Case Study

'We Connect'

A Sunderland Cultural Partnership Explore Arts Award project
Delivered by No Limits Theatre (NLT), Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art(NGCA) & Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens (SMWG)

Prior to the start of this project NLT, NGCA and SMWG were all working with schools in different ways; NLT were delivering comprehensive packages for pupils to discover the arts and to gain their Arts Award qualifications from Discover through to Silver level, NGCA focus was on artist-led one day gallery based workshops inspired by the exhibition programme and SMWG were delivering in-house curriculum linked sessions in the museum, gallery and gardens.

In October of 2014 NLT, NGCA & SMWG embarked upon a pilot project with three schools that aimed to build upon and share our wealth of experience. We wanted to open up new opportunities for schools and create an enhanced offer for children and young people.

The approach
It was important to all involved that the project would be delivered in a way that was accessible to young people of all needs and abilities. We wanted to foster creativity, communication and leadership skills and build self-confidence.

‘We Connect’ was all about engaging the participants in an exciting range of arts activities and experiencing, trying, doing and enjoying new things.

The delivery
We delivered the four sections of the Arts Award as follows:

Part A: Inspire
All the young people created a ‘Cultural Map’ of Sunderland. They looked at the key venues and organisations and examined what happened and who might work in each. They also created images of artists and people who work in the arts.

The first Arts Activity was at NGCA working with visual artist Louise Bradley. She took the children on a tour of a section of the gallery and following this they created their own paintings inspired by the artist Phoebe Unwin. The second activity included looking working with SMWG to discover prehistory through their collection and a variety of activities such as a timeline and object handling. This was followed by a performance by NLT, a question and answer session with the cast and a drama workshop.

Part B: Explore
The artists explored were visual artist Louise Bradley, No Limits performer Carolyn Fairley and musician Hank Hayes. The organisations explored were NLT, NGCA & SMWG.

Part C: Create
No Limits worked with each school group to create a short performance that combined text, drama, physical theatre and music. The work created was inspired by the experiences so far and produced a rich and beautiful range of inclusive performances.

Part D: Present
Each school hosted a family assembly and the young people shared their performance, cultural maps and portfolio work. The audience were asked to give feedback on what they had enjoyed and any areas that could be improved in the future.

The Future
This has been a truly inspiring and deeply rewarding project. ‘We connect’ has set the foundation for and established a successful model for schools to achieve all or part of an Arts Award through working with cultural organisations in Sunderland. This way of working will also be a key part of our journey and ambition to become the country’s first Arts Award Supporter City.