The Future for Residential Arts Residentials?
Posted on 7th March 2019 at 12:02
Residential Arts Education for Children and Young People is a sector that occupies a unique but lonely space somewhere between outdoor education and arts centres per se. It struggles to find a wide and appreciative audience and is, within residential education literature, forever lumped into the category of ‘outdoor education’. However, for those of us who believe the arts can and should be an intrinsic part of our education system, ‘residential arts’ has much more to offer and will hopefully soon be recognised as a sector in its own right.
My first experience with arts in a residential context began in the early 90’s when I was employed as an environmental and nature studies practitioner in Beacons based Dan yr Wenallt Study Centre. At the time, and as a student of Creative Arts, I found myself using drama, music and visual art to support the programmes of study. In the nineties, I worked with the social action charity RE:generate; using residential arts programmes as powerful tool to further the aims of community organising, specifically when listening with young people and developing creative social action projects. In 2013 I became Head of Centre at Ingestre Hall; the only dedicated residential arts centre in the UK and a centre that has delivered creative arts programmes for more than 125,000 children and young people during its 60year history as an arts centre. What I have learned is that residential arts education experiences transform perceptions about identity and possibility, challenging notions of who we are and should be as a society, and providing children and young people with the motivation and skills to become creative ‘change makers’.
We are currently facing a crisis in arts education, with a Government that regards the arts merely as an intellectual pursuit and promotes its consumption as a ‘fashion accessory’. We need, more than ever, to demonstrate the value that the arts can have in promoting a shared common vision and enabling a deeper and more productive cultural exchange to develop. The arts can provide the sustenance for our emotional and mental well-being and support a new creative economy to grow, where all can be producer, audience and participant.
Its early days, even in my own sector, the great minds fail to appreciate the distinction between arts and outdoor residential education. However, there are signs that things are changing; Learning Away, as national consortium advocating for ‘brilliant residentials’, are asking positive questions about the role of arts education, Arts Award is a growing feature within schools and outdoor education centres are diversifying offers to include creative activities. We will soon see the emergence of new residential arts education centres and I look forward to supporting the growth of what is sure to become an increasingly valuable tool in civil renewal throughout the UK.
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