ArtScapers in North West Cambridge Development

Image of a map of the North West Cambridge Development containing words imagining, being curios, reflecting, co-creating, looking differentlyExploring change at the North West Cambridge Development

How can art and the work of artists help children relate to their city as it grows?

How can children help others to think creatively about these changes?

The NW edge of Cambridge is changing.  A new district is being built with homes and spaces for over 8,500 people to live, work and learn together. The public art programme, curated by Contemporary Arts Society and InSite Arts, has been inviting artists to investigate and respond to these changes through commissioned pieces and a residency and research programme since 2013.  The ArtScapers programme was established in 2016 and invites children and their communities to join in this process.

In May 2019 Ruth Sapsed, together with Headteachers Paula Ayliffe and Sarah Stepney and Rose and Ella (age 8) from Mayfield Primary School, presented the programme to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Design and Craft in Education, sharing our learning from the programme and its impact on children, educators and parents. Tracy Brabin MP (chair of the meeting with Nick Trench, Earl of Clancarty) commented:

What fantastic young advocates you are. Your message to us to slow down is so important. I saw too how important ArtScapers has been for parents and teachers too. An extraordinary presentation. Thank you.

Follow this link to view three films made about various aspects of the programme and visit the public art website for resources to support ways of engaging with the programme. An article by Dr Esther Sayers in the Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education (September 2018) explores the concepts of community engagement and active citizenship in more detail.

A partnership between CCI and Dr Esther Sayers, an artist educator and researcher from Goldsmiths University, the Artscapers programme has worked with Mayfield Primary School, University Primary School and Girton Primary School as well as run events and exhibitions. The posts below give detailed insights into the process whilst this short film celebrates the day when over 300 children from Mayfield Primary School explored Waves, arcs and sparks as they worked creatively together in Storey’s Field Centre:

What I really like about the project is that it gives the kids a sense of say over their environment…it was not like that for my generation. Its lovely being creative and doing a bit of art-I don’t do that any more - and thinking about what community means and how we can bring people together.

Parent feedback, Gravel Hill Open Day, July 2nd, 2016
Gabby Arenge from the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education researched alongside us during year 1 of the project, and reflects here and what it meant to be an artscaper for everyone involved.

Being an ArtScaper means to look at something and make your own ideas. Then, just think of the idea you thought of before and mix it up so you can make something even bigger and newer. Then just design it.. then just find stuff that might be used in the future and use that to help you build it.
Jared, 8, Mayfield Primary School

CCI artist Susanne Jasilek initially lead the planning and facilitating of the workshops in the programme  She reflects on her experiences in year one here. Caroline Wendling took over from Susanne in 2017 and has been joined in 2019 by Filipa Pereira Stubbs. 

Work from the programme has been re-imagined as an interactive resource and accompanying display materials. These have been shared through exhibitions and events including the University of Cambridge Festival of Ideas:

ArtScapers is continuing to build relationships and take inspiration from the processes, creative thinking, research and collaborative practices of the Habitation Artists involved in the Arts Programme. Regular updates are shared below. 

The Museum of the Wild and the Wonder


This was our theme for the Open Eddington Day this year - to join artists Filipa Pereira-Stubbs and Caroline Wendling and together curate a new museum of all things wild and wonderful discovered around the University of Cambridge Primary School and beyond. One hundred and sixty one people visited us during the day and everyone was invited to create their own sketchbook to help them in their exploring, with the request to return and record something for the Museum.

Many different rooms emerged in the vision for this new space; some were outside, some indoors, all were extraordinary. We heard about; a room of wild creatures; a dining room for non-humans (with a man who might invite you to sit under the table); a room where gravity is suspended; a cloud museum: a petting room; and a museum within a museum that has a lift, large tanks of squid and a turtle. Here’s just a flavour of their work:

Many commented on what they sensed as a gift of a generous space and plenty of time to immerse themselves in drawing and talking together –

We will draw for the whole day given half a chance. Alison

Thankyou very much for inspiring us. Please keep on keeping on. Liz, former headteacher.

A first ArtScapers residency


Twenty artists worked in the studio of the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education

There has never been a primary school aged artist residency in a Cambridge University Institution according to Professor Pam Burnard, Chair of the Faculty of Education Arts and Creativities Research Group. Today, working with CCI artists Filipa Pereira-Stubbs and Caroline Wendling there was not one but twenty together with their Headteachers Paula Ayliffe and Sarah Stepney, their ‘Out and about’ teacher Jake Holt and 6 of their parents – Sophie, Isla, Anna, Tricia, Cheryl and Hulya. Esther Sayers also joined us from Goldsmiths University (writer of the original ArtScaper strategy) and as a group we thought about being ArtScapers in this extraordinary space.

Time was taken made to ‘meet’ the building and think about the work that happens there. The children explored together in small groups having set themselves the following questions they were interested in thinking about as they were looking and sketching:

How old is it?
Where does it come from?
When was it made?
What does it represent?
Is it for something?

Twenty artists worked in the studio of the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education

We thought together about what learning is..

It goes in your brain… it goes in your brain and it stays there.  
You make a mistake and you learn from it.
There's a new strand in your brain.
You see things other people didn't.

Work was made in response to these explorations and installed around the bridge area (the corridor into the studio) and in the studio itself.

It’s a portal based on the black hole Yotam It mesmerises you and pulls you in. David

It’s a portal based on the black hole Yotam
It mesmerises you and pulls you in. David

(the library represents) letting the imagination come free. Yotam

(the library represents) letting the imagination come free. Yotam

This room has big windows for inspiration. Athena There are big trees outside to give oxygen for our brains. William

This room has big windows for inspiration. Athena
There are big trees outside to give oxygen for our brains. William

ArtScapers has reawakened my interest as a parent and encouraged me to think about things I used to enjoy.

ArtScapers has reawakened my interest as a parent and encouraged me to think about things I used to enjoy. It has re-engaged us. We’ve been playing at home with mapping our life on big rolls of wall paper. I notice how everyone chats more and friends join in too when they come and play. Tricia (parent)

Visitors arrived and the parents shared their manifesto they’d created together:

As parents we should help ArtScapers:
Be free, without constraint
Be who you are
Look at things in different ways
Tune in to where you are
(show that) Art is not just about sitting down with a pen at a table
(show that) Art is everywhere
(know that) Anyone can do it and there is no wrong answer
Everyone feels valued and can join in
Be excited by life
Take time to stop and stare and slow down
Feel free to use your head/own ideas
Re-imagine and experiment with tools and materials
Share experiences
Have space to talk and listen
Let our children lead and be curious
Value all skills
Value the power of art
Show that it’s good to make a mess
Be a companion and do things together, being open to being surprised
Give space to work things out together

The day ended calling together for us all as ArtScapers

The day ended calling together for us all as ArtScapers to:

Be free
Imagine anything
Have fun
Know anyone can do it, there are no wrong answers
Share and talk
Not rush
Try things out and experiment – make a mess
See that art is everywhere
Keep trying
Move around, be comfortable
Be brave and trust

As they left the children began to talk about who they wanted to share ArtScaping with. Benjamin (9) put this really well - We are the experts and it is much better to be ArtScapers together with someone new to it then they will see and feel what happens… which is much easier than trying to talk about it.

Conversations about the day carried on in the taxis home:

 (I especially enjoyed) meeting new people and making new friends. I’d like the opportunity to work with others again. Toprak

Art doesn’t have to be perfect. Athena

(I enjoyed) going to the different places and thinking about them. Art doesn’t have to be the same can be different. We don’t have time to learn at school. It’s too quick. Venya

With many thanks to the Arts and Creativities research group for inviting these artists from Mayfield Primary School and CCI.

Waves, arcs and sparks


On a Monday in early March we were joined by 360 ArtScapers from Mayfield Primary School to think about what energy looks like and how it moves. The children came in 3 groups throughout the day, taking time on their walk into Eddington to watch the wind and sketch together. Artists Filipa Pereira-Stubbs and Caroline Wendling introduced them to different ways of playing with paper before inviting groups to work collaboratively to create new sculptures. By the end of the day the hall was full of extraordinary pieces and we took time to lie under it and wonder at at our work together. All the materials were then recycled.

We liked how there were ideas but we used our own...making something so large…..that today I folded the paper more than 7 times..making new friends.

We will remember the really high roof, the sounds, the ropes coming down and the stone wall patterns.

We noticed how if you look at the structures at different angles it looks different … can make art with anything…. that what we do is right and not wrong.

Inspiration for the day came from the work of  Hertha Marks Ayrton, a female scientist working in Cambridge 150 years ago and the focus of a new commission for the centre by artist Yelena Popova.

Out and About in 2019


I feel more awake and open now (not like our usual training days)

Year 4 of our ArtScaper programme began on January 4th with the staff of Mayfield Primary School spending the day in Ashlyn Woods, a piece of woodland south west of Cambridge. The school’s twenty teaching staff and their two Headteachers spent a day of quiet exploration and reflection together in this ancient landscape.

Artists Caroline Wendling and Filipa Pereira-Stubbs led a day of thinking together on how to settle and be in this space and what the outdoors can offer their children back at school.  They shared work and ideas by artists including Nancy Holt, Robert Smithson and Nan Shepherd.

Yet often the mountain gives itself most completely when I have no destination, when I reach nowhere in particular, but have gone out merely to be with the mountain as one visits a friend with no intention but to be with him. ……….This changing of focus in the eye, moving the eye itself when looking at things that do not move, deepens one’s sense of outer reality. Then static things may be caught in the very act of becoming.

Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain: A Celebration of the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland, 2011

Reflections on the qualities of the day included:

connections with others, calmness, time to be surprised….to settle and feel comfortable, slowing things down and not overplanning, invitation not instruction.

And the desire to think further about:
how to help children be unselfconscious and do their own thing, how the outdoors works so well as a place to get things wrong, how to offer comfort so can be confident and brave, shifting mindset so I can relax even when not looking how I expected.

Planning prompts were collected in specially created bags for the staff to take back for their second training day as they began to plan their spring term ‘out and about’ work. This initiative at Mayfield begun in autumn 2018 timetables a half a day outside the classroom every week all year for each class. Filipa and Caroline will be supporting one of these sessions for each class after the February half-tem whilst on 4th March the whole school will be visiting Eddington for a day of ‘Waves, arcs and sparks’.

Launch of Storey’s Field Centre


ArtScapers old and new and their families joined us in the garden of this award winning space to share work created this year and together build a new city scape. Working with just wire and wool, space blankets and tissues, an extraordinary community emerged as people of all ages joined in over the afternoon.


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