BLOG: Why I love Arts Award

12 February 2020

Why I love Arts Award, By Jane Gray

Jordan* was in the process of leaving care. He’d spent time in prison and hadn’t engaged in anything for a couple of years.  Over six months he worked on an arts programme, creating work with professional artists, visiting arts and cultural organisations, researching his favourite artist, passing on arts skills to his social worker “…’cos then I get to tell them what to do for a change”, before finally celebrating the work, and his journey, at the final exhibition. Jordan gained his Bronze Arts Award during the programme – a Level 1 qualification.  He developed confidence, trust and relationships during the programme and realised he COULD go to college, he WAS talented, and he WAS worth it.  He applied for an Art and Design course at college, taking his Bronze Arts Award portfolio with him to the interview.  He was accepted onto a Level 2 course.

Jordan is one of the many, many reasons I love Arts Award, and why Arts Award forms an integral part in most of the work I am involved in. We could have done all those activities without Arts Award, but the achievement, the pride, and the journey that took place because of achieving a qualification has been transformational time and time again. It also gave our work a perfect framework. The children and young people I tend to work with often haven’t had a brilliant start in life, maybe haven’t had a great time at school, or have had an event in their lives which has meant that they often don’t have a great number of qualifications. Arts Award is a game-changer.  There’s a portfolio of work - of memories, of achievements and of happy times. There’s also a certificate.  A proper certificate. From Trinity College London. We should never underestimate the power of what that can do.  Sometimes, for so many of the children and young people I have the privilege to work alongside, it’s about the opportunities that they’ve never had before:

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn and grow.”

Confession time here. I’m an Arts Award trainer and moderator. But, first, I was an Arts Award adviser, using it in arts programmes I was project managing. I was working with incredible artists, other Arts Award advisers, and, of course, incredible children and young people. I wouldn’t still be involved in it now if I didn’t see the difference it makes. I love that it’s for ALL children and young people. I’ve worked on projects with care experienced children and young people, care leavers, children and young people with disabilities and learning difficulties, young carers, children and young people experiencing or at risk of sexual exploitation or abuse, teenage mums and those not in education, employment or training.  As a moderator, I’ve seen Arts Award used in a whole range of different settings.

Ultimately, it’s about valuing the process, as well as the end product. It’s not ‘training’ all children and young people to be artists or to work in the arts, but it IS about giving opportunities to explore and develop their own interests and skills in the arts, whilst developing other, transferable skills at the same time.  And for those young people who are serious about an arts career, what better thing to support them within the arts?  Through doing Arts Award they’re becoming reflective practitioners, creating work and a portfolio, collaborating with other artists, researching artists who inspire them, developing and delivering arts projects, and seeing work by other artists.

I only wish it had been around when I was young!