IVE micro-commissions 2022: Breaking barriers to youth engagement in the arts

23rd March 2022 - Kayla Herbert

Written by Tess Parker, Story Tiller Communications

Make The Paint Dance. ‘Talking Threads’ creative project.

In as large and diverse a region as Yorkshire, young people can face numerous barriers to arts and cultural engagement. But its array of dedicated arts organisations and practitioners offer unique solutions to address some of these. Discover how IVE’s latest micro-commissions have empowered creative practitioners to make a difference on the ground. 

The power of micro-commissioning: surmounting barriers to arts engagement

IVE’s first micro-commission round in 2021 had lifted practitioners and young people during Covid-19 times. Off the back of this success, IVE launched a 2022 round with a specific focus on diversity and inclusion.

With Yorkshire’s mix of rural and urban areas, the region faces key geographic and socio-economic challenges. In turn, this can create barriers for young people to engage with good quality arts and cultural experiences. To help with this, IVE made it a prerequisite that applicants demonstrate how they would reach new groups of young people they haven’t worked with before.

A project snapshot: innovative approaches to creative inclusion

IVE was amazed by the micro-commission applications coming from across the Yorkshire and Humber region. Stand-out ideas shone with ambition to engage children and young people in new and meaningful, creative ways.

Through the conduits of craft, textiles, dance and music, applicants sought to inspire and upskill young people facing mental health, disability, caring and cultural challenges.

And so, the stage was set for some amazing, enlightening and game-changing projects.

Amazelab and LimbBo

Amazelab are a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, maths) company, unlocking creative learning opportunities for young people, via in-person and remote workshops.

They saw this micro-commission as a chance to build on a life-long love for STEAM subjects amongst less engaged groups.

“We saw this as a fantastic opportunity to offer the young people and families of LimbBo an experience to dive into STEAM workshops investigating any barriers to learning in these subjects and what could be achieved to offer an enhanced experience to people with a limb difference, allowing us to share our findings and encourage more people to feel comfortable in these subjects, and ideally go on to a future career.”

The creative project

Working with the LimbBo Foundation, Amazelab sought out children and families, facing the challenge of limb difference. Through an exciting programme of activities, participants enjoyed in-person and remote access to the creative sciences. As a result, confidence, connectivity and potential were seen to flourish amongst the young people.

Early impacts and feedback

This micro-commission has certainly impacted on facilitators, children, parents and trustees alike. Excitingly, it has instigated a longer-term collaboration between Amazelab and LimbBo.

“This introduction to science has led us to create a larger project working with Amazelab. Many of our children are dotted around the country and the world so we can’t get them all in one space. Amazelab made it completely inclusive. They run the sessions online for all our children to see one another doing it at the same time. This is an absolute game changer for us…it will hopefully help us to reach the hundreds of children out there with a limb difference who are part of #teamlimbbo.” LimbBo Trustee

“We are not able to thank you enough for allowing everyone to journey on this incredible learning experience.” Leonie Briggs, Amazelab

Talking Threads from Make The Paint Dance

Make The Paint Dance. ‘Talking Threads’ creative project.

Make The Paint Dance is an award-winning non-profit initiative which inspires creativity, amongst early years and primary age children, through music, art and movement workshops.

Founder and Creative Director Megan Jowett saw this micro-commission as a chance to pilot a new ‘Talking Threads’ project, which uses weaving to boost mental health and wellbeing in young people.

“I wanted to explore what has become a new part of my artistic practice: weaving. During lockdown, weaving had greatly benefitted my own mental wellbeing and I was looking for ways to see how I could help improve the mental health of others. I saw that there was a gap in provision of mental health and wellbeing activities for younger children. I had researched and heard a lot in the media about post-covid mental health in children – this was the perfect opportunity to explore this in a new context.” Megan Jowett, Make The Paint Dance

The creative project

Make The Paint Dance are passionate about promoting health and wellbeing through the arts. On this, ‘Talking Threads’ was a direct response to the Young Minds statistic that ‘1 in 6 young people (aged between 5-16 years) are affected by mental health issues.’

Through the bursary, young participants have been able to share in the creative act of weaving, voicing their hopes and fears along the way. “I think there is something uniquely therapeutic about creating art in this way.” Megan Jowett, Make The Paint Dance

Early impacts and feedback

This funding has had a notable impact on practitioner confidence, creativity and practice.

“As well as learning a wealth of new practical skills, the commission supported me to spend time researching and connecting with other more experienced practitioners to discover how best to explore and implement the project. Through this, I’ve developed a framework for ‘Talking Threads,’ how it can be applied to a range of people and ages, and how weaving and textile art can be used to improve wellbeing, friendship building and confidence.” Megan Jowett, Make The Paint Dance

Young participants have also been seen to thrive, through this hands-on, collaborative approach.

“There has been so much amazing work produced in such a short space of time. I found that the process of designing and developing group woven pieces, as a form of ‘teamwork,’ was key to enabling youth voice. The children have developed ownership and connection to the creative processes.” Megan Jowett, Make The Paint Dance

All of the children have come back to class with big smiles on their faces. One of the children said, “I’m so sad it has ended.” Class teacher on ‘Talking Threads.’

Micro-commissions: Investing in creative communities

Through its micro-commissions, IVE is investing in creative communities region wide.

With a funding award of £800, practitioners were able pilot new ideas and cover delivery, mentoring and resource costs. This bursary is making a difference to creative facilitators and participants too.

“I would really encourage others to apply for micro-commissions. This has been a great opportunity to develop both my own artistic practice and implement a new project in the community whilst receiving support and guidance from IVE. The funding helps to get an idea off the ground and run a pilot project which I am personally hoping to develop further into a permanent part of my offer.” Megan Jowett, Make the Paint Dance

“I was awarded a micro-commission to work in an SEN school, delivering carnival dance and costume making. I’m an experienced dance practitioner and have a lot of experience working with adults with learning disabilities. However, this Micro-commission gave me the opportunity to hone my skills on delivering sessions to young people with additional needs. I was able to upskill and learn how to make carnival costumes and to teach this skill to the pupils.” Tricia Arthur-Stubbs, Swirl Education

“The opportunity to look at my offer as a creative practitioner has been very valuable. It has allowed me the space and time to look at my practice and the value of the work I do for both school settings and the home educated sector.” Wendy Chan, Creative Practitioner

IVE’s micro-commissions demonstrate the power of enabling creative practitioners to innovate and provide high-quality creative experiences for more groups of young people.

Learn more about future micro-commissions by signing up to our newsletter here.

Download the full case study as a PDF here

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