This case study from Inspired Responses talks through how a newly-opened arts centre addressed the needs of local schools in its arts programming by working with local artists on a community engagement programme. It covers how to work with schools and teachers to find space in the curriculum for art (at mainstream as well as special schools), and how to make the project cost-effective for all involved. It covers the importance of treating the work created as professional, but also reveals what didn’t work.
A key point I found for success was that I would be present at the first meeting between artist and teacher. Over the years of the project this has become more rather than less evident. By being aware of both sides’ needs and expectations, I was able to match personalities and viewpoints successfully, suggesting possible directions for the work to take, and spotting any potential pitfalls. On a couple of occasions in the earlier years of the programme was I unable to attend these meetings, and subsequently issues developed around the expectations of the artist and the ability of the students.
In the early years, I also attended many of the final sessions, asking the children and teachers how they wanted their work to be displayed (on walls, plinths, hanging from the ceiling or on the floor), and suggesting any modifications they might need to make. This has become less necessary with regularly participating schools, as staff become more familiar with exhibiting work in the gallery space, and willing to communicate their ideas.