Blog: An Arts Award journey with MIMA

01 February 2021

By Bella Smith, Assistant Learning Curator, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, MIMA

MIMA puts art into action and connects art, people and ideas. Part of Teesside University, MIMA is an international art gallery and museum with close relationships with local communities. We commission, collect and re-think modern and contemporary art. We work with artists and communities on projects that raise debate, open discussion and generate new possibilities. 

We have been delivering Arts Award for over 10 years and have found it a great way to engage and connect with children and young people. In recent years we have started to deliver whole school Arts Award, working closely with local primary schools to support them in achieving Arts Award Discover, which is an introductory award, designed for ages five and above. 

Each child visits the gallery and takes part in a hands-on creative workshop; they collect evidence of their experience in a bespoke log booklet. The children receive two workshops; one within the gallery spaces that explores the works of the Middlesbrough collection using tools such as Philosophy for Children P4C, that enables the children to unpick artworks through philosophical inquiry. Creating new narratives and understandings of the collection. The other workshop, delivered within our beautiful studio space, the workshop explores different mark marking techniques and invites the children to experiment with materials in a relaxed, fun environment. All sessions are inspired and delivered by the ethos of child lead learning, encouraging children to use creativity as a way to engage critical thinking and problem-solving skills. 

We have taken several young people all the way through the full Arts Award journey, from Discover to Gold. Below is a story written by one of our young people describing her Arts Award journey with us. 

"Traditional education was difficult for me due to illness and unforeseen circumstances. The typical rigid structures of the school system became impossible to work around my health. This is where Arts Award came in. It enabled me to engage in my beloved arts whilst also achieving a qualification. 

"Without immediate time restraints, I could adapt my work to my own flexible time frame, allowing me to prioritise my health and thus increase my productivity. As a result I was able to complete my portfolio and achieve my Silver Arts Award – giving me a sense of pride and belief in myself, something that was becoming increasingly hard to find at the time. 

"The open ended structure of Arts Award allowed me to make choices. I could tailor the course to fit my own personal interests (whether I had tried them before or not) and I could explore these mediums with enthusiasm. 

"By doing my Arts Award I was able to broaden my creative skill set and develop confidence in both myself and my work. I solidified my own knowledge and was given the time to expand it too.

"My Arts Award journey was facilitated by MIMA – an incredible arts organisation in its own right. I had the most inspiring and gentle mentor in Helen, who made it her mission to encourage and support me throughout my journey. I not only gained a mentor in her, but I also gained a friend. She pushed me to experiment and helped me find the courage to start sharing my work through teaching at MIMA. 

"Through this I found my voice. I grew so much as a person and my confidence in communicating with others has flourished. Teaching has become a new passion and it is something I now wish to continue into the future. 

"Over the next year I plan to complete my Gold Arts Award. My journey So far has inspired me in my creative career, opening my mind to new possibilities, both with others and in my own self-led practice, so I am excited to see where it will lead me." 

MIMAs next steps for Arts Award is to work in collaboration with an artist to further develop the programme. Exploring and expanding upon our existing work to create a bespoke MIMA Arts Award kit that can be accessed and delivered in schools. We will still endeavour to deliver sessions within the gallery but in light of COVID-19, it feels imperative that we provide schools with the support and guidance to access and deliver creative workshops within the school setting.