LONDON.- The National Gallery
is to display artworks created by young men detained in Feltham Young Offenders Institution. The 48 works in the show are inspired by the Gallerys collection and include paintings, prints, sculptures, drawings and collages. They were produced during the second successful year of the National Gallery Outreach programme Inside Art, which is undertaken by groups of 15 to 21 year-old men at Feltham.
During 2010, 30 young men completed an Inside Art project. Those who attended the workshops had either been sentenced or were on remand and awaiting trial, and were therefore often in situations of stress and uncertainty. Feedback showed that engaging with art enabled participants express themselves in different ways, and furthermore helped them gain confidence and develop communication skills.
The National Gallery is the first organisation to deliver a visual arts programme at Felthams Art Academy. This began in 2009 with an initial series of projects followed by a display at the National Gallery in 2010.
The Art Academy provides a wide range of creative and performing arts courses, which aim to encourage rehabilitation and improve communication skills in preparation for release. It is part of the Prison Services approach to reducing reoffending, helping young people re-integrate into society by gaining qualifications and developing personal and social skills.
Inside Art consists of four week-long practical art projects per year. National Gallery freelance artists select paintings from the Gallerys collection and use high quality large-scale prints of them as a starting point for discussion and hands-on activities, which are focused on a particular theme or practical technique. The 2011 display features work inspired by National Gallery paintings by Turner, Degas, Uccello, Sassetta, Titian, Giordano and Massys. Themes explored in the workshops included the body, landscape, light and perspective.
National Gallery Outreach Officer, Emma Rehm, explained the motivation behind the project:
Our aim is to make this national collection central to peoples lives by exploring ways of making it accessible and meaningful for those who cannot visit the Gallery independently. Using these paintings as a starting point for discussions and creative activities encourages participants to enjoy learning and achieving, to build positive relationships and to improve their listening and communication skills, empathy and self control. Such experiences and insights are enriching for the young men involved and can help to reduce the risk of reoffending.
Participants responses to their experience of Inside Art will also be included in the display. These illustrate that talking about paintings and creating art helped the young men to enjoy developing their knowledge and skills, to use their imagination and to gain a better understanding of themselves and other people.
The participants comments include:
I enjoyed the sense of achievement
The most important thing I got out of this project was seeing things come together
and actually achieving something.
I learnt to look at paintings in a different way and see that there is a lot going on
and that a painting gives you a message.
Come again: other prisoners would love this!
The Koestler Trust, a prison arts charity that awards, exhibits and sells artworks made by offenders, has also recently recognised the success of Inside Art. This year Inside Art participants received nine Bronze Awards from the Koestler Trust for individual and collaborative artworks they made during National Gallery projects at Feltham in 2009.