Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Living a creative life in Hamilton

Some of my lovely camp girls

As if I wasnt already in love with Girls High girls, my Hamilton Girls High School Residency finished with a three day 'junior camp' for Year 9 &10 (13-15 years old). Students are offered about 30 options ranging from windsurfing or a train trip to Wellington to stay-at-home day camps with an arts focus. I was offering one of the latter, and had ten of the loveliest girls sign on, along with 4 teachers (three part-time)- an enviable adult:student ratio for such a low risk activity!

Unstructured studio time

My idea for the camp, called 'Living a Creative Life in Hamilton' was to give the girls a taste of life as an artist/writer in residence; and to counter the persistant image of Hamilton as a dull, stifling environment that people should escape in order to fully develop their creative selves*.

The first morning was an intensive workshop to make a blank labyrinth style journal to use for the rest of the camp. Everyone completed their books in time to take them along on our afternoon crawl around four exhibitions. Most students said their favourite of the afternoon was the Wintec 3rd year painting students, I think because the show was varied and vibrant, with work produced mostly by people only a few years older than my students and thus similar cultural perspectives.

Jessica inking up her comic, a long term project, nearly completed

On the second and third mornings we had unstructured studio time, which was when it really became clear that this group of girls had picked the right programme for themselves. I provided a variety of tools and simple materials for journalling and other paper crafts, made a few suggestions and let them do what they want. It was possibly the quietest and most productive three hours a group of teenagers has ever spent together. Beautiful, creative journalling emerged with many girls delighting in drawing cards from Keri Smith's 100 ideas** and using them to spark all sorts of wonderful pages.

A spread from Codie's journal

A couple of girls mostly just wanted to read novels and I couldn't see the point of trying to make them do anything else. When I was that age, novel reading was my preferred activity in almost every situation- if I had been offered a reading camp, that's the one I would have chosen! Novel reading continues to be one of the most significant external influence on my creative work, so I think reading fit right into the theme and purpose of the camp.

morning in the camp studio

Our quiet, self directed time in the morning was a good grounding for our afternoons of going out into the town. On Tuesday we participated in an arts event for World AIDS Day in Garden Place. My Fairly radical Crafty group and Hamilton Pride had prepared handpainted red lasercut hearts of card attached to bamboo stakes and provided a couple of tables of crafty supplies. People could decorate or write on the heats and then we installed them on the lawn in a loose heart shape. The camp girls took to this project with great enthusiasm, not only decorating hearts but recruiting heart-decorating passers-by, and collecting funds while giving out red ribbons. It was great experience of sharing one's creativity with community for a good cause.

making hearts and sheltering from the rain

I believe living a creative life must include some cafe sitting and book browsing, so after our efforts with the hearts I rewarded the girls with huge bowls of hot chocolate at Metropolis, followed by a leisurely look around Browsers Second Hand Bookshop. The latter was named as a camp highlight by some, and I think was an eye-opening pleasure for others who hadn't been anywhere like that before.

heart art for World AIDS Day

All week the spring weather has been grey and drizzly at best, and rainy and muggy at worst, so I cancelled my plans for our final afternoon of picnicking and ephemeral environmental art making by the lake. Instead, we had an indoor picnic feast and then went across the road to tour ArtMakers Trust, a training establishment for creative young people. Sylvie welcomed us warmly, the work of ArtMakers is interesting and meaningful, and the trainees are kindred spirits to my camp girls, so I won't be surprised if some return to ArtMakers in a few years.

While I was out getting our indoor picnic food, the girls made a thankyou mural on the white board

*If you've been following my blog this year, you can probably tell that nothing is further from the truth. Hamilton is alight with all sorts of creative opportunities for producers and audiences to enjoy and be challenged by.
** I printed out the pdf onto coloured card and cut them into little squares to be drawn from a bag. I've tried to get adult friends to use these cards for inspiration, but until the camp no-one had really liked them. I've done just a few cards myself, but I haven't yet been short of my own ideas and creative tasks since I've made Keri's cards, so I'm saving them for a dry time, which will eventually come. I'm also looking forward to kicking my butt out of some future slough of self-pity with Keri's Artist's Survival Kit.


Carol said...

What lucky girls they are to have had you for a term! My fossils arrived safely today, thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

Hi meliors,

20 years on and I stumbled across you on the net! Love what you are doing. Congrats on the residency.

Lynn Grieveson.