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Innovative enrichment project supports children in custody

Children from youth justice sites across England and Wales took part in an innovative enrichment and engagement project using art as a space to support children to maintain and build family relationships (@tateliverpool).

The project was led by Tate Liverpool and Novus in collaboration with fellow youth justice education providers, Shaw Trust and G4S.

Through increasing opportunities to participate in arts and cultural activities, children learn new skills and experiences, which encourage engagement in education and support employability and rehabilitation.

Children from HMYOI Cookham Wood, HMYOI Feltham, HMYOI Parc, HMYOI Werrington, HMYOI Wetherby and Oakhill STC were invited to respond to a brief set by Tate Liverpool, inspired by the works of British contemporary artist Bob and Roberta Smith. The theme of the project was ‘Family’ and the children used words and icons to express what family means to them.

Peter Cox, Novus Managing Director, said:

“Building and maintaining those all-important family ties whilst in custody plays a huge part in rehabilitation and resettlement, and creative projects such as this can provide a space to enable this to happen.

“Engagement with creative projects helps to raise aspirations, build resilience, and support mental health and wellbeing. At a time when we have all faced challenges through the pandemic, the project has given the children an opportunity to focus in a positive way and it has been great to see their individual responses to the brief.”

One of the learners who has taken part in the project spoke about what the opportunity has meant to him: “It gave me an opportunity to think about my family and my choices. I can express my feelings by creating a new style similar to other artists. I learnt a lot about the artists and their styles and made me want to explore more art in different eras and develop my own opinions.”

Patrick Allen, Head of Education at Feltham said:

“The positive engagement of the young people in our care at Feltham YOI in the Tate Liverpool project has been a revelation! Nearly 40% of our current cohort, including those with the most complex needs, have submitted an entry and all the entries will be displayed at the exhibition. A key factor behind this improved engagement has been our introduction of ‘Therapeutic Art’ to our curriculum at Feltham YOI.”

Ian Coles, Interim Director HMP & YOI Parc said:

“This has been such a great opportunity for the children we look after at Parc to showcase the immense artistic talent that they have. We consistently see the benefits that the arts can bring in engaging young people and helping them to build self-belief, self-confidence and a positive identity. We are incredibly proud of the work that is being showcased and look forward to being able to see the exhibition in its entirety soon.”

Louise Shannon, Head of Programme Delivery at Tate Liverpool, said:

“Our partnership with Novus has demonstrated over a number of years the significant impact arts engagement can have and the life skills it provides beyond the creative and cultural activity itself. We’re pleased have expanded our work in this area to now engage with children. It has been great to see their artworks and creative responses but most importantly the positive impact on the project has had on their lives and mental health.”

The project culminates in an online exhibition of the artworks from each site from 3 September, hosted on the Novus website, followed by a celebration event at Tate Liverpool for the families of those who have taken part in the project. The artworks will be displayed in a studio space at Tate Liverpool for the families to view and celebrate their loved ones achievements, there will also be a range of creative activities for them to engage with.

Video and photographs of the exhibition will be shared with children at each site so they are able to see their work on display and celebrate and recognise their achievements.

The online gallery can be accessed here: https://www.novus.ac.uk/youth-provision/tate-liverpool/. Galleries for each establishment can be found under A Young People’s Focus (2021) Galleries.

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