The John Hansard Gallery’s Head of Education, Dr Ronda Gowland-Pryde, discusses the importance of accessibility to the arts ahead of her appearance later this week speaking at Creativity & Life Chances: Artswork Conference 2017, alongside other leading professionals in the field from around the country.
Image: Department for Doing Nothing, © John Hansard Gallery
In the last few weeks I traveled across England and Wales giving talks about the value of arts and culture for the National Association of Gallery Education (Engage). More specifically, these talks have been within the context of youth justice and partnerships for learning in the arts and Higher Education as the John Hansard Gallery is regarded as an innovator and exemplar of best practice in these areas (among others).
Since joining the Gallery in 2000 after graduating from my first degree in Art & Design History, I have been fortunate enough to be actively part of and witness a significant development in the way in which we both capture and advocate for the contribution that the arts and culture make. Having moved from the south coast in Kent to Southampton in 1996, the city undoubtedly has an incredibly rich arts and cultural offer. Working with a wide range of audiences through my role in learning and engagement – from families, children, young people and schools, to young people who have offended, diverse community groups and adults – it is evident that the arts play a vital role in our wellbeing, personal as well as skills development, lifelong learning and of course, creativity. In the case of our work in Youth Justice, this also includes re-engagement with learning and accreditation (Arts Awards) which has supported the process of desistance from re-offending at both primary and secondary level. As the Manager of Southampton Youth Offending Service noted:
In our line of work I believe that it is absolutely vital that we are creative in our approach to developing opportunities for young people that they, and indeed we, can build upon. Re-engaging young people with education, training and employment is a key priority us, not only because we want the best outcomes for the young people we work with, but because evidence tells us that accessing ETE [Entry to Education and Training] is a key factor in reducing offending. Our partnership with the John Hansard Gallery, other arts organisations as well as the excellent programme artists-educators, has enabled us to successfully do this.
This work highlights how art is and should continue to be accessible for everyone and that the Gallery, along with our other arts and cultural partners at the University of Southampton, supports not only the cultural, but also the social life of City of Southampton, including that of our student and staff communities. In essence, arts and culture helps to bring a sense of collegiality and community as we endeavour to develop and support genuine creative experiences which stimulates challenges and ultimately enhances our lives.
After listening to the evidence presented by the speakers about the arts and youth justice at the ‘Unlocking Potential’ seminar that I spoke at in Denbigh for Engage Cymru a few weeks ago, during the panel discussion, the Director of Youth Justice Board Wales made a firm commitment to supporting arts and cultural programmes in their services for young people. The testament of advocacy is progressing as the Gallery progresses in continuing to innovate, develop and make the case.
For further information about the Youth Justice Engage Cymru talk mentioned in this blog, go to;
‘Unlocking Potential’; https://www.engage.org/summer-arts-colleges.aspx#Documentation
For further information about the John Hansard Gallery’s wider work with youth justice, click here.