Working with special needs in an art gallery

October Gallery Education
October Gallery Education in London began an inclusive arts project which focused on communication and storytelling in an art gallery space.

A number of pupils from St Gilda's Primary School and the Bridge Primary School were chosen to take part, and the aim of the project was to discover if art (in different forms) could be used to help children with different communication needs to learn about one another.

It explored whether art could be used as an alternative to words, and whether words and art can be combined to create a more accessible form of communication.
 
There was a variety of art activities for the children to participate in, that revolved around themes like "how we get to know new people," and "how we tell stories" as well responding to the gallery’s exhibitions.

The project was run collaboratively with Georgie Fay, education coordinator at October Gallery, and Victoria Jarman, who was doing a research project at University of Brighton in inclusive arts practice.
 
The October Gallery promoted the project by contacting schools with which they already had a longstanding relationship and offered the series of weekly workshops for free.
This model of collaboration using two different schools and combining an art and research project was a successful pilot that the gallery will adopt again.

Costs were kept low and the workshops were offered to schools for free. The gallery donated the space and salary of the education coordinator in kind to the project as they wanted to promote the gallery as an inclusive space for all.

It became clear that during the project the students became increasingly more comfortable in the gallery space. They grew in confidence in making art and communicating not only with their established peers but new students they met through the project.

It was interesting to note that the effect of these workshops became apparent on the mainstream primary school students as they grew in confidence and improved their listening skills, whereas the students from the Bridge School were naturally more confident in the gallery space from the beginning.

Evaluating the project, one of the teachers said: “We noticed how the various children from our school who participated grew in confidence each week - this was possibly due to the small group and environment - building their self-esteem. As the weeks progressed the children bonded and worked together across the schools.”

The project ran from November 2014 to February 2015.

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