Graffitti saying 'Love Art'

Having the time of my life: why we love Arts Award

Jane Gray is an Associate with Blue Cabin, working with us across different programmes. In her blog written for Culture Bridge North East, as part of #LoveArtsAward week, Jane reflects on the difference that Arts Award makes to the children and young people we work alongside.

I remember zines the most, because it was a very funny & cheerful environment. I had an amazing day. Thank you.

Feedback from one of the children who attended the Discover in a Day sessions at The Word last year, through our partnership with South Tyneside Council.

That it was a very funny and a cheerful environment is no surprise, as the artist was the wonderful Blue Cabin Associate, Nicola Golightly. But it also speaks of what we aim for at Blue Cabin – building positive environments, relationships and memories through participating in, and creating, art.

Blue Cabin work in partnership to nurture meaningful relationships between care experienced children and young people and the adults in their lives through the arts and creativity. We’ve developed a range of programmes and worked with different Local Authorities and partnerships since we began in 2016. All of them have included Arts Award. For us, the fact that Arts Award is a nationally recognised qualification, is key. This is partly due to the fact that care experienced children and young people have (for many reasons) lower educational attainment than their peers.  Getting a qualification through Arts Award matters. It’s sometimes the first (or only) qualification they have. But here’s the thing. Arts Award is the start. It can, and does, support children and young people to recognise that they can achieve. But, the qualification isn’t the only reason we embed it into what we do. One of the boys attending our Discover in a Day sometimes found it difficult, and spent some time going in and out of the sessions. We found out that he was not currently in school, as he struggles to attend. He came to the Discover in a Day with a friend and two key adults, so they were able to take time out with him, and he was welcomed back into the session when he wanted to re-join. He ended up staying for the whole day and achieved his Arts Award Discover. Trying new things is a risk for anyone – it’s scary and you’re well out of your comfort zone. And for care experienced children and young people, this can be even more profound, that children, young people and families come and try new arts activities, with new people, in new surroundings is pretty incredible. They are developing new skills in the arts, and developing a growing awareness of the different art forms and opportunities that are available. It’s positive. It’s fun. There’s praise. There’s “…happiness for all.” according to one of the children.  And surely, if we were to have just one mission, it would be that, wouldn’t it?

When children and young people have experienced trauma, and are moved around a lot, friendships can be difficult to build and maintain. Feeling different can be isolating, and social skills and cues can be challenging. Taking part in and creating artwork, working alongside professional artists and other children and young people and creating a portfolio helps to develop all those skills. They’re listening to instructions, they’re making decisions about what they want to create, they’re collaborating with others, they’re devising and experimenting, they’re reflecting on what they’re doing and communicating their opinions with each other.  And, because of Arts Award, they’re recording it in a portfolio of work. Learning. Reflections. Memories.

The children and young people have also learnt / enhanced their social skills through sharing, turn taking and negotiating. (Manager, Creative Care Home)

Part of what we love about Arts Award is that it’s accessible for all children and young people. It’s the advisers job, alongside whoever is managing the project, to make sure that things are in place for children and young people to succeed in Arts Award. It’s about supporting their individuality. Their preferences. Their choice and voice.

We want children and young people to have a great time participating in and creating art. The joy of Arts Award is they have a record of doing it, and they achieve a qualification and receive a certificate.  But ultimately, what they’ve achieved represents so much more.  As one of the children said when asked what they’d done today, and what they remembered most… Having the time of my life.