Exploring 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 invites children and their communities to join in this process. Visit the Public Art website for a web-based resource for ArtScapers developed from this project and other opportunities to engage with the programme.
A partnership between CCI and Dr Esther Sayers, an artist educator and researcher from Goldsmiths University, the Artscapers programme began in 2016 when it worked with both Mayfield Primary School and the University Primary School. There were a series of creative workshops and events for children, their educators and their families:
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 leads the planning and facilitating of the workshops in the programme. She reflects on her experiences in year one here.
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 2016 University of Cambridge Festival of Ideas:
Artists Sidonie Roberts and Ruth Proctor made this short film of ArtScapers at the University Primary School. The children are exploring Ruth’s own work We are all under the same sky alongside Susanne Jasilek in a CCI workshop:
This short film shows a broom's eye view of our fantastical city resouce being playing with at the Gravel Hill Farm open day (July 2016):
Our year 2 programme will work again with Mayfield Primary School and the University of Cambridge Primary School but will also invite the community from Girton Primary School to join in. It 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.
ArtScapers talk brilliantly about the concept of time in this short film.
Bob can talk to his friend through his hair!
(by Susanne Jasilek) A weird and wonderful collection of new and diverse entities and environments were made by the Girton ArtScapers on our final week together. I invited them to think about identity, difference, connections and what it might take to make future communities.
The subject of our workshop was inspired by Melanie Manchot, the current commissioned habitation artist on the North West Cambridge Development site. She generously shared with us some of her processes and the starting points of her current new work based around what a community might be from different perspectives. It was fascinating to hear some of her ideas and plans and very exciting - local people will be able to witness and attend some of her work in future months.
We decided to think about what a future community might be and also the inhabitants of a future community. The children were invited to each design and create a new entitiy or life form in plasticine. They could be animal, plant, machine or a new type of future human. Some extraordinary designs and hybrid forms evolved - a new type of population. Diverse, original and full of possibilities.
A scary one: It can kill everyone with his expensive golden sword….paralyse everyone with his weird eyes
A peculiar one: A half human, half worm - he will eat anything including the moon.
A beautiful one: The dream flower is a strong and powerful flower. It takes all your dreams
Mr Smart Face is a house. It has a gun and a wand. Also bracelets and lots of cool stuff.It is a walking house that talks
A sinister one: It makes people do anything it wants and its an electric jupiter that keeps the eye in the sky
A practical one: A walking washing machine robot called Bert who lies in any household with dirty washing and has a user warning - May eat the odd sock!
And a kind one: My creature is a flower that can walk, move and only say kind words. It is yellow and small
In order to create some unity they brought their figures together in small groups with other entities. They had to look at the shapes and colours and personalities of these different characters and talk to each other about their entities requirements - eating and sleeping patterns, habits, interests and habitats. With this knowledge to take into consideration they began to design an environment where their group of entites could live together and where all their needs might be addressed and met. This involved lots of discussion, problem solving and resolving a dispute or two. Our new small communities were created! We walked around them like visitors to a miniature model town.
COMMUNITY OF LIFE’ - we are all different and we are happy about it. If too many creatures come the land disappears.
THE PLACE OF EVERYTHING - we share everything. its happy and always has fun activities. It has everything that the things need.
MUSHROOM NIGHTS at Freddies - their awesome life was about Freddie the evil animatronic and a hero called bob who always says ‘I’m a cute fuzzball’.
MUSHROOM LAND - a giant mushroom community that provided food which always grew back and shelter.
INFSSY - where every morning there is a meeting after which they can go to the beach, park, river or theme park. They have dinner, go to a disco and go to bed at 11.30 pm.
Wolf carpet and a boxing ring
(by Susanne Jasilek) We enjoyed a really stimulating 2nd day with ArtScapers at Girton School. Having visited the North West Cambridge development site together a couple of weeks before, we started by thinking about architectural plans and aerial views. I asked the children to imagine their bedrooms with no roof or ceiling and being a bird or even a drone looking down. What do familiar things in our rooms look like from above? What shape is a person (a circle blob - some children suggested) or a familiar object? What is the relationship between objects in the room? This involved a lot of concentration and working out as extraordinary drawings evolved. I then asked them to add an object into their rooms that they did not have. Here are just a few:
A dragon’s egg, a chocolate machine, sushi, time machine, doughnut, studio lighting, a wolf carpet, a unicorn, a money maker, a magic staff, puppies, kittens, magic handbag, slide, owl, pet horse, flying horse, boxing ring, flower pillows and a rocket.
The children carefully placed them as if in an exhibition in order to view and admire each other’s work.
Then we thought about the new Fata Morgana tea house by contemporary artists Winter & Hoerbelt currently being installed at the site; the materials, how it might be used, how they can soon visit it with their families. Having viewed pictures of other tea houses and pavilions old and new from around the world, they worked in pairs to design and make models of their own ‘tea house’ type structures. What emerged were rich dialogues between partners and innovative and complex shapes of buildings - each tea house had particular functions and uses. Some were executed religiously from working drawings and some changed as they were built. All were totally original and unique.
Zaki and Freddie said we are making a prototype in case it goes wrong. It’s going to be a bit like a pyramid.
William and Mason talked about what they would find tricky and struggle with - I’m struggling with what to make the walls out of.
Freya and Coco called theirs a material tea house. We’re going to add a roof and you can enter from all sides. We just liked the shapes. they look really vibrant and different. It involves an obstacle course through it.
Ella and Ellie thought about the quality of the light in particular - we’ve called ours the little green tea house. When you walk under the green roof it will be all green above you.
Tristan, Ruth and Hannah created a kitty milk room with a spiral to the roof terrace There will be 9 or 11 kittens at a time. We’re going to add more and more and more.
Evan created a unique tower working quietly and determinedly on his own. Their teachers also enjoyed taking the time to work alongside them.
Conkery and Gonga
(by Susanne Jasilek) Girton Primary School joined us as Artscapers this week. Two classes walked from school to the North West Cambridge site – well over 2 miles - and arrived full of talk of the recent political events.
The invitation as before was to prospect, explore, collect, analyse findings and imagine the future. Together we played with different techniques of cataloguing and identifying including: drawing around shapes and forms; observational drawing; scaling up and down; representing and looking at textures; leaf rubbing; and also making colours from the leaves themselves and naming them. Freya created a new green - hoola baloo - and a brown - fab weena.
Strong individual drawings emerged and the room was soon transformed into a gallery of beautiful work.
As new explorers arriving at a strange place for the first-time names needed to be found and invented. The leaves, berries, chestnuts and sticks collected on the walk there were called things like joy, tiny chest-natongas, medium stoneongas, tangaboo, conkery, gonga and abcdefg.
You use a tobba for making chairs. Mern is used to make animal feed.
With a mixture of materials both natural (wood, leaves etc) and the type of things archaeologists will find in the future (computer and electoral components) the children worked in groups to create extraordinary sculptures. This involved negotiating, working collaboratively, talking, reflecting, and experimenting with ideas of balance and combining. New worlds and creations emerged - a secret den, a control tower that controlled the wind and an amazing huge futuristic tree where three girls gave me a description that sounded like a poem:
Trees and berries, Tree from the future, Snails grow on trees, and only maybe one berry, one leaf
Island of Paradise by Ella, Coco and Ellie
Tectonic nature island by Kirsty, Hannah and Bea
Space machine by Sofia and Jessie
by Sonnie, Yusuf, Jake and Finlay
Space ship by Dominic and Seth
Pecas playhouse by Ashanth, Abisaiyen and Jan
We will be sharing more ArtScaper adventures with them in school after half-term.
Aid and Abet and Pope and Guthrie are contemporary artists who were both chosen as Habitation Artists working on the North West Cambridge development site art programme. Their work and processes acted as the catalysts and springboards in the designing of the workshops for local school communities.
What is a tea house?
What is a tea house? What does it feel like? How was it made? Who designed it? What did they have to think about?
(Susanne Jasilek) There is a brand new tea house designed by artists Wolfgang Winter and Berthold Hörbelt's on the North West Cambridge Site (image shows artists’ visualization). It will soon be open to the public and Sam Wilkinson, Director of InSite Arts and part of the public art programme, came to share news of it with the children.
She talked about the plans, intentions and processes of the artists, describing the materials used and the way they worked with them. We thought about the interior and how people in the future might use it. Sam also talked about the theme of WANDERING as the idea behind this work and its placing beside the lake on the site.
We looked at examples of the tea houses from all periods in history and different parts of the world that I shared with the children before inviting them to work with a partner to create their own. I modelled how they might use materials - unmade up boxes, curving card using tape and glue to make a form that is not necessarily square or box shaped and Indicating how they could then colour or decorate it with felt pen, pastels, tin foil, coloured cellophane. There were also tubes and sticks and different types of tape, a tube of silver insulation material, tissue paper, cut up coloured plain plastic bags. I emphasised that ideas might not work, that things might fall down and that this was all part of the task. Things could be rebuilt or worked out a different way.
There were no rules or instructions other than to use their imagination and to work in collaboration with their small group or partner just as Winter and Hörbelt had done. If they didn't drink tea they could make a milkshake or a juice house.
At first it was hard for some to think of 3 dimensions and how to make it stand up but soon everyone was constructing innovative shapes and complex uses for their buildings including the interiors.
I cut out cardboard for the roof and I made a box. I played with it for a bit. I sat down for a bit. Then I stuck these on. Morley
Giang and Chunhe made a dinosaur boat to go the tea house. Yashoda, Juno and A’Sharia made a haunted café with spooky flowers and a glistening floor that was spooked by real bats. All the teahouses held stories, how they came to be made, how the different materials and shapes were, how things had been difficult, and how the building would be used.
To end the session the children curated a make-shift exhibition in the hall and had a chance to introduce their ideas and finished works. They are finally exhibited in the library for the larger school community to enjoy.
Having had to consider so many things around being an artist, thinking creatively and constructing, they are very excited to visit the full scale Fata Morgana Teahouse one day.
Explore ArtScapers in North West Cambridge Development