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ART NOW: Art and Student Voice in SEND Schools

ART NOW is an innovative partnership project between Kettle’s Yard and Castle School, an inclusive school supporting SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) pupils. The aim of ART NOW is to support SEND students to become an active voice in their own cultural lives and to collaborate with a contemporary artist to create new artwork. The students will make all critical decisions on what the artwork should be and where it will go in the school.

In 2022 Kettle’s Yard invited applications to become Art Now Artist in Residence at Castle School. The students were central to the selection process and chose artist, Georgia Akbar. Since being selected, Georgia has facilitated a series of explorative workshops and sensory classes with the students, both at Kettle’s Yard and in their own classrooms.

Photo by Isabel Salmon
Photo by Isabel Salmon

Akbar’s professional skills as an artist has enabled her to be closely attuned to students’ sensory preferences. This has therefore helped her to create sessions that give students the creative space to help shape the project’s direction. Akbar’s confidence to experiment with materials, light and space has meant that the importance of exciting scents (fresh lemon), the unexpectedly ‘mesmerising’ effect of projecting coloured lights onto the wall, and the captivating nature of materials that stretch and bounce has been embedded into all activities.

The themes being explored in the project resonate with themes at Kettle’s Yard such as the use of light, domestic objects, windows. The multi-sensory experiences of the workshops and classes also reflect the multi-sensory experience of visiting Kettle’s Yard.

Akbar has also experimented in creating 3D immersive recreations of specific artworks, based on our knowledge of specific students’ interests. For example, in response to one student’s fascination with objects that bounce, they reimagined Jean Miro’s TicTic, a playful painting about balance and movement (and the inspiration for the iconic Kettle’s Yard lemon) using a structure of bouncing shapes. The idea of ‘experiencing’ artwork and drawing out the multi-sensory elements feels like an exciting avenue to develop in the future.

Through these workshops, the students are exploring different ideas and ways in which they could create their final artwork of the project – it might be a live performance, a film or something completely different!

We can’t wait to see what artwork the pupils at Castle School produce with Georgia. Keep an eye on our blog and social media to see the final outcome in Spring 2023.

Photo by Lloyd Mann

Here’s what Castle School have to say about the project so far:

I feel that the projection/exploration of light and colours has been a particular highlight for students as it captures all abilities including pupils with visual impairment. They all loved that, and so did myself.


About Georgia Akbar

Photo by Isabel Salmon

Georgia Akbar is an artist and facilitator who specialises in film, animation, and live work. She is interested in the multisensory nature of experiencing something and takes a collaborative approach to her practice. She has an inclusive approach to art and co-creation, including everyone in the decision-making process.