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. A recent project with Howard Community Academy is here and current projects with The Eco-Capabilities Project are here. Shared below are updates from our work with Thongsley Fields Primary School in Huntingdon, from our new ArtScaping project run in partnership with Cambridge Acorn Project. Other examples of projects with Primary Schools in our region can be explored through our Fantastical Cambridgeshire work.
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:
Know anyone can do it, there are no wrong answers
Share and talk
Try things out and experiment – make a mess
See that art is everywhere
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.
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).
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.
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.