Story Makers is a Participatory Arts Projects developed and evolved in my work in Primary Education with GLAM (Gardens, Libraries and Museums) partnerships in Oxford since 2010, with the support of Fusion Arts and funded by Children in Need.
I have written about my approach in “The Actively Imagining Body” by Helen Edwards in a chapter to be published in 2021 in an anthology of pieces on “Ways of Being in a Body” edited by Sandra Reeve, Triachy Press.
Each year Story Makers works with three Primary Schools/ Academy Schools in Oxford. Children and adults are selected from participating schools. Often they are experiencing difficulties in communication within their education settings. As Story Makers, they are encouraged to become involved in a new context as artists, creating, reflecting, improvising and sharing in their groups.
Story Makers is an embodied approach to language development, an arts based process immersing the body in learning from bodily felt experience. Unique gallery spaces and collections in Oxford Museums are the inspiration for sensory experiencing and physical exploration to inspire creative communication. In Story Makers everyone is an artist. Children and adults see their own unique work unfolding using artistic expression across a wide range of artistic media and through embodied enactment of images. Deeply felt experience is portrayed in gesture, movement and visual imagery. Stories emerge through the artistic imagery, capturing the range of words and phrases emerging enabling the imagination to flow into new narrative, dialogue and poetry, bringing new understanding and conveying the sensory learning about the Museum Collections.
Adults and children have the change to share and learn from each other and to see each other and themselves with new eyes. Story Makers learn to value their ideas and creativity and become more confident, make new friends and try out new ways of relating.
Story Makers Projects include:
Story Makers: Stories of Trees 2020
Partnership with Pitt Rivers Museum – exploring the art and ecology of trees, studying wooden objects in the Museum Collections, with a focus on boats and paddles from all over the world.
Story Makers: Stories in the Garden 2019
Partnership with Oxford University Botanic Garden – exploring art and botanical ecology – looking at plant growth and ecology in a range of environments, the relationship between plants and the relationships between plants and humans. Sensory studies of plants in the glass houses, plants in the medicinal collections and trees. Creating an art of the ecology of growth.
Story Makers: Sound Bodies and Stories of Sound 2017 – 18
Partnership with The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaelogy – sensory observation of the Stradivarius Violin and Kirkmann Harpsichord and the galleries in which they dwell within the Museum Collections. Understanding the sound through resonance of the instrument body and the human body.
Story Makers: Stories of Stone, Body and Bone 2016 – 17
Partnership with The Oxford University Museum of Natural History – the art and ecology of evolution, rock and stone, bone and movement. Sensory observation of geological collections and a range of the skeletal collections. Creating an art of geology and web of life.
Story Makers: Ways of Measuring and Seeing 2013 – 14
Partnership with The Oxford Museum of the Histoy of Science – exploring ways of measuring and seeing the cosmos and the earth. Sensory observation of measuring instruments in the colletions and range of optical inventions.
Story Makers: Masks, Seeing and Being Seen 2012
Partnership with The Pitt Rivers Museum – art and anthropological signifance of masks and shadow puppets from all over the world. Sensory study of masks in the Museum Colletions and the Wayang Kulit Shadow Puppets. Creating an art of gesture and communication.
Story Makers: Portraits and Landscapes 2011
Partnership with The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology – exploring impressions and forms, sculpture and embodiment. Sensory observation of Impressionist paintings within the Museum Collections and the figures in the Cast Gallery.
Fusion Arts is a community arts organisation in Oxford, running since 1977 – they have connected artists with communities, and inspired hundreds of bespoke creative projects.Through the transformational power of the arts, they respond to challenging social circumstances by delivering meaningful and inclusive artistic experiences.