Exploring 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, called Eddington, with homes and spaces for over 8,500 people to live, work and learn together, is being built. The public art programme, curated by Contemporary Arts Society and InSite Arts, has been inviting artists to investigate and respond to these changes through since 2013. ArtScapers was established as an education programme to support this in 2016. It places children at the heart of the process and has developed innovative ways to engage with the wider community including professional development days, resources, events, exhibitions and an interactive website. 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. This has been made possible with the generous support of the Art Fund, the national fundraising charity for art. It can be read online here or purchased from our shop.
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.
In our fast changing world, where there are few right answers to profound challenges, the work of Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination reveals the power of adventurous thinking, and the role it should rightly have in how we teach and learn.
Tony Juniper CBE, Environmentalist
In the midst of lockdown my spirits are lifted, every day, by the beauty of nature. But I’m so aware that not everyone has the privilege of being close to it. And that many children have watched this glorious spring unfold through a window, or on snatched visits outside. Yet given a chance, contact with nature awakes in us all an immense creativity, enriching our lives, calming our minds and enabling all kinds of possibilities. 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. Follow the link for a diary about this process.
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:
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 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 an interactive resource and accompanying display materials. These have been shared through exhibitions and events including the University of Cambridge Festival of Ideas:
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.