Thursday 15th November 2018
Children from Phoenix Primary School in Ashford got in touch with their artistic side during an art workshop activity at Conningbrook Lakes as part of the public arts installations programme being funded by Chartway Group.
The Year Four children got hands-on experience in an art workshop last Thursday (November 8th) creating small hand-held sculptural pieces with materials sourced from around the park, as well as making images from frottage (rubbings), painting and drawings.
Led by artist Amanda Thesiger from Outdoor Studios, the ‘Interact’ workshop forms part of the public arts commitment to deliver a dedicated temporary engagement programme with the local community, visitors and new residents at the Conningbrook Lakes development.
Outdoor Studios’ workshop with the pupils from Phoenix Primary School focused on artist Julia Clarke and her proposed commission for the new development. Julia works in willow and will be creating large permanent willow sculptures inspired by the plants and landscape around the lakes, including producing giant seed pods and abstract forms.
The students learnt about artist Julia Clarke’s approach, the materials, structure and the way that willow works and what happens when a large artwork takes its place in the landscape. The pupils developed their understanding of what it is to explore through a series of exercises and physical activity, as well as creating their own art works.
The public artworks, some of which are expected to be unveiled near year, will celebrate the unique environment of Conningbrook Lakes with a particular focus on the diverse and abundant wildlife. Three permanent art installations will be created on the themes of ‘view’, ‘explore’ and ‘dwell’, with the art workshops delivering the temporary art programme on the theme of ‘interact’.
The former quarry site at Conningbrook Lakes is being transformed by a multi-million-pound development of 300 new homes around the lakes, together with improvements to facilities at the country park. Latimer, part of the Clarion Housing Group, in partnership with Westerhill Homes owns the 31-acre site and are working in partnership with Ashford Borough Council to deliver the public arts installations. Chartway Group are constructing the homes.
Julia Clarke’s artwork will be installed in phase one of the housing development next year, with further art commissions and their locations to be unveiled.
Artist Julia Clarke commented: “It's very inspiring to see that the local community are engaging with the park and the new development. It’s an exciting opportunity to really engage with the space and landscape. I really enjoyed spending time in the space getting inspired to create drawings and ideas for the artworks. The pupils will now do as I did and really look.. slow down and engage with the small often overlooked parts of the lake and its nature.”
Sarah Town, Senior Teacher at Phoenix Community Primary School added: “The activity at Conningbrook Lakes has surpassed our expectations. The children have been exploring and drawing the location and working together, which is very much aligned to our school ethos of collaboration. We look forward to more visits in the spring.”
Katherine Putnam, Head of Planning at Chartway Group said: “It is very exciting to see the arts programme start to come to life and take shape with these important engagement workshops. Having the pupils onsite, drawing inspiration and creativity from the beautiful surrounding, adds an important dimension to our arts programme as well as helping to create memorable art and integrating the housing development with the local community.”
Cllr Mike Bennett, Portfolio Holder for Culture at Ashford Borough Council, said: “As we’ve seen recently with the success of Snowdogs Discover Ashford, public art is a hugely important way of connecting the local community. Incorporating these public art structures at Conningbrook Lakes adds an extra dimension to the improvement work that’s going on there, and offers a unique opportunity to unite the residents of Ashford in this area of outstanding natural beauty.”