Sunday, 29 June 2014

National Art & Design Saturday Club - The Sorrell Foundation

A few months ago I found out about an amazing organisation: The Sorrell Foundation was set up by Frances and John Sorrell in 1999 with the clear aim of inspiring creativity in young people. The Foundation has run a whole range of programmes in the UK including the National Art & Design Saturday Clubs which offer young people ages 14-16 (a crucial age in their education) the unique opportunity to study art and design every Saturday morning at their local college or university for free.

A little history: Following the Second World War a government initiative encouraged free Saturday morning classes for 14-16 year olds at their local art schools. This incredibly modern sounding idea helped to foster a love of the arts and for many of the UKs current artists and designers was the start of their creative and entrepreneurial journeys.
Photo credit: Angela Tobin
Frances and John Sorrell both attended Saturday Clubs in their teens, and with their National Art & Design Saturday clubs they hope to recreate and reinvent this idea for a whole new generation. The clubs are in their 5th year and are now held in 33 colleges, universities and the Victoria & Albert Museum (and are ever-expanding). Club members are often put forward by their teachers at school and are given opportunities that they probably wouldn't have access to, opportunities that really could be life-changing. Approximately 70% of members have never visited an art gallery or museum before, and a similar number have never been to London. (The first project for all the clubs across the UK involves a visit to the capital, and brings members together giving them the chance to make friends across the UK and widen their social networks.)

During the year club members are able to enjoy lessons way beyond the boundaries of conventional school lessons - not only are they inspiring but for many who aren't doing well in a traditional school environment they can be a great confidence builder, and can feed directly back into their GSCE work. In the Spring Term each club attends a Masterclass with a leading designer or artist, often in their own studios.
Photo credit
And this is where I come in! My professional job is as an Architectural Modelmaker for Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and we were honoured to be invited to hold one of these masterclasses for Coleg Sir Gar club from Wales. My boss, my colleagues and I devised a day-long project to get the kids thinking about the concept of scale. After their very long journey we were keen to get them started straight away with something practical. We showed them the work of artist Slinkachu, gave them some miniature figures and asked them to photograph them in and around our office. (And yes, there just happened to be a dead bird outside who came to play a starring role in the project!)
Photo: Jo Mieszkowski
Photo: Jo Mieszkowski

After lunch we all looked at the images and chose three strong scenes that could be developed further using modelmaking techniques. The club members divided into groups and worked on their ideas together, along with hands-on advice from my colleagues and I. The end results were imaginative, original and show just how hard everyone worked all day. I was really impressed.

Photo: Jo Mieszkowski
Photo: Jo Mieszkowski
Photo: Jo Mieszkowski
The end of the year of classes is marked with the Summer Show held at Somerset House in London; an exhibition that is visited by around 3,000 and treats the work of the club members seriously. And so it should, as personally, I was blown away by the standard of work and the scope of creativity produced by members across the UK. The show has now ended unfortunately but I would really encourage you to look out for it next June. RSHP are keen to stay involved and will be holding another masterclass next year and I can't wait!

In their own words "The Saturday Club nurtures talent, builds confidence and raises aspirations...Our ambition is to continue to grow the Saturday Club so that, by 2018, as many as 2,500 young people will be taking part in free Saturday morning art and design classes. These young people are the UK's next creative generation."

If you would like to find out more about the Sorrell Foundation, or the Saturday Clubs you can visit their website, or follow them on twitter @natsatclub
There are various ways you can support them, whether as an individual, if you are a creative business or if you would like to find a Saturday Club in your area.

*Although this may sound like it's a sponsored post it really isn't! I am just proud to have been involved and to have worked with such great young people. I want to spread the word as I think the National Saturday Art & Design Clubs are doing an amazing job.

**Where not credited all photos are taken by the club members of Coleg Sir Gar.


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