Where does our stuff come from? Where does it go to? Lead Creative Schools project at Ysgol Cedewain

Over 11 weeks in 2017, poet and spoken word artist Martin Daws inspired and collaborated with 27 pupils at Ysgol Cedewain, their teachers and support staff, to explore issues of interdependence, identity and sustainability. Asking the question “Where does our stuff come from? Where does it go to?”, the project enabled teenagers with complex additional learning needs to learn about the origins of their favourite things, investigate their own sense of identity and to help them become more aware of the effect their actions and choices have on others, both in their everyday lives and on the other side of the world.

Using the green screen

Linked with the Global Learning Programme, the project helped pupils learn about materials, global trade and geography, while developing confidence and skills in literacy, oracy, performance, creative writing and digital competence. With Martin and their teachers, they used voice, sound and rhythm to develop and record rap poems, audio pieces and make physical artworks.
Recording their rap
The project was celebrated with the artist, participants, family members and special guests in a multi-sensory one-day exhibition and event at Oriel Davies. Visitors encountered sound, sculpture, collaged flags, writing and film. Poems in bottles suspended among colourful fish sculptures accompanied the young people's audio piece, ‘Sea of Sad’, about the toxic effects of plastic detritus on marine wildlife. Giant 3D letters and a rap tune written and performed by pupils, reflected their investigations into the origins of everyday things and the vast distances travelled by container ships  to bring these to Wales.

Dancing in the installation at Oriel Davies
As Creative Agent for Arts Council Wales’ Lead Creative Schools scheme, Oriel Davies’ Learning Officer Helen Kozich supported Ysgol Cedewain staff, pupils and artist Martin Daws in delivering a collaborative, creative, multi-sensory learning project. YsgolCedewain is a large day special school in Newtown, Powys which provides education for 119 pupils aged 3 to 19 years, who experience a wide range of educational, physical and sensory difficulties.

Haiku Portraits in a Bottle

Showing in his 2015 solo exhibition at Oriel Davies, Craig Wood’s Dear Olivia was the artist’s response to a young girl’s message in a bottle, which he found washed up on a South Wales beach. In this Oriel Davies outreach workshop with Learning Officer Helen Kozich, a mixed group of Years 3, 4, 5 & 6 pupils at Gladestry C in W School created haiku poems about themselves and their world. After placing these inside recycled plastic drinks bottles, the children decided to create an outdoor art installation with them by hanging their colourful messages inside a willow dome in their school grounds. 

Responses: working with ARTIST ROOMS Francesca Woodman at Oriel Davies

The key turned in the lock and the old door swung open, disturbing a couple of pigeons who fluttered noisily into the roof space. Shafts of October light filtered through the partially boarded-up windows into Newtown’s former police station. Nine young photographers stepped cautiously into the derelict Victorian lock-up, which would be the site to shoot photographs over the next couple of days. The morning had begun a few minutes’ walk away at Oriel Davies, the contemporary art gallery in Mid Wales where photographic artist Toril Brancher introduced the ideas and work of Francesca Woodman and some of the techniques she used to create her photographs. As Foundation Art & Design students at NPTC Group Newtown Campus, their project now was to make their own portraits of each other, using tripods, long exposures and exploring whatever atmospheric light (and smell!) conditions they would encounter as they moved - torches in hand - through the maze of abandoned rooms and empty police cells.

As a Learning Officer at Oriel Davies, I had planned our location visits very carefully, in collaboration with Toril and Art & Design Lecturer, Ian Savage. But I still wasn’t sure how his students would respond to the sensory experience of this particular setting. However, I needn’t have worried – they really got into the spirit of it. More importantly, the photographs they made were tremendous: thoughtful, experimental, atmospheric and ambiguous.

Describing what she liked best about the project, one especially enthusiastic participant wrote: “EVERYTHING! Learning about the artist, going to new locations to take photographs, and having the amazing opportunity to have our work displayed in the gallery! I enjoyed everything! Honestly.” Twenty four Art & Design students worked on the project with Toril Brancher, some of them using their college campus and nearby agricultural buildings to work in, instead of the old police station. A selection of these young photographers’ works can be seen now at Oriel Davies until 25 February, in Responses, alongside ARTIST ROOMS Francesca Woodman. 

How would Francesca be working if she were still alive today? As a photographer, she would quite likely be using colour and digital; perhaps she would be a filmmaker or performance artist. With this in mind, I also invited first and second year Performing Arts students at NPTC Group Newtown Campus, to respond to Francesca Woodman’s photographs – but using their bodies rather than a camera lens. Elinor Randle of Tmesis Theatre spent four days with them, helping them to devise scenes inspired by Woodman’s imagery and thinking in particular about the fragility of human nature; dealing with the expressive body, partner and ensemble work, play and improvisation. Working with lecturers Elizabeth Hebden and Ruth Calvert after these workshops, the students continued to develop their choreography into a single collective short piece for each year group. We really wanted to bring their physical narratives and Woodman’s photographs together at the gallery, and this took place in the lunchtime performance that you can see below.

Oriel Davies’ ARTIST ROOMS project led to new partnerships between the gallery, college staff and workshop artists, which I hope will lead to further collaborations in future. Francesca Woodman’s images - made as a student herself - the emotions they express and her playful working methods provided wonderful starting points for young people as creative practitioners in 21st century Wales.

Helen Kozich, Learning Officer (schools & colleges), Oriel Davies


Responses Oriel Davies ARTIST ROOMS from Oriel Davies on Vimeo.


Dolfor Prints & Books

These colourful A4 accordion-fold albums were made by Key Stage 2 pupils from Dolfor Primary School, to conclude an intensive two-day workshop with Helen Kozich at Oriel Davies in May. The children began by making their own small sketchbooks, then using them to record responses in word and image to some of the artworks in the Oriel Davies Open 2012. This led on to relief printmaking, using inscribed polystyrene plates as well as cardboard collagraphs, printed with lo-tech wooden spoons and our etching press, then presented together in their own artist books.

Making Stop Motion Animations

Artists Chris Oakley and Carolina Vasquez are helping young people from six Powys schools to make their own animated short films. Between March and June 2012, Key Stage 2 & 3 pupils have been working in teams to devise storylines, employ drawing and collage to create scenes and characters, use a rostrum camera and learn about stop motion techniques. Each group spent a whole day with one of the two artists. In one school, teachers also combined these sessions with a lively cross-curricular programme of activities that brought together P.E., art and maths on an Olympics theme.

Everyone taking part first visited Oriel Davies to see film, installation and animation works by Pia Borg, Sybil Montague and Sean Vicary.  Their own very short films will be on show to the public in Oriel Davies' education space this July. Taking part are pupils from Newtown High School and Maesyrhandir, Hafren, Dafydd Llwyd, Churchstoke and Gladestry primary schools.

Based near Wrexham, artist Chris Oakley is currently exhibiting in a major group exhibition at Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Germany. Carolina Vasquez is based in South Wales and has worked on art and film projects with young people as far afield as Florida and Colombia. These 23 days of Oriel Davies outreach workshops have been made possible through grant funding from The Prince’s Foundation for Children & Arts Start Programme, which enables school children from across the U.K. to engage with artists and galleries, often for the very first time.

Designing with Materials / Understanding Electricity

Key Stage 3 students worked intensely with artist Jon Bielstein in full-day outreach workshops following their visits to Paul Granjon’s Oriel Factory. Students engaged in lively group exercises that illuminated how electricity works, then made their own simple switches to control moving elements within their scrap sculptures.

To create these, Jon led them through a series of processes based on designing with materials, prototyping, justifying their decisions and team-working. This project was part of Oriel Davies’ Start programme funded by The Prince’s Foundation for Children & the Arts.

Whirligigs Workshops with Angharad Pearce Jones

Artist and blacksmith Angharad Pearce Jones spent four days in a local school working with Year 4, 5 and 6 pupils, where they created individual ‘whirligig’ constructed sculptures. Oriel Davies will be displaying these and other young people’s artworks made during the 2011-12 Start schools programme in the gallery’s education space this summer term. Angharad is also featured in our Beyond Pattern resource pack for teachers.