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From Monday 6th to Friday 10th July 2020 UK New Artists (UKNA) ran their first ever virtual work experience programme, using the Bronze Arts Award as a framework, made possible with funding from The Mighty Creative’s Arts Award Start Up Package funding.
With the Covid 19 lockdown closing schools, businesses and our own activities, thousands of young people have been unable to access work experience opportunities and therefore learn about the myriad of careers and roles available to them.
In partnership with Speakers for Schools, this virtual programme saw eight 14-16yr olds join UKNA in the Google Classroom for a week of artist led- workshops, talks and activities, exploring the UK arts industry, new artists and potential career paths. Each day was divided into three sessions – Information, Inspiration and Exploration. During the Information sessions participants met members of the UKNA team, learnt about different aspects of the arts and creative industries and found out about HE and career opportunities available.
The Inspiration sessions were led by UKNA alumni and partners from a range of backgrounds including visual artist, Ant Hamlyn; musician and producer, Jay Johnson; journalist and writer, Tom Inniss and performance artist and dancer, Danni Spooner. Participants were also introduced to a range of national and international artists and companies through online videos and live streamed performances.
Exploration sessions took place in the afternoon and were self-led sessions where participants would complete each section of the Bronze Arts Award. Participants were encouraged to explore the arts as a participant, audience member and educator by learning new arts skills via online tutorials, experiencing and reviewing online performances and exhibition tours, researching artists from different disciplines and leading short workshop sessions with each other in order to widen and share their skills.
This was a new way of working for UKNA, particularly in terms of their Engagement programme, and they have been thrilled with how successful it was. UKNA have delivered Arts Award previously, however this was a first attempt at distance delivery in an online setting and UKNA’s adviser, Vikki Jones, felt it afforded an array of new opportunities:
Through VWEX we were able to use this opportunity to make young people aware of just how many incredible cultural experiences they can now connect to in this way, particularly those who would find it difficult to connect with in ‘normal’ circumstances due to financial or geographic barriers. From an environmental perspective, this digital approach also meant no travel or paper-usage. All resources were made available digitally and all activity was achieved through online events, resources and meetings and participants created digital portfolios to collect their Bronze Arts Award evidence.
Not having a public facing space, UKNA have found that until now Arts Award delivery has only been logistically achievable during specific projects. Moving forward, a digital approach would mean that we could more regularly connect young people with our artists, facilitators and opportunities regardless. As a national organisation, online distance delivery would also enable us to work with young people from across our UK networks and provide opportunities for them to easily connect with and benefit from our national and international alumni artists.
A huge amount was achieved by the participants and feedback was incredibly positive:
Thank you very much [UKNA] for this amazing week, it was truly a way to discover more horizons and finding myself, along with working with amazing people and learning a lot from you and them.
It was so good to be in touch with other students that I had never met before too as we were all so different in our areas of passion and skill. I feel grateful and lucky to have had this opportunity during lockdown as it has given me such a positive window into the arts world and working in this industry.
The recent months have demonstrated how important it is that the arts industry is able to work remotely. Although ‘real life’ work placements are incredibly valuable, UKNA see this as an opportunity for students to experience working in this way, illustrating and enhancing non-traditional communication skills and the importance of self-motivation and using their initiative.
UKNA will be running a second virtual work experience programme in October 2020.