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. 

Visit the Public Art website for a web-based resource for ArtScapers developed from this project and other opportunities to engage 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.

Shared below is a film about 'time', a theme explored in one of these immersive workshops in 2017. It is made by artist Susanne Jasilek with children from Mayfield Primary School and illustrates how even very young children can playfully explore and discover complicated ideas when working as ArtScapers.

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.

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:


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):

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. 

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.

The most delicate thing in the world


(by Caroline Wendling)

Strutures for wandering in by Nora and OrlaStrutures for wandering in by Nora and Orla (left) and Ella D and Iriyana (right)

Strutures for wandering in by Ella D and Iriyana

There was great excitement as we set off from the Storey’s Field Centre to Eddington lake. I planned to get the children looking at a distance at the incredible structures by artists Winter and Hörbelt.

from the Storey’s Field Centre to Eddington lake

As we looked carefully at the Fata Morgana building from a distance across the water we saw a hare and made eye contact. Nature once more decided to give us its full range of beauty. Hares were included in many of the drawings.

Maks Drawing

We also drew the Pixel Wall from a distance first before experiencing it close up. Both structures provided us with tactile and visual wonders. Sofia noticed that if she looked closely at the pixel wall small squares edges she could see double!

Pixel wall small squares edges she could see double!

The children moved through the Fata Morgana Tea House many times, observing the landscape from within. Drawings were produced from every corner of the structure.

Drawings were produced from every corner of the structure.

Drawings were produced from every corner of the structure.

Drawings were produced from every corner of the structure.

The experience of the structures and their position on the side of the lake made for an enchanted moment; we gave the children time to be enchanted and absorbed in the beauty of the place. There was time to see their world from a different perspective.

These experiences fed into the afternoon session. Children were asked to work in groups of two first planning and then making their very own Tea Houses. The weeks of working together today demonstrated true collaborative skills. A group of boys decided to join forces (Tommy, Telis, Noah and William) and delighted in what they were creating….It's so delicate!! It's going to be so delicate. It's going to be the most delicate thing in the world.- Telis added - It will be made of plexiglass the colour of diamonds and the softness of marble so people can see in and out.

Iriyana and Ella D. planned a building with a - rainbow waterfall - on its roof.  Whilst Alesia and Esha’s building had - a ghost with a mud staircase and a translucent elevator and it has an entrance with traffic lights so that people know when to go in and out. The building is for ladies only.

Drawing by Sofia and Ella PDrawing by Sofia and Ella P. drawing

Structure by Alesia and EshaStructure by Alesia and Esha

Alper and Tobias resolved where to draw their flowers by including them in the sky and on the ground.

Alper and Tobias resolved where to draw their flowers by including them in the sky and on the ground.

From their drawings and plans the children made their Tea Houses out of materials challenging to sculpt with such as space blankets and gardening wire. They worked hard. I was struck with the idea that all structures might be entered for the London Serpentine Gallery yearly pavilion competition and some might be considered good enough to build! I believe we had a class full of architects and artists with very good ideas of what we need for a better society.

Tea Houses out of materials challenging to sculpt with such as space blankets and gardening wire

Communities for all


(by Caroline Wendling)

We began our day by asking children what is a community? - Everything around you said Orla. Then we invited them to create their own mind maps of what a community might include. Giang described it as where you write down your ideas…. you can share your ideas. And their shared mind maps proved brilliant spaces for the children in pairs to think, discuss, debate and share their ideas. They were striking in their individuality.

Ella P, Stella and Waka’s had the weather, bug toilet, ghosts and a love room.
Alper, Esha and Sofia’s had muddy puddles to get dirty in and sewers
Rezwan and Ayaan’s had a cave shelter, a tree house a hospital and a mosque

Tommy and Noah, and Maks with Bradley and William creating their mind maps


Boy drawing

Tommy and Noah, and Maks with Bradley and William creating their mind maps

Tommy and Noah, and Maks with Bradley and William creating their mind maps

Then using these mind-maps the children began to work with large scale outlines of Eddington, creating new communities for themselves. The exercise was taken very seriously by everyone. Children’s drawings often went beyond the line circling the built area -  just like developers they moved into the landscape. George added to the school an orange pool with orange water.  Alper, Esher and Sofia wanted spaces for veggies and fruits and greens and trees and spaces to play.


We had arranged for the older residents (known as the ‘Mayfield Seniors’ who meet monthly in Mayfield School) to join the children for an afternoon of ArtScaping. Together the children ended their morning discussing how best to invite the seniors to join in with them in the afternoon. Plans were elaborated, questions noted down. 

The Eddington maps were the focus for rich conversations, many about communities but also about life and friendship and even teeth:

Orla heard how Michael used to draw railway lines as a child

Orla heard how Michael used to draw railway lines as a child, his job in the police and the yellow and red ambulances of Cambridge. Together with Tobias they drew a helicopter pad for their community.

Bonny was born around the corner and has lived in the area all her life. She added a hall to Emi-Lou, Chaaya and Ella D’s map. A big hall where everybody can go and be together and play games.

Ella P talked with Liz about what a community needs – You need nice people, they need to be safe and happy. Kindness and respect makes a community.

Alper and Jean discussed how Jean was 92 and they both had wobbly teeth.

Lilian and Sofia

It was wonderful to welcome so many new ArtScapers. The room was full of kindness, laughter and joy. I do hope that these year 2L children will play a role in the future of our communities. Age 7, they demonstrated a deep understanding of what makes a community and what a community needs!


CCI sends out regular ebulletins with news of upcoming events and projects. We promise not to spam you or pass your name on to any one else.