be continuing with children from Mayfield Primary School as they become young artists in residence as part of this programme.

Educators and practitioners working with children and young people are invited to join us at a hands-on workshop at the Gravel Hill Studio. We will share some of the contemporary art practices the children have played with and discuss where their ideas have led us as we develop new resources for others.

What does an artist do?


After months of planning and thinking about how to connect schools to the North West Cambridge Public Art Programme, we have finally begun to meet the children. Artist Ruth Ewan has invited the two year two classes (6 and 7 year olds) at Mayfield Primary School to help her with her new work for the site – A testing ground for a public clock.

We are curious to know how the children describe the role of an artist before meeting one so suggested their teachers explored some of their ideas in advance. They talked about what an artist does, and where and how they work. For many it seemed that an artist is someone who paints and works in a gallery (and might even look like a princess):

I don’t make things, I make things happen.

This is how Ruth then introduced herself when she visited the school just before the end of last term to share her project. The children began to think about how plants are classified and also planted seeds that they will bring to the site in a few weeks to plant in the actual piece.

There is a also a free community workshop day later this month for others wanting to get involved. All welcome. No previous experience needed.

First school partner


Mayfield School is to be our first partner on this project. We have met through the Learning without Limits network and are delighted to be able to begin exploring ideas of co-creation together. Their welcoming notice board sets 'creativity' as a core value which bodes well as we start to plan how to involve the school community in the North West Cambridge Development Art Programme both present and past.

CCI Artist Susanne Jasilek, the recent artist-in-residence at the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education, also joins the team.