ArtScapers in North West Cambridge Development

Image of a map of the North West Cambridge Development containing words imagining, being curios, reflecting, co-creating, looking differentlyExploring change at the North West Cambridge Development

How can art and the work of artists help children relate to their city as it grows?

How can children help others to think creatively about these changes?

The NW edge of Cambridge is changing.  A new district is being built with homes and spaces for over 8,500 people to live, work and learn together. The public art programme, curated by Contemporary Arts Society and InSite Arts, has been inviting artists to investigate and respond to these changes through commissioned pieces and a residency and research programme since 2013.  The ArtScapers programme was established in 2016 and invites children and their communities to join in this process through workshops and events. The first three years of the programme are detailed in the individual posts below and we are currently planning 2018/19.

Visit the Public Art website for a web-based resource for ArtScapers developed from this project and other opportunities to engage 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.

Shared below is a film about 'time', a theme explored in one of these immersive workshops in 2017. It is made by artist Susanne Jasilek with children from Mayfield Primary School and illustrates how even very young children can playfully explore and discover complicated ideas when working as ArtScapers.

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.

What I really like about the project is that it gives the kids a sense of say over their environment…it was not like that for my generation. Its lovely being creative and doing a bit of art-I don’t do that any more - and thinking about what community means and how we can bring people together.
Parent feedback, Gravel Hill Open Day, July 2nd, 2016
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 is now the lead artist.

Work from the programme has been re-imagined as an interactive resource and accompanying display materials. These have been shared through exhibitions and events including the University of Cambridge Festival of Ideas:


Artists Sidonie Roberts and Ruth Proctor made this short film of ArtScapers at the University Primary School. The children are exploring Ruth’s own work We are all under the same sky alongside Susanne Jasilek in a CCI workshop:

This short film shows a broom's eye view of our fantastical city resouce being playing with at the Gravel Hill Farm open day (July 2016):

ArtScapers is continuing to build relationships and take inspiration from the processes, creative thinking, research and collaborative practices of the Habitation Artists involved in the Arts Programme. Regular updates are shared below. 

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.

Children drawing outside

Children drawing outside

Drawing by Chaaya and Jiaweby Chaaya and Jiawe

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


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