Since the launch of Art UK's sculpture project in 2017, we have been working hard to bring sculpture across the UK to life. One way that the Art UK Learning team hopes to achieve this is by connecting local communities with their artistic heritage through creative partnerships. We are delivering this aim through a national programme of events under the banner of 'Sculpture Around You', featuring bespoke projects for a wide range of audiences across the UK.
Working with diverse groups, one of the main aims of Sculpture Around You is to provide creative opportunities for those who may experience barriers when engaging with arts and culture. A great example of this was a recent project with the Scouts Heritage Service and Waltham Forest Young Carers.
The Scouts Heritage Service has a fascinating collection which includes photographs, diaries, letters and objects which tell the story of over 100 years of scouting history. The collection lives at Gilwell Park in east London, which is seen by many as the spiritual home of the scouting movement. Across the extensive grounds there are a number of wonderful sculptures, all of which help to tell the history of the site – from a bust of the Scouts' founder, Robert Baden-Powell, to the Leopard Gates which were carved by Don Potter – who discovered his talent for carving at Gilwell Park in the 1920s and later went on to be a respected professional sculptor.
Recently the Art UK team supported collection staff at Gilwell Park to bring these stories to a new audience, beyond the thousands of scouts that visit their extensive grounds throughout the year, via a new partnership with Waltham Forest Young Carers.
When we first approached Waltham Forest Young Carers, the staff were keen to arrange for a stay at Gilwell Park. Getting away is often difficult for young carers due to the responsibilities they have at home, and their group coordinator was keen to combine the project with the opportunity for a residential. For many of the participants, this was their first experience of camping and whilst their days at Gilwell were spent exploring sculpture, their evenings were spent taking advantage of the extensive range of outdoor adventure activities at the park, from high-wire courses to perfecting their marshmallow-roasting technique over a campfire.
During the day the group focused on exploring the stories behind the sculptures. Supported by professional artist Zoë Payne, they spent four days producing a range of creative responses inspired by the collection at Gillwell, using materials including clay, collage and charcoal.
Ultimately, their artworks were brought together by Zoë into a collaborative animation celebrating Gilwell's heritage.
The project promoted imaginative ways for the group to interact and respond to the sculptures across the site through hands-on making, while also teaching participants how to animate and visually communicate ideas in motion.
The group coordinator reflected that 'staying here allowed so much bonding and shared adventures. It's invaluable.'
One of the young participants said that the opportunity had meant 'I could face my fears and try new things.'
For these young people having a chance to spend time putting themselves first is a rarity, one which many of their peers take for granted. Over the week we saw the young people's confidence, skills and enjoyment grow. They came together as a team supporting each other as well as pushing their own boundaries. For the collection, this was is a real reflection of the ethos of Scouting and Gilwell Park and it was fantastic opportunity to see a new audience access it through the Movement's heritage supported by Art UK.
Sculpture Around You will continue to work with collections and communities across the UK until summer 2020.
Laura Woodfield, Learning and Engagement Manager at Art UK