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Beyond the classroom: children and young people in the arts

  • Date: 18 October 2013
  • Artform: Libraries, Literature, Visual arts
  • Area: South West
Young Curators Project, Bristol Museum Galleries & Archives, 2013 Young Curators Project, Bristol Museum Galleries & Archives, 2013, Photo courtesy of Bristol Museum Galleries & Archives

In the South West, the Arts Council is funding innovative projects that give children and young people a meaningful chance to engage with art.

Whether it's a young person's first taste or a possible career path, we support projects, organisations and initiatives to offer children and young people the developmental support, encouragement and opportunities they need to progress.

Raj Patel, Children Young People and Learning Relationship Manager, South West tells us more: 'There really is a lot of interesting work going on out there at the moment. You have the more strategic work being carried out by our Bridge organisation Real Ideas Organisation (RIO), doing things like brokering partnerships between arts and cultural organisations and schools, to smaller projects funded through our National Lottery funded Grants for the arts scheme.

'Two great examples are Bristol's Room 13 Hareclive, which runs a self-sustaining artist studio space in the school playground, and the recent Creepy House Dance Tour, which went around libraries in the South West as part of the national Summer Reading Challenge.'

Here are two South West projects, by Literature Works and Bristol Museum, Galleries & Achives, that represent the range and diversity of work for children and young people going on in the Area.

Literature Works: Read/Write South West

In February 2012, Arts Council England National portfolio organisation Literature Works embarked on a 15-month project funded by Big Lottery called Read/Write South West, the aim of which was to help libraries build collaborations and dialogue with their local communities.

The project worked with nine library services: Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Plymouth, South Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, and Torbay.

As the South West's literature development agency, Exeter-based Literature Works, was able to use its expertise in developing activities across the Area for people of all ages.

Literature Works undertook an eight-month consultation to establish the participating library's needs and challenges. From this consultation, a huge range of activities and projects were developed, including travellers' projects, young people writers' squads (writing support group), poetry readings, writing and storytelling workshops and long-term writers residencies in libraries.

Read/Write South West and the nine library services worked with 19 partner organisations, dozens of librarians and teachers, over 80 South West based writers, and over 4,000 members of the public, ranging in age from six to 90.

One of the project's key successes - and legacies - is the South West Young Writer Network. Tracey Guiry, Chief Executive of Literature Works, tells us more.

Tracey said, 'During the project, we established nine groups of young writers in libraries and community groups around the region. Our evaluation from this project has shown that we have a huge demand for this work, and we are working with the groups to develop best practice and help them become sustainable.

'We continue to support them by providing a central hub of information, funding and writers, which will not only enable the groups to support more young people to develop their talent, but also benefit from a whole range of other social and life skills.

'We will provide symposia and training days so that skills, experience and expertise can be shared and developed, and we are working with our partners across the sector and in publishing to bring added value to the work.'

To learn more about the project, see

Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives: The Young Curators Project

This summer, Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives launched a three-month project to give young people a chance to develop their curatorial and marketing skills as part of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize, which opened at M Shed on 20 July and is on until 3 November 2013.

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize was organised by the National Portrait Gallery and presents 60 shortlisted portraits by some of today's most talented emerging photographers alongside those of established professionals.

For the Young Curators project, Bristol Museum worked with 13 young people aged 16 to 24 from three Bristol-based partner organisations - Knowle West Media Centre, University of the West of England (UWE) and Arnolfini, which runs the Young Arnolfini scheme - plus a project leader from each organisation. Some of the young people who got involved were studying photography as part of their university studies, while others were just keen to get involved in the arts or wanted to develop their curatorial skills. One of their designs was then actually used to inform the hang of the exhibition, which was a fantastic outcome.

Kerrie Dodd, Marketing and Communications Officer at Bristol Museums tells us more.

Kerrie said, 'We held two half-day workshop sessions where the Young Curators and their leaders came together. The Young Curators also had the opportunity to join museum curators and conservators to learn the behind the scenes processes involved in developing an exhibition. This experience informed their decision on how the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize should be hung. They discussed different approaches to how the photographs could be displayed, the issues surrounding particular portraits and how the placement of the images could affect the experience for the visitor.

'The group also helped us with marketing the exhibition to attract other young people. They made audio recordings about the photographs that had a meaning to them.  Visitors are now able to listen to these audios via QR codes in the gallery using their smart phone or mobile technology device.'

As a result of the Young Curators experience, a few of the young people have started volunteering with Bristol Museum and Arnolfini.

UWE student and Young Curator Kelly Lear said, 'The project has given me an insight into the role of a curator and how an exhibition is put together.  I have had to consider what photographs complement and work with each other to create a successful exhibition, something I have not had to think about before. It was a great opportunity to be able to have a say in the curating of such an exciting photographic exhibition.'

Read one of the Young Curator's blog about the experience: