Thomas Heatherwick and Turner Prize-winners Jeremy Deller and Antony Gormley are among those tackling the marginalisation of creative subjects in schools as part of a nationwide initiative to get students designing and making, says Sorrell Foundation director Sorrel Hershberg
Art and design education can often take a bit of a drubbing. Despite the enormous success of the UK’s creative industries, even in the face of recession, arts subjects are often marginalised in schools and system-wide changes, such as the hike in university fees, make those who care about the future of creative education nervous, to say the least.
Even Grayson Perry, undisputed darling of the art world, sounded less than hopeful in a recent Radio 4 documentary about the future of the art school, citing the vicious circle of artists colonising an area, leading to regeneration, leading to those creative pioneers being priced out.
However, a lot is happening to combat these worrying trends. The Crafts Council’s recent Education Manifesto makes a powerful case for the importance of design and making in developing young people’s skills and sustaining the creative sectors in which we in the UK thrive.
The industry is speaking out too: the celebrated British designer at the heart of Apple’s success, Jonathan Ive, called last month for more hands-on making experiences for young people studying design.
Something helping to make this a reality is a nationwide initiative from the Sorrell Foundation. On Saturday mornings, you might imagine that most teenagers and students are all still in bed. However, step inside more than 40 colleges and universities and you will find hundreds of dedicated and enthusiastic young creatives keeping the old art school spirit alive and well courtesy of the National Art&Design Saturday Club.
Inspired by the Saturday art classes that both the foundation’s co-founders Sir John and Lady Frances Sorrell attended as teenagers in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the clubs were established in 2009 and there are now 41 across the country, from Hartlepool to Falmouth, from Derry to Hastings.
Each club welcomes 14 to 16 year olds from the local area for a year-long programme of art, craft and design activities, which builds on their experience at school but uses the kind of equipment and facilities that only further and higher education institutions can provide. This opens the young club members’ eyes to a world of creative possibilities, providing a window into future education and career opportunities.
A crucial element of the year is the London Visit: for many members, it is their first time in the capital and in a museum or gallery. Partnerships with giants of the creative world such as Tate, V&A and Cass Art make for an inspirational day that sets the young people up for a year of creative exploration.
All this culminates in a prestigious Summer Show, where the Saturday Clubbers from all around the country show their work at London’s Somerset House, in a week-long exhibition that is open to the public and this year attracted 3,000 visitors.
But probably the most exciting and inspiring moment of the Saturday Club year is the Masterclass, a unique chance to work with a leading creative professional for a day. Masterclass alumni include Routemaster revolutionary Thomas Heatherwick and Turner Prize-winners Jeremy Deller and Antony Gormley.
The small, dedicated team at the National Art&Design Saturday Club always welcome artists, designers, makers and architects who are keen to share their passion and expertise with the next generation of creative talent at their local club.
Get in touch with the Sorrell Foundation if you are interested in helping to develop young people’s creative skills and interests
Images: Graham Carlow