I'd have to agree with Albert Einstein when he said:
He knew what he was talking about.
Last week I had the standard dad-daughter conversation at the dinner table and soon realised my kids are starving:
"School all OK?"
"How's your art classes going"
"What art classes?"
Great, academically my kids are being starved of art! They're on a strict creativity diet at school with just the odd slice of art if they're very lucky.
"We do some art" said my youngest son "we did drawing on Wednesday afternoon last week". Great.
My kids like art. They enjoy galleries and physically seeing art. OK, I'm an artist so they probably (definitely) get some influence from me, but what if mum or dad don't 'do art'. who's giving them access to art and culture?
I'll tell you who: no-one.
Teachers and schools have their hands tied by academic rulings and new approaches to education so the Wednesday afternoon session is something at least. Maths, English, languages and the sciences are all highly important subjects and we need them, but kids need a rounded education.
I remember as a kid having art classes twice a week where we would draw, build, create and explore different artists, visit museums and hold annual exhibitions in the school hall for parents to come and see what we'd been making.
The chance to show my work off, even at that young age, was something I loved.
Kids need creativity and we all know It's important for their overall development. Imagine the UK with no creative output for the last 50 years? Scary eh? No top 10 music charts, No cutting edge architecture, no award winning designers and no mind blowing fashion statements.
We all love art, some more than others, but we all have something say about it. The annual Turner prize is a prime example of our Marmite approach to the arts and no-one can resist having their say on whether the work is beautiful or appalling. Ask a kid what they think about the work in the turner and you'll be surprised at the range of answers you'll get.
Art and culture is an important ingredient in being human, it just is, and its something that I think should be available to everyone regardless of age or location. Exploration leads to discovery and if we let the kids play with creativity they'll soon learn to create their own individual, unique and inspiring work, and begin to guide the next generation.
"Creativity is contagious, Pass it on"
My role as creative outreach project co-ordinator at De Montfort University gives me the opportunity to make a difference through the art clubs I've set up in the city. The University's Square Mile initiative works with communities, organisations, schools and businesses to offer assistance with inspiring and life changing projects. Our Saturday Art Clubs are one such example and the growing number of families attending each session is proving the fact that the UK needs interventions of this type.
Every Saturday morning, in different locations across Leicester, we invite local kids and families along to attend our free arts workshops. Based at 'StudionAme' in St. Matthews, Thurnby Lodge Community Centre and Beaumont Leys 'E2' Learning Centre, we regularly see more than 40 kids coming through the door. Add this to the parents, grandparents and carers who come along, and join in, and the weekly total for visitors is approaching the 100 mark.
Our session leaders, who are all skilled, experienced professional artists, crafters and makers, have a never ending list of creative projects for the guests to try out and every week the kids walk out of the door with something special in their hands, something that've made and something they can be proud of.
Marcus Dove, (above) is an up and coming star of the contemporary art world and has recently exhibited at Saatchi Gallery in London but he still has the time to come and deliver our Thurnby Lodge art clubs. His attitude and his personality make him perfect to teach kids and you can see he enjoys it just as much as the kids do. The visitors like him because he's as down to earth as a person could be, he doesn't try to control the creative experience in any way and after he's explained what they'll be making he insists the kids experiment with the materials he brings. This leads to some great creations and builds confidence within the kids who have to think for themselves.
Across the clubs we've covered ceramics, drawing, sculpture, installation, painting, street art, photography, printing, sewing, collage, mosaic, knitting, needlework and metal work so far but the opportunities are endless. I've found kids respond to someone who is passionate about their craft and I've been careful to select artists who have something different to offer. Some examples are a Saatchi gallery exhibited performance artist who creates work with rocket launchers and smoke grenades and another is a festival artist who makes and sells art at every major cultural festival in the UK. All of my session leaders are highly inspirational to watch and the kids love it. They not only get taught how to make things but they also get a true insight into the lives of professional artists and their practise.
Imagine being a kid attending your first art club and an artist comes and sits with you for ten minutes and explains how he came from no-where and now he makes art with smoke bombs all around the world?
You couldn't help but be excited and inspired.
So where do we go next?
It's my goal to see more than 100 kids visiting our art clubs each Saturday morning so we'll be extending the locations in 2018 to include a club in the Fosse area of Leicester and one club on the University campus. I have no doubt we'll fill the clubs with visitors each week and this also gives us an opportunity to offer students a chance to volunteer and gain invaluable experience in community based projects across the city.
We'll also be holding our first art club group exhibition in the spring of 2018 at DMU so watch this space...