William Morris College 2023 Outreach

William Morris College 2023 Outreach

ART WEEK was a result of a collaboration between the UK charity Novalis Trust, the Wiltshire-based stone carver and letter artist, Lisi Ashbridge, William Morris School’s Head of Art and Design, Eppie Short and Fresh Air Sculpture.

Held over five days at William Morris School in Stonehouse, this project was funded by the Quenington Sculpture Trust which runs Fresh Air Sculpture, as part of their 2023 outreach education programme. It involved students taking part in a series of indoor and outdoor workshops, led by Eppie and Lisi, as part of a pilot programme recently launched by the charity.

Curator of Education at Fresh Air Sculpture, Emily Bird, who was involved with setting up the William Morris School Art Week, said that the charity’s education programme – which coincided with last year’s outdoor sculpture show – had been a big success with schools and colleges.

“This year we decided to run a range of pilot projects for primary, secondary, and special schools to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds who have physical and mental disabilities and who may struggle to obtain support for the creative arts,” she said. “All the projects we’re backing have the hallmarks of Fresh Air sculpture allowing students to express their creativity without judgment. We’re aiming to create lasting legacies of artwork, developing permanent installations in school grounds, buildings and gardens which will allow the magic of Fresh Air culture to reach students so that they can experience art in nature first hand.”

If the pilot project is a success, the charity hopes it will be possible to run similar programmes every other year, to compliment the main exhibition during the summer at Quenington.

At the start of ART WEEK, WMS pupils worked on a free and abstract writing exercise where they were encouraged to express themselves on paper in a completely uninhibited way. This led them onto a process where they translated their work into mark making which was then developed into artwork using the technique of Carborundum printing and the school’s printing press. The students’ final compositions will be exhibited throughout William Morris School’s communal areas on a permanent basis.

The main objective of the multi-sensory project was to help students grow in confidence, not only in terms of producing mark making and artwork, but also with regards to their language, writing and self-expression skills. It’s about their own personal journey, and creating artwork and writing that is truly special and unique.

During the five days, students were given simple exercises to do, which would represent sounds they’d heard, such as bird song, or emotions that they felt, such as being angry or feeling giddy inside. The aim was to get the students to observe and learn the link between making marks in response to their thoughts, emotions or what they perceive (hear, observe) and how they feel when they make these marks. Every student’s story would be in their own, individual mark-making language.

Students were shown that scribbling could be fun. They could use a range of implements, including a pen, a feather, wool, cotton, pencil, charcoal, etc. to express themselves without the need to make words or letter shapes. There was no wrong answer to this process. Every mark became part of their personal story of therapy through play and print.

“The purpose of the free writing exercise is to allow students to put down on paper whatever comes to mind without trying to interpret it, or forcing it to make sense,” says Eppie. “This is quite a meditative exercise which might help pupils cope with everyday stresses. The activity can be done by students at any time, giving them a safe space to return to whenever they need it. Art and mark making can have a positive effect on mental health whether or not someone considers themselves to be ‘artistic’.”

Lisi said “I was so excited to be asked to take part in this project. It was rewarding to spend the week working in a trauma special needs school, and work with the students on abstract writing, free mark making, mindfulness, and then printing their work.”

Eppie explains that Fresh Air Sculpture has a long-standing relationship with Novalis Trust as a result of the educational art workshop programme it runs for schools and colleges alongside its biennial sculpture exhibition set in the grounds of The Old Rectory in the Cotswold village of Quenington.

“We’ve really enjoyed working with Fresh Air Sculpture over the years because of their non- judgmental and inclusive approach to students with neurodiversity,” says Eppie. “We’re very grateful to the charity for helping to make this ART WEEK possible. Having recently developed a wonderful print studio here at William Morris, we’re delighted that our printing press will be at the heart of the ART WEEK activities.”