Christina Ingram writes from Fremantle:
Week Two – Settling In
This week we discussed with David and Chris our program. Talking through what enjoyed and we didn’t where we felt we were gaining valuable experience and where we felt we weren’t. This was a great opportunity to change and adapt our initial schedule.
During our two weeks we have seen many different workshops and different methods of delivering them. Some have given us inspiration for our own projects and given us experience on delivering a workshop to a different audience. In other workshops we felt that we weren’t learning anything new or gaining any new experiences. So we’ve changed our program to get the most out of our time here.
Wednesday 24th October
Today was my birthday and it was such a great day to be back in the printmaking workshop. This group is highly creative and productive and there are high levels of work being produced by everyone, of all abilities. There always seems like there is something to do and help with as well as new skills to learn. As I assisted David with sewing his buttons onto his work, James learned how to use a sewing machine! After I had finished helping David I went to give Chris a hand to screen-print onto his t-shirt. Chris does some amazing drawings and he kindly let me have his image screen-printed onto my apron. My first birthday present!!
The workers accompanying the participants spoke about how they feel the workshop has had a positive effect on their clients. One discussed how their client had been deliberately isolating themselves but now was choosing to go and sit under a tree with other participants. Another worker spoke about how she doesn’t have the funding to bring her client anymore, but because the benefits of the workshop were so clear to her that she was coming anyway. She feels the workshop is important and a valuable part of her social and creative life.
It was inspiring to hear from health professionals how successful they felt these workshops are. It gives me a greater understanding of the importance of projects such as these and gives me inspiration and encouragement to take back to England and to carry on doing this work.
After an embarrassing chorus of Happy Birthday and an amazing birthday cheesecake we went to get my next birthday present, our bikes!!!
We went up to this amazing place called Ferns, a community garden, with a raw food café, chickens roaming free and a recycled bike shop. After trying out a few bikes and getting the seating lowered we picked our bikes! And away we go…
In the afternoon I got chance to sit in on one of Chris’ Intervention groups. Everyone showed me their work and explained to me what the intervention projects are and what they were about. It all seems really fascinating and I cannot wait to join them in taking their works into the public arena.
In the evening we went to see Denise Scott, an Australian Comedian (and a star on our new favourite TV show Winners and Losers) up at the Fremantle Art Centre. It was a hilarious evening and a great way to end a fantastic day!!
Friday 26th October
UK Inspired Workshop
We started off by doing some simple drawing exercises, going back to basics, with the intention of welcoming the group in case some were nervous or anxious. We wanted the session to be laid-back and with nothing that felt too difficult.
Some activities were less successful than others, particularly when we tried to transplant one technique to another media. (for example, continuous line drawings in ink just weren’t going to happen!)
One of the new students’ work was bright and colourful and appeared to have taken a long time to do and had been produced in a controlled manner. She wasn’t keen on joining in on the drawing activities – perhaps too big a first step? Perhaps we should push her a bit more and encouraged her to join in? This was a testing experience for the both of us. Having never being in charge of a group like this before, we weren’t overly sure what the right action was to take. The participant appeared to be getting stressed, and we felt totally out of our comfort zones.
After a brief conversation with her mother, we were told to make her do the activities and she was told she had to listen. We were being too soft on her and we needed to toughen up. It is our job as to deliver the workshop to get everyone to take part.
A new approach was taken. From looking at her previous, brightly coloured works, we decided to introduce coloured inks into the activities, rather than just black ink and pencil, to make it more appealing for her to take part. It worked and she was joining in, in no time. After the drawing activities we even managed to do some mono printing!
Other participants seemed to really enjoy and engage with the drawing exercises. Getting into the spirit of it and genuinely seeming to get a lot from the exercises. We all shared our works with each other. This was a good way of getting to know each other and made the session much more relaxed. It was also a great way for us to see everyone’s work and their abilities. One of the students is keeping a journal and was interested in seeing ours too. We asked if we could have a look, if appropriate, as we felt this would be really good feedback for our professional development and makes our work here richer.
Saturday 27th October
Here come the Kids
On Saturday we did our first Art Link session. This is the children’s workshop. It was absolutely mad but fun!! It sessions were full. We were told not many children had been coming so it may be quiet however everyone was there which meant it was a bit wild!! The morning group is aged between 6-12 and the afternoon group is 13-17.
This week in preparation for the knitting hub, which is opening as apart of the Fremantle Art Festival, the children were working in wool. Making god’s eyes, pompoms and wrapping their initials and other letters in different coloured wools The morning group seemed to have more trouble engaging with the activity than the afternoon session, especially the god’s eyes. However they really enjoyed playing and being tactile with the different wools engaging with the bright colours and textures.
With not working with teenagers before we were anxious about working with the teenagers in the afternoon session. They are a totally different group of individuals to anyone we have ever worked with before and this was daunting. However we were totally wrong and they were great! The group was very social and a pleasure to work, converse and interact with all the teenagers in the group. It was a good experience to work with older children with varying disabilities. Learning how to deliver a workshop and to engage with a totally new age group to any we have worked with before.
Reflection for the week
So far we haven’t seen much if any active reflection or evaluation within the workshops themselves. There is no documentation of what activities that take place, and what the participants achieve.
Whether this evaluation and reflection takes place another time is something we are interested in. I’m sure reflection, of sorts, does take place at some point. Could it be at the end of each term or project? This is something we would like to investigate. When and how does it happen? Is their evaluating practice something we could take back and incorporate into our own working practice?
Hey Christina (and James!),
So nice to hear stories from Perth!
Just thought I’d comment on your closing comments there, about the lack of reflection you’ve witnessed. I have to say that not getting the chance to reflect and not having any structure for reflection is very common within my varied places/modes of arts employment. This has been echoed in conversations I’ve had with people here in the last week. In my DADAA Artlink group we do have a form that we fill out to reflect on how each child participated, both artistically and behaviourally. Even then we could probably do with a bit more reflection on how the activities flowed, how we worked together. In some of my other roles reflection at its best will take the form of a debrief in a meeting. And for solo projects… reflection in the past has probably been me, my thoughts and a cup of tea (did I drink this much tea in Perth? Haha).
I just wanted to let you guys know- that Mary is really the reflection expert and in working with her you have undertaken the most excellent of reflective training! You guys are streets ahead of me in knowing what kind of reflection will be most beneficial to you and how to make that happen. It’s really great- I hope to come out of this experience with some of the wisdom you two have!
Looking forward to chatting with you about this more in person!
PS. Poppy just arrived! Yay!
Thanks for your comment.
I am being to discover that the reflection is done in a very different way over hear. Its really interesting to know how people assess their projects and what other ways there is to do it. James and I have been on the case this why really trying to find out about how this is done. A lot of what we have discovered is that some of the evaluation is much more business way then the way in which we reflect our practice. Perhaps that has a lot to do with how the organizations are run and what is expected from the funders? As an artist developing my professional skills I am keen to find out about how it is done. As I feel it is such an important part of our practice do find out how a project is run and how it can be developed further.
I have to say the tea is Australia doesn’t quite meet my British standards perhaps this is why you’re drinking much more!! That and the weather.
I’m really enjoying reading all your blog posts it sounds like you’re having and amazing time! Looking forward to meeting you. And hearing all about it.