2017 Education Intern Dominika Blazewicz reflects on her first Footsteps into Art workshop with The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery.


On November 17th, Footsteps into Art ran not only its very first workshop of the year, but also its very first workshop for secondary school pupils. A group of year 9’s from Leeds City Academy met us in the Parkinson court for a two hour afternoon workshop with a freelance artist, Vinny James. Although most felt intimated by the building, they quickly settled in and quite happily got on with the workshop.
As a new intern, I was slightly nervous before the session, mainly because I did not know what to expect. What, or rather, who, calmed mine (and Lizzie’s, who was also new to her role) nerves, were Dominique, last year’s intern, and Penny, experienced Footsteps into Art’s volunteer. Both of them seemed very relaxed and excited about meeting the pupils, which helped tremendously.
The workshop was all about fabric and bold colours. After a short introduction to the gallery and general workshop outline, Vinny asked the students to pick a felt sheet, few scraps of material, scissors and let their imagination and fingers do the rest, with very interesting results.
The class was split into four groups, ensuring that each group also had a chance to have a go at creating a stop-motion animation using even more pieces of fabric on a black canvas. Each group came up with a completely different theme and storyline, such as season changes or people around them. All students enjoyed making the animation, especially when they were able to see the results of their work on a laptop at the end of the workshop.
As my role was more to supervise and support the artists during the workshop rather than delivering it, I went around the tables and chatted with the pupils, gaining an insight into their art pieces and general interest in art. Some struggled to come up with ideas for their individual felt sheet piece, as they were not used to think about art in such free and abstract terms. Without a clear objective in mind, and never working with felt before, some felt a bit lost. However, the students ended up helping and supporting each other, and after getting used to the presence of the artist and other workshop assistants, as well as becoming more relaxed, they created some lovely compositions, as seen on the Gallery website.
Overall, the afternoon, although very intense, went fast. According to our post-workshop evaluation sheets, all students enjoyed the workshop, and all students could not wait to attend another one next year, with the things we could improve on being, “Free food would be nice” and “More time for the workshop”.