Photo of a boy holding a painted rock, advertising Art at the Heart's holiday programme

Over Summer 2021, Art at the Heart ran workshops as part of the Summer Solidays holiday programme with The Core, providing free high-quality tuition and healthy lunches for children eligible for free school meals. 

Funders: Arts Council England, Reading Agency, Holiday Activities and Food 2021

Client: Solihull Libraries and The Core, Solihull 

Attendees: Over 120 across 20 workshops, with many children attending multiple times 

Each workshop ran from 10-2.30 (including breaks for lunch and stimulating games) and children from other households were able to attend for a small charge of £10 per child. This not only provided respite for parents and carers, but gave children a creative outlet over the summer which was particularly vital after months of home-schooling. Workshop topics included sketching, miniature painting, origami and the creation of a huge, spectacular jungle mural with a commitment to raising awareness about endangered wildlife. Children had the opportunity to participate in an exhibition that built over the summer to celebrate their work. 

Wild World Heroes

Our workshops took the theme of Wild World Heroes from the Summer Reading Challenge: a collaboration between the World Wildlife Fund and the Reading Agency. This encouraged children to learn more about wildlife, the environment and sustainability in a supportive and inclusive setting. As part of this, children contributed to a huge jungle mural on the gallery walls of The Core, Solihull.

The Jungle Mural

Created entirely using re-purposed or recycled materials – Tektura provided wall covering samples, as did John Lewis and the animal collages were created from recycled art painting experiments and artwork from previous art classes.

Featuring the top 10 most endangered animals – the research for these was gathered by volunteers, one of whom is completing her Duke of Edinburgh Award. Children were taught facts about the animals such as their remaining populations, habitats and the need to protect them.

Included lilies and irises created during the origami workshops and added to the mural by Eesha, another one of our young volunteers

Four children holding their creation of the North Atlantic Right Whale for the jungle mural

Impact of the Wild World Workshops

Hugely positive feedback from children and parents – workshops described as ‘super fun’ and ‘best thing ever’; parents praised the ‘friendly and professional staff’, ‘great facilities’ and ‘excellent results’. Children reported feeling ‘happy and joyful’ as a result, and many attended multiple classes

Creative thinking encouraged – children were able to ‘use their imagination and go wild’. AATH Directors provided training and support where applicable, for example suggesting an alternative medium like charcoal to aid production and demonstrating techniques 

Developing empathy about environmental issues – AATH Director Kamaljit asked children ‘How does this make you feel?’ regarding endangered animals and encouraged brainstorming of solutions. This was reflected in feedback, with children highlighting their favourite animals and newly learned facts.

Supportive group environment – children worked as teams to create material and developed social skills after time spent in lockdown. Positive feedback from peers and AATH Directors developed confidence and morale 

Time to get active – interactive games gave an opportunity for physical exercise and critical thinking. Free healthy lunches also supported general healtH

The Mayor's Visit

Children with the major during Summer Solidays workshop

Mayor of Solihull, Cllr Ken Meeson and Lady Mayor Annette Meeson were delighted to visit the vibrant mural and meet the children working on it. ‘I had expected colour’, said the Mayor, ‘but this is even more colourful than I was expecting’. The children offered facts about endangered animals and suggested positive steps like planting more trees. This sparked a group discussion about the everyday steps we can take towards better sustainability.

The Mayor was impressed to see the recycling station used by children to access materials. He remarked, ‘you’ve all worked really, really hard. I’m very impressed! I hope you carry on doing art as it brings a lot of enjoyment to yourselves, as well as to people around you.’ The children expressed feelings of pride about having their work praised by the Mayor, and this positive reinforcement spurred them on during future art classes.

Three girls standing by origami flowers on the jungle mural