Lucy Sercombe,  Sessional Gallery Teacher and Arts Award Coordinator, the Fitzwilliam Museum, being shown a student’s portfolio.

Fifteen young people in the care of Cambridgeshire County Council have spent their half-term holidays building a portfolio of artwork inspired by the exhibitions in the University of Cambridge Museums.

The abundant resources within the University of Cambridge Museums were richly exploited by the young people to great effect.

Roy Nevitt, Arts Award Moderator

ReaThe Arts Award week was made possible by a unique partnership between the University of Cambridge’s Realise project for young people in care, the University of Cambridge Museums, and Cambridgeshire County Council.

At the end of the week each portfolio was assessed by an Arts Award moderator. The Arts Award is a nationally recognised qualification which can lead to further study or employment. 

The young people took time out of their work in the museums to join the Realise Art and Architecture Day, hosted at Sidney Sussex College.  The Realise project has been running since 2010 and is organised by the University of Cambridge to encourage more young people in care to consider higher education.

“We’ve walked round the museums, sketching and painting – and found out the facts about the artists and thought about stories and questions triggered by the art,” explained one participant.

One of the youngest participants said “It has been a lot of hard work! We looked around the museums, really looked at the art, learned how to read paintings, and how to see the emotions and feelings in the paintings. It has been a really good thing to do, and is a way to get inspired. You can find an artist who relates to you. I chose Pablo Picasso, he didn’t follow the normal rules.”

One Arts Award student, who plans to study fashion photography, said “We looked at the exhibitions, and we’ve also had a day looking at the uni, for them to give us information about what’s available to us. It shows that people like us can go to Cambridge – it was very inspiring.”

Another young woman said the week had given her renewed confidence in her potential. “Talking to people who are here at the uni and hearing that I wouldn’t have to struggle with costs were the most important things for me. I’m thinking again about applying to uni now.”

Describing the week as “an entire success,” Roy Nevitt, the Arts Award Moderator, said “The abundant resources within the University of Cambridge Museums were richly exploited by the young people to great effect.”

“I was impressed by the fact that the whole of the Bronze Award work was achieved in one intensive week,” Roy added.

Michelle Dean, from the Children’s Social Care Participation Team on Cambridgeshire County Council, and one of the organisers of the week, said "Our goal is to build aspirations in these young people.

“This week has really developed their self-confidence, and shown them that they can learn new things, they can enjoy art, and they can achieve a formal qualification.

“They have all told me that they want to carry on to higher awards, which is a fantastic testament to the project."

Claire Gardner, Realise Co-ordinator for the University of Cambridge, said "It was wonderful to see the amazing artwork being produced in response to the museum collections.

"Our aim is to inspire young people in care to realise their potential academically and also more broadly.

"To speak to students who, as a result of completing the Arts Award, have regained confidence in their abilities and are now considering staying in education is fantastic."

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