Why we LOVE working with artists

Gabi is rapidly drawing a massive stick-woman on a piece of flipchart. Next, she draws a Maltese passport spilling out of her head, a plate of pasta right under her mouth, and a paintbrush close to her heart. She is telling Element young creatives about who she is and what she values. It’s a super quick introductory activity, designed to get people interacting with each other, finding out about important aspects of people’s personalities, and having a laugh with Sharpies. Later in the session, Gabi will talk the young creatives through making their very own stop motion animation films, which will depict something important in their lives.

Tom is passing photographs around the circle, asking each person what they like about the one they’ve been given. It’s the beginning of his masterclass in how to take good photography. He’ll go on to talk about the “rule of thirds”, the ethics of taking a stranger’s photograph, and powerful ways to convey identity on screen. He’ll get out his DSLR cameras, and Element young creatives will amble along the streets of Soho, or Ladbroke Grove, or Wembley, capturing everyday scenes with personal importance.

Martins has got everyone in the room to jump when he says clap, clap when he says jump, go when he says stop, and stop when he says go. Within minutes, the game has changed to a sophisticated, inverted staring competition where to catch someone’s eye is to get eliminated. These warm-up games are the high energy, super fun ways to begin a session that will see Element young creatives examining the harm that stereotypes can do, and dramatic ways of enacting better social alternatives.

Gabi Marsh is an animator and illustrator - her own stop motion animations were the inspiration for the animation session. Tom Edkins is a photographer and filmmaker (and made our Element vid!) - they were his professional photographs that were passed around the circle. Martins Imhangbe is an actor - his roles in theatre (including most recently Barbershop Chronicles) became the backdrop for a discussion on getting into acting.

We think it’s really important to have guest artists - across disciplines - to be involved in an Element project. Leading a session, they become physical embodiments of what it means to work in the creative industries. They are experts in their fields, with passion for and dedication in their work. They’ve provided Element young creatives with specific skills, tools and tricks; given advice and shared opinions. We feel very lucky indeed to have them as part of Element projects.

It is of course a two-way street: these artists have told us, after running sessions, that they themselves have learned valuable lessons from Element young creatives: sometimes, this has even made them see their own art in different ways. The mutual enjoyment experienced by both artists and Element young creatives is a lovely thing to observe: as Tom told us, “In the worlds of film and TV many still cling to the stereotype about how difficult it is to work with young people, but the young people you find at Element workshops are thoughtful, independent, and self-aware. I have never before been welcomed, respected, and thanked the way I was by the Element young people”. It’s this changing narrative, this championing of care leavers as individuals with strong creative voices and valuable opinions, that make the projects so fun to run.

Fancy joining in? If you are an artist, or know any artists, who might be interested in running a workshop exploring a specific art form for Element young creatives, please do spread the word and get in touch!

One of our brilliant Element young creatives during Tom’s photography session

One of our brilliant Element young creatives during Tom’s photography session

Eloise Acland