Summer Families Programme

by Carolyn Ayers

During the final three weeks of August, to coincide with the Community Art Exhibitions in Woolwich Library, Plumstead Library and Charlton House, we ran some free on-site family art workshops for budding botanists, zoologists and marine biologists. Learning and Participation Assistant Alison tells us more.

An imperious sun radiates its yellow heat over an arid desert. A vigilant meercat keeps watch for troublemaking scorpions, while in the shade of a dune, a camel lazes.

To escape the heat, you dive into a cooling sea. Phosphorescent fishes of every colour in the rainbow dart around. You lift a rock and a crab the hot colour of coral blinks out at you.

Emerging from the pool, you’re handed a telescope. Through the lens, petals dance; forming shimmering shifting patterns.  

For three Fridays in August we invited families to journey with us through ecosystems just like these, inhabited by real or imaginary beasties. Summer 2018 saw the eclectic natural history treasures of the Greenwich heritage Trust inspire creative adults to make enough art to line the walls of three local venues. Now it was the turn of the kids.  

The first workshop at Woolwich Library was inspired by the dreamy collaged landscapes which were imagined in artist Janey Jones’s workshops. Using a mix of images from different ecosystems- tundra, deserts, forests and beaches- children cut and pasted together new worlds and created plasticine creatures to inhabit them.

“I loved thinking about the place my panda would live and the food it could eat” -Participant, aged 8

The ecological sculptures of workshop leader Di Jones inspired my second workshop “under the sea”. While Di’s adult participants used recycled materials to fashion oversized insects, we instead invited families to create fantastical aquatic creatures to inhabit a deep-sea world. Bottles, scraps of card and leftover craft materials lit up the dark depths of our Eltham ocean thanks to the addition of glow sticks.

“I liked making my jellyfish” -Participant, aged 4

Having already run two collagraph workshop, where the Caribbean Social Forum used found foliage to create botanical prints inspired by the drawings in Hortus Elthamensis, volumes I and II, I was keen to utilise real specimens again. In the third family workshop “Nature Kaleidoscopes” I asked families to collect small leaves, petals and pebbles from the verdant grounds of Charlton House to be made into a kaleidoscope, distorting into new symmetrical patterns with some help from optical science.

“A great way to get children thinking about science. Will definitely be trying this at home” -Mother of participant, aged 4

The family sessions were a great change to get kids thinking about environmental issues and the environments around them in a creative way and a fantastic way to invite younger participants to get involved in the wider adult programme with the Trust.

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