Gray’s invest in Summer arts programme for the North East

Monday 03 July 2023

Engage workshop
Gray’s School of Art at Robert Gordon University (RGU) is offering a summer intensive arts programme to foster community engagement and social wellbeing across the North East.

The summer arts programme, which runs in July and August, is part of Gray’s School of Art’s Engage creative programme and will be led by creative practitioners and local artists from the region.

The workshops are open to people of all artistic abilities and Gray’s hope to attract a wide range of participants, including potential applicants and local businesses who may want to use the art weekenders as a creative alternatives to traditional team building activities.

Three different Art Weekenders are taking place with workshops in Ceramics, Jewellery, Printmaking, Textiles, Drawing, Painting. Digital Photography and Creative Coding being led from local artists and designers.

 A ‘Young Art Weekender’ is also planned for young artists, aged 11 – 15 years old, on Saturday 19 August and Sunday 20 August 2023.

The summer Engage programme, builds on the success of previous workshops and is part of a drive by the University to support the creative sector in the North East and to foster economic and social regeneration across the region.

One of those who signed up to a Engage workshop earlier this year, is 53-year-old Liberty Bligh from Inverness. Liberty, who also participated in Gray’s ‘Building a Physical Portfolio’ course, describes the Engage Art Weekender as life changing. She was so impressed by Gray’s that she’s relocating to Aberdeen and plans to start a BA in Contemporary Art Practice at Gray’s this September.

Liberty Bligh said: “I was at a crossroads in my life after a critical illness changed everything. I decided that at 53 years of age I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing something that I love, and it had always been a dream to go to Art School, but I didn't think I was good enough and I thought I was too old.

“I signed up for Engage’s face to face Portfolio course at Gray’s School of Art. The tutors, facilitators and other people doing the course were so supportive and it really made a difference, it gave me hope of an opportunity of a future as an artist. As a disabled person, the Engage team made sure the course was accessible. They helped me to settle in and made sure the tutors were aware of how they could support me. 

“When I spent my first session in the Ceramic studio on one of Engage's Art Weekenders I knew I was home, and I was certain I wanted to apply for a degree. The Engage team and tutors were fantastic in supporting me to apply and gave me incredible feedback on my portfolio.

“This September, I'm starting a new chapter in my life, studying BA Hons Contemporary Art Practice at Gray's School of Art. I'm already planning for an international placement in my third year. I would encourage anyone, any age, and any level of ability, who's thinking about studying Art to sign up for the Portfolio Course. If I can do it, anyone can.”

Emmajane Kingaby, Creative Development Coordinator, said: “We are developing our new programme in response to public feedback which highlighted a need for people to develop their creativity over the summer period.

“We want to bring together creatives to experience a range of different disciplines and delivery methods across our school and to share the fantastic range of facilities available at Gray’s.

“We’re also keen to highlight the work of local creative practitioners and how they each contribute to our local community. Over one hundred people from the North East engaged with our first series of Art Weekenders earlier this year.

“For this, we collaborated with HAAN Design Pop-up, Deemouth Artist Studios and Aberdeen Ceramics Studio and involved sixteen different local practitioners. The feedback from this has been energising and we are delighted to bring a range of Art Weekenders this summer.”

Nick Fyfe, Vice Principal for Research and Community Engagement, said: “The University is committed to driving community interaction and engagement and Gray’s Engage programme is one way we can help support social wellbeing across the region.

“The impact of Arts & Culture on the wider creative economy is huge and we are keen to foster engagement with the local community and to attract people onto campus to engage with the amazing facilities we have at Gray’s School of Art.”

A number of current students and Gray’s alumni are actively involved in the Engage programme including Gray’s School of Art alum and winner of Channel 4’s ‘The Great Pottery Throw Down 2022’, AJ Simpson, who says their delighted to be part of the Engage programme.

“My involvement with Engage has given me the opportunity to utilise the brilliant facilities at Gray’s and to teach classes in a larger group setting. It is a brilliant opportunity to meet people that are passionate about my craft and share skills and knowledge. I’d encourage people of all abilities to get involved as the workshops promise to be lots of fun.”

Since starting in November last year, over two hundred (265) people have engaged with Gray’s Engage arts programme. There have been 54 collaborations with 22 different local creatives.

The summer arts programme involves 4 different Art Weekenders. The first one will take place on July 8 and 9, focussing on Exploring Printmaking. This involves Screen Printing with Carla Smith, Textile Printing with Paper Houses Design, Lino Printing with Juniper Press, Mark-making with Anne Marquiss Jeweller and printing onto both clay and ceramics with Kevin Andrew Morris.

Secondly, A collaboration with Second Home Studio and Café  invites participants to be part of an 'Art and Mindfulness Retreat.' This involves a mix of mindfulness exercises with drawing and painting incorporated throughout. This will take place at Gray’s School of Art on July 22 and 23.

A third Art Weekender called ‘Exploration’ will take place on August 5 and 6.

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