What we learned during this project and our recommendations for future collaborative projects
1. Planning is an ongoing process.It starts before the project begins and plans are revisited and amended in preparation for each session and during the sessions based on observations and feedback. This allows for multiple voices and perspectives to feed into the planning process.
2. Design a flexible framework that gives clear direction when needed and leaves space for everyone to contribute to and shape activities.
3. Activities do not always go as planned and that’s okay. It can give other members of the group a chance to contribute, open up new possibilities and give you an opportunity to learn and reflect.
> See how people developed an activity that was designed to support verbal conversation into a visual dialogue by drawing on postcards.
1. Playful introductions can break the ice and put people at ease. This can be in the form of a game and works well if it includes people’s names. Repeating the same or similar activity each week and at the beginning and end of the session makes it familiar, something people know how to do and grounds them in the project.
2. Making together makes a good start. Inviting people to take part in a creative activity that they can do together, has clear instructions and is not reliant on technical skills can support people to engage in art-making and get to know each other.
3. Invite everyone to be an artist. A clear invitation for everyone to make art and be an artist can shift the focus from their other roles and create an equitable environment in which people can share and value ideas, thoughts and opinions. This should be a verbal invitation and supported by an accessible creative activity that enables everyone to get started.
> See how we started session 4 by drawing a trim on the tablecloth. We gently invited everyone to make a mark by passing the pen and everyone drew a section.
1. Spaces can be supportive or unsupportive of different activities. The space(s) you work in and how you engage with it needs careful consideration. Working in different spaces can open up new possibilities.
'It was great to visit Grace Eyre’s space, it added a different energy and it was interesting to be hosted rather than being hosts, and I liked remembering the exhibitions with another location/from a different place.'
2. Smaller groups may work better in public spaces and when people first meet each other. Consider visiting galleries in small groups to make it a calmer experience, reduce noise and give people space and time to view the exhibits. Working in small groups at the start of the project can also make it easier to engage with new people:
‘Working in a few small groups was a really good idea that created intimate zones allowing individuals to gradually get to know students and to create connection between them without feeling overwhelmed by too many faces around.’
3. Consider how you set up and dress the room to create an invitation. Atmosphere, intrigue and a sense of being somewhere else can be achieved through small changes in lighting, sound, the introduction of materials, projections and how the room is set up. The arrangement of tables and seating can provide different opportunities for interaction and frame the activities.
> See how CCA gallery assistantsset up the room in week 4with a large table set for a dinner party and a large projection of the artwork that inspired it.
‘I like this picture because Billie Zangewa joined us for dinner with her artwork’
‘Blank table waiting to be filled full of potential possibilities’
4. Spaces may affect the level of assistance people with support needs require. People in support roles may need to support people more when they are moving around the venue or in more public places. Consider building in parts of each session where the space supports people and enables support workers to participate in the creative activities.
5. Be aware that some spaces hold power and are not easily accessible to all, and galleries and universities can be such places. Welcoming people into the space, exploring it together, discussing and making art about it can support people to feel it is for them and can be an important opportunity to develop new understandings of a place.
> See a drawingby a member of staff at the CCA gallery made with a participant from Grace Eyre as they discussed what their lanyard and keys were for and what they could access with them.
6. Provide opportunities to move around and explore spaces. Going for walks and collecting things you find or documenting things of interest can allow people to notice, discuss and share opinions about places, and they may become inspiration for artworks. Moving around the space can also provide opportunities to mix with different people in the group and meet a need for movement that some people may have.
> See a photograph taken by a participant from Grace Eyre during a walk around the university grounds.
‘I love this photo taken by Mark. The calmness of the rippling water reminds me of the workshop that took place in the university gardens. Seeing Mark energised and inspired by his surroundings was quite a joy.’
1. Creative activities can support social interactions. Meeting people and socialising can be one of the most important opportunities a project provides. The process of artmaking can have an openness that can hold a range of ideas and go in a number of directions. Making art together can provide an effective vehicle for communication and facilitate the sharing of ideas. When everyone’s contributions to the process are listened to and valued, the equitable nature of the artmaking can enable learning and unlearning.
Some examples of art-making supporting social interaction during our project included:
> Postcards were a recognisable device for dialogue
> Role play and playfulness supported laughter and conversation during week 4and plates and artworks were passed around the table creating connections with people who were not sat next to each other
'I also definitely drew a plate that started out as spaghetti and ended up looking suspiciously like flowers’
> Our Rolling Stones activity supported physical and gestural interaction.
‘I enjoyed the random nature of the stones’ positions and how different the marks around each one were.’
'Rolling Stones! I enjoyed the physical interaction side of the activity, it felt like a mixture between a P.E class and an art class’
> ‘Planting’ the garden together in week 5and replanting it in week 6 brought our artworks together and invited people to work together to make decisions about where they positioned things.
‘Nice that we collectively put things there to build the garden’
2. Provide choices but avoid it becoming overwhelming. Minimise materials and activities available at any one time by separating them spatially or durationally, for example, by placing materials on another table so people can go and collect them when ready rather than the table they are working on or start with one or two options and introduce others once people have finished.
3. Working alongside each other can support togetherness. Collaboration does not always mean working on the same piece of artwork and people need the freedom to choose how they participate and to work on their own ideas. Some people may not work on the same activities as other people and that’s okay. Make time to listen and consider how and when to provide gentle invitations to engage in different ways, as well as valuing everything that is made in the sessions and everyone’s contribution to the project.
> See the bracelet a participant made during the garden themed session in week 5.
> He also extended a theme he brought to the gesture activity, in which he mimed playing a saxophone each week, by drawing a saxophone and planting it in the garden we were creating together
4. Tracing can be an effective tool to notice and pay close attention. Bringing in material from previous sessions with the materials to create traces allows people to reflect on their own and each other’s experiences and artwork and expand upon ideas explored to create new understandings to create motifs and connections.
5. Reproducing images can value them and the contribution of those who created them. This may include copying by hand, tracing, printing or photocopying or a slide show of work made so far at the start of the session (we found many people enjoyed seeing their work on a large screen). This offers the chance to continue to build on a thread of practice and strengthen the understanding of an artwork or creative contribution.
6. Look for opportunities for people to lead. If you are leading a project, look out for ideas that are emerging that people could share and where you can support people to develop them into activities they can facilitate. The chance to lead a group in an activity can support people to develop skills and confidence and bring fresh ideas to the project. It can also give people with support needs the opportunity to teach skills they have acquired to those who usually support them. When activities are repeated they become familiar and can support people who have attended regularly to guide new members of the group.
Saira: ‘What did you have for dinner? Can you remember?’
Hala: ‘I had pasta’
Saira: ‘Oh I remember there is a piece of pizza I made and offered you’
Saira: ‘So you had pizza and pasta that day for dinner? That’s not bad’ – We laughed!!
3. Trying things out is a great way to see how they work. We learnt lots from seeing how people navigated the draft version of the toolkit.
4. Feedback can be communicated in different forms and your evaluation should support this by providing opportunities for feedback to be given and captured in different ways that may include: drawing, discussing, selecting and work in pairs or groups with the option to take on different roles, for example, one person can scribe.
> See some drawings that form part of the feedback for our project.
5. Your final session should include a celebration and clearly mark the end of your project. People may also be a bit sad that it is ending and that’s okay.