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7th June – Young people and young artists everywhere!

* youth & well-being forum * community day * young artists curate Green Table cafe exhibition & workshops * South Devon college helpers * school art days & exams

Lots of positive stuff is afoot in our drive to bring more young people to Arts Lab and Dartington, listening to and learning from them and providing a platform to develop and grow through art. Hang on to your hats! There’s a lot here …… 

Youth and well-being forum at Foxhole, 25th May 

‘When Philip Franses and the Global Synapses team invited input from the Apricot Centre around ways of bringing practical action around themes such as the well-being of young people in Devon, I was quickly inspired to set up an Open Forum on the theme. I have various colleagues trained in Process Oriented Psychology and Deep Democracy Open Forum facilitation, and the Apricot Centre is a well-being service becoming established at Huxhams Cross Biodynamic Farm in Week next to Dartington. A group of facilitators have been discussing for several months that we would like to do something together within the local communities, and Sue and Dick were quick to offer their skills as well as Lea Misan who runs Act for Change in London. I then reached out to Sara Downham-Lotto who runs Arts Lab at Dartington and this yielded multiple benefits with her unique ways of engaging people creatively becoming an inspiring part of the afternoon, and also young artists from Arts Lab decided to take up the invitation to step into the unknown. They played an important part throughout the day with their voices, presence, creativity and projects embroidered into the forum. Also attending were YOT and youth workers, local authority managers, a representative of the Torbay Youth Trust, mentors and therapists from the Apricot Centre team, healers, locals, social workers, artists and more… I think there were just under 40 attending.’

Below are some of the drawings twenty-one year old Jordan Reynolds made capturing the essence of the day.

‘In a nutshell Deep Democracy Open Forum work makes a space for a community to interact around and process themes which are hot to handle! Often this starts with something like a role-play, with key roles which may be in tension or conflict, and then these roles take on a life of their own. Participants are invited to speak from the different roles, to deepen the roles and the interactions, sometimes this involves becoming role-fluid and going from one side of a conflict and finding the other side in yourself. Also the land or the sentient/essence level at the core of the community can play an important part in the process. In the community forum on well-being we explored the relationship between the role of the expert/authority and the grassroots families and young people suffering with painful experiences. The position of the expert was ‘frozen’ with regulations and rules, while the role of the ‘youth’ was feeling unheard and unrelated to. Eventually the role of the youth went to one side and then came back with an empowered position challenging the role of the expert to be more related. The idea of open forum work is that it can help communities to deepen and change at many levels. 

The Arts Lab group activity in the afternoon greatly complemented the group forum work, it was mostly non-verbal, visual, creative. We were invited to encircle large pieces of paper and were given different coloured paints and brushes. Music was played, and we painted for a minute or two and then moved on, painted again now over marks from a previous participant and then moved on. The marks and images quickly moved beyond the individual, and gradually a collective painting emerged.

There was much energy in the room as people expressed themselves loosely around the theme of well-being (I think). 

There will be more forums and more developments in the coming months. We are getting some great feedback from the event.’    Mark O’Connell (Apricot Centre)

Here are our some footage clips from the day by Tansy West

‘I loved it. I thought it was so inspiring and met so many amazing people. It gave me a lot of confidence in myself and my future projects and made me feel even more passionate about helping people through creativity forever!’    Mia-Violet Leech (Arts Lab)

I felt absolutely honoured to be in a room literally filled with such educated, driven, noble-intentioned humans. Thank you for allowing me to be there and listen.’    Jordan Reynolds (Arts Lab)

‘I found Friday’s well-being day very inspiring as so many people had the courage to stand up and talk about their own personal journeys. I had the job of capturing the day on camera, and at first I was afraid it would be too intrusive to film a day exploring such sensitive issues. But during the day we actually discussed how important it is for us to be able to feel comfortable around these themes.’     Tansy West (Arts Lab)

‘I was so impressed with what all the four young artists were doing, and the space and guidance you are (Arts Lab is) offering at Dartington for such changes to happen.’  Philip Franses (Schumacher College)

Philip goes on to explain in more detail what happened on the day:Global Synapses at Foxhole on the Dartington Hall Estate seeks to provide a platform of connection where individuals can come together and give whole voice to some of the challenges that are facing us. The Group Forum Process suggested and facilitated by Mark O’Connell of the Apricot Centre provided an excellent opportunity to bring together practitioners and participants around the deeper question of mental health and youth wellbeing in the Torbay area and beyond. The Group Forum Process centred around a role-play constellation around power and disempowerment.

 The anguish of disempowerment characterises many people’s experience globally, as on the one hand we are told our present life-style cannot last more than a few generations while individually being encouraged to remain a passive consumer of whatever we might desire. But where does a young person feeling this anguish traditionally go? In a role-play, we played out what happens when a young vulnerable woman facing challenges within her family visits a professional health facility. The professional team of manager, mentor, regulator and health worker were concerned only with protecting the power of their own institution in its reputation and legal integrity. The result was that they amplified the very feeling of disempowerment in the patient who was asking them for help.  

The role-play was transformed by the presence of four young people who had developed at Arts Lab processes to help bring creativity to their own and other students practices. Unlike the professionals, they were able to help with the root cause of the patient’s anguish and inner disturbance. Especially Mia and Daisy from their practice at the Arts Lab, were the ones who were actually addressing the disempowerment first hand. The situation was joined by a social worker, who procured funding for the young people and so channelled the power to actually nourish and sustain a feeling of agency for the young people to improve the real life-prospect of the patient.  

 After the intensity of this role-play Sara guided a collective art-work in which we could contribute on an equal plane to a vision of a common held future.’   Philip Franses

‘I had a profound experience on this day gathering with like minded people with young people at the heart of their interests. The role play we experienced was an evocative and powerful example of the challenges we face in supporting young people effectively and really revealed the complexity of the current system. I came away inspired and humbled by the shared endeavour and creative vision of our work.’   Sophy D’Angelo (Arts Lab)

Community day

Sophy D’Angelo who runs the Arts Lab after school club, had a full on day last week with hoards of kids and parents. Community day for Arts Lab was a momentous event’, she writes. ‘We started the day in the Great Hall with Dance in Devon. Covering the floor with paper, we invited people to move and dance with the music, using giant chalks to mark the paper in rhythm to the music. It was a great experience for me, the first time collaborating with a dancer. I would like to thank Sue Smith from Dance in Devon for her inspiration. The attendance was wonderful and by the end we had about 70 people of all ages, in a frenetic drawing/movement mass.’

In the afternoon we invited people in to Arts Lab studio to play with materials, exploring painting, drawing and collage. We had about 40-50 children, and their families of all ages. It was so great to see the studio filled with activity and colour, and seeing some serious play at work.

Thank you to Arts Lab’s Ness, Klara and Anna…….. for their support. I couldn’t have done it without you!’  

All photographs of the day were taken by Klara Ferm.

Young artists curate Green Table cafe summer exhibition & workshops

As if they haven’t already done enough, what with the juggling of school and college studies, pre-college prep and jobs to get by ….  our cohort of young artists is busy each with their own initiative. Jordan Reynolds is curating the very first Green Table cafe Summer Exhibition at Dartington, due to open on the 6th July, drawing local young talent. Mia-Violet Leech is running her monthly Young Artists’ Day at the Lab today and on Sunday she brings in young creatives to run a day of sensory play and making for the community. Klara Ferm continues to make a significant contribution to the Lab’s photography archive. Tansy West is working away on her fifth short film for the Lab, this time from footage of the Youth and well-being Forum day at Foxhole. 

Exciting news is that we now have our new film and video equipment purchased with a grant from Devon County Council. James Rowden, our local film tutor, kindly devoted an evening to demonstrating to the young team how it all works. Watch this space …. 

South Devon college helpers

A big thank you! to James King and his students on the full-time Diploma Level 1 Carpentry course. Today we recieved a phone call to say our bespoke storage boxes were ready. I pick them up next week. If anyone wants to join in the paint-everything-white party at the Lab, let me know. We look forward to a more tidy-look studio space to improve transitioning from studio to workshop to meeting hub to gallery, where the storage boxes can double up as plinths for artwork displays.

School art days and exams

…. And so towards the end of a busy term – how did we get there so soon! Stover School and Kevicc have opted to bring groups of secondary school children to the Lab in July. Sara, Sophy D’Angelo and Claudia Schmid will be facilitating their Art Days. My boys, all the while, have made me proud getting stuck into the nightmare of A levels and GCSEs respectively (if characteristically last minute) . Odd that the only time they seem to have shown a sense of purpose in the realm of education is when it comes to exams. And sad that their learning hasn’t been one that embraces the independent spirit supporting personal exploration and inquiry, freedom to choose and express. As the young artists so clearly taught us at the Youth and Well-being Forum, we all have our own wisdoms and knowledge, which, trusted and enabled to develop more freely, can be massively valuable for happier, healthier communities. Good luck to all those poor souls out their forced to remember 21 exams’ worth of facts over 10 subjects, many of which have little connection to who the students are and what they will be doing in the future.