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Thursday, 7 October 2010

‘Hands On’ – Practice Sharing & Creative Consulting

What is ‘Hands On’?
I have been selected to work for ‘Hands On’ a project created by Access to Heritage (part of Liverpool Mencap) Managed by Artist Ticky Lowe, who increase opportunities for people with learning disabilities to create and access art in and around Liverpool. Links to Access to Heritage and other projects I have carried out with Ticky.

Access to Heritage - Naomi Kendrick - Get closer to wildflower seeds

‘Hands On’ focuses on day centres in Knowsley for people with learning disabilities and aims to introduce support staff and their “clients” to new creative activities and give them the confidence and inspiration to continue using their new found skills them selves. This is also an opportunity for myself and the other artists to increase our experience of working with people with learning disabilities.
Access to Heritage - Naomi Kendrick - Banquet
My Practice Sharing & Creative Consulting
This project along with one in development at Fabrica Gallery, Brighton. Sees the realisation of my desire to share my experience and methods in creating multi sensory, self-directed workshops and participatory events for diverse audiences. This work grows out of more informal mentoring, where by arts professionals and recent graduates have consulted me and participated in my workshops as a way of increasing their own understanding of working with diverse audiences. It enables me to draw on methods discovered in an aspect of my own training, with Cemea (centre for active education methods) France. As well as my recent M.A by research through practice ‘What is a multi sensory and participatory arts practice?’ 2009.
Cemea link 

What I will do during ‘Hands On’
My role in ‘Hands On’ is to co – run training for support staff, including providing them with a workshop and then carrying out a further 10 workshops for “clients” and support staff together. I recently had my first day of work on the project, where I joined the two other artists working on the project, and Access To Heritage at a day centre. Here we were given an over view of the project, discussed what needs to be addressed during training, with Jerry and June, two fantastic support workers. And had the indulgent experience of participating (for a change!) in a workshop ourselves, along side people from the daycentre – an affirmation that the most effective method of finding out is to participate.

I found our discussions with Jerry and June the support workers particularly useful, and was keen to contribute to them. We discussed, from the perspective of artists and support workers the following;

-What our roles where within a workshop situation
-What are responsibilities were and were not
-What works and doesn’t work in a workshop involving artists and support workers
-How we would engage the support workers and build their confidence to use creative activities in their work on a regular basis
-Support workers potentially enjoying a workshop ‘too much’ by creating something for themselves and rather than enabling the ‘client’ to do so
-Support workers finding ‘creative solutions’ within an activity rather than worrying about right and wrong
-The importance of everyone involved knowing what will take place prior to a workshop and evaluating afterwards -ground rules for the training such as not using jargon, there are no silly questions.
And much more…

The spoon dolly I made during the 'Hands On' workshop
The “Art” issue
Though most support workers are open to the idea of visiting arts venues and doing arts activities, part of the training we will provide has to take into consideration those who are less confident with the term ‘art’ and are worried about ‘right and wrong’ or what is achievable within this. I find it interesting that this crosses over with my experience of working alongside arts professionals. Here the right and wrong aspect is more likely, though not exclusively, to reference ‘types’ of workshop participants, namely what is the ‘correct’ way to engage people with disabilities in a gallery? Confidence building and the engagement of everyone involved in a workshop, appear to be key.

I am now full of ideas for my forthcoming workshop for support workers.  I realise I will need to show the breadth of what constitutes an art activity & engagement, to demonstrate that activities just need to be tried, to really know what works. And most importantly of all encourage creative and often intuitive thinking to find the right path, within a set of circumstances involving individual participants, that will differ every time - for this reason alone there really can be no right or wrong.

In preparation for my forthcoming training workshop for support staff for the 'Hands On' project, I have been asked, by support staff June and Gerry, to identify the 'good' and 'bad' experiences I have had carrying out workshops for with people who have learning disabilities. This information will be used for discussion during the workshop.

  • Working with fantastic participants and seeing them enjoying themselves through making/experiencing art
  • Participants showing me new things about materials, whether they are appealing, not appealing, and how many things they can be used for/turned into. (this is particularly good for me as I use lots of different multi sensory materials in my own work and I can get an insight into how people will respond to them)
  • Discovering more about each participants personality as they discover new materials and make things.
  • Working with great support staff/group leaders who understand and support what I am trying to achieve in the workshops (particularly the importance of process i.e exploring materials and objects as well as the actual making)
  • Working with great support staff/group leaders who find creative solutions (using their knowledge of the participant) that help participants to get the most out of their time with me.
  • Working with great support staff/group leaders who communicate what participants are interested in, like or dislike, enabling me to have a better working relationship with that participant.
  • Support staff/Group leaders being confident in asking me questions about the activities I am running during the workshop.
  • Sometimes groups are late/have to leave early without much notice so I have to adjust the workshop content quickly.
  • Not knowing the specific needs/interests of a new group of participants
  • Support staff/group leaders making work 'for' the participant or just for themselves, instead of assisting the participant in the making process.
  • Support staff/group leaders thinking there is a right or wrong for participants making art work and being fixed on the idea of a 'finished product' rather than the value of process (making and exploring materials etc)
  • Support staff/group leaders leaving me alone in a room

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