It still astounds me the way art-making can transform a space, a group, an individual. The ability to encapsulate a known context and shift it to another place is astounding. This is what I am lucky to experience when I facilitate creative spaces with and for young people.
I have the privilege of working with very different groups of young people; diverse ages, cultural backgrounds and abilities. No matter who they are, as long as they are truly seen and supported, the transformations I see leave me reeling with a sense of joy, fulfilment and dismay. The joy that I have witnessed a young person connect with their identity, connect with someone else, form greater and deeper connections with their classmates, or friends. The fulfilment of having facilitated that, creating a space that they have felt safe and supported enough to take chances, push themselves outside their comfort zones and grow. The dismay, that this country still undervalues the role creative arts play in our lives, that I can see life-changing moments weekly, yet somehow artists are still trying to justify our value and right for acknowledgement and support from our government.
We are starting to emerge from the last 18 months of this pandemic. A time filled with intense stress, anxiety, insecurity and loneliness. I have watched the ever changing emotional journey of the many kids I have worked with over the past 2 years. The initial confusion and adjustment for us all navigating online workshops which then led to the never-ending screen time, disengagement and emotional and mental rollercoaster for us all.
I feel extremely grateful that it is my job to engage young people creatively and although that has been challenged through the online delivery, we have found ways to be creative, innovative and move around the limitations these lockdowns have given us. We have danced, moved, shouted, dressed up, performed, written poetry, created installations, drawings, movement pieces, made digital offerings, performed puppetry, written scripts, made short films and the list goes on. And we have done this from tiny spaces in our homes like our studies, bedrooms, kitchen tables and corner spaces.
I have seen the incredible impact sharing these (both virtual and in person) spaces have made on these young people and the adults who are there as well. The shared experience, coming together in curiosity and wonder to then find a shift, a connection, a growth.
There is much work for us to do to support young people as we emerge from this pandemic, engaging creatively is one of the many gifts we can give them. A way to ground themselves in the reality of what we've all just experienced. To be able to express themselves in a creative and flexible way. Allowing for individuals to reflect and recover whilst moving forward, coming together in support and in creating new and profound experiences.
Image by Pia Johnson