An art partnership project between Kettle’s Yard, one of Britain’s best art galleries, and North Cambridge Academy opens its doors to the public on 24 June 2016.

I like it! I feel very comfortable in this room.

Baipor, student at North Cambridge Academy

With blue walls and bright yellow floor-to-ceiling metal sculpted lines, and not a desk or chair in sight, ‘Motion Tracks’ is not a traditional looking classroom. Shelving, drawing boards and hooks hang between the poles, allowing students to use the classroom to display work and have debates. Grey carpet tiles and pin boards have been replaced with bright blue flooring and display boards, and chairs have been swapped for blue cushions and benches.

The ‘alternative classroom’ is a public art partnership project between North Cambridge Academy, Kettle’s Yard and artist Johann Arens. On 24 June (3–6pm), the public are invited to see the room at the school in Cambridge, as well as meet the artist, take part in artist-led workshops and see students’ artwork. It will also be a chance to see the North Cambridge Academy, which opened its new building in February 2016.

Throughout Arens’ year-long artist residency at the school, the alternative classroom space will be used by students for discussions and display, as well as creative workshops. Meanwhile, the Kettle’s Yard learning team will be running activities from the classroom every Monday, providing the opportunity for every student at North Cambridge Academy to take part.

“It’s a brand new school so it’s important for students to be able to make their mark there and show their aspirations for learning,” says Jonathan Stanley, Curriculum Leader at the Academy. “It’s a unique opportunity for them to work alongside artists and expand their ideas about what creative practice can be.”

Lucy Wheeler, Learning Associate at Kettle’s Yard, adds: “It was great to finally reveal the new classroom to the students for the first time, after a month of keeping it under wraps while it was being transformed. The students’ ideas for the room have been made into reality with the help of artist Johann Arens. We’re looking forward to getting creative in the alternative classroom over the next year.”

The classroom has been well-received by the students: “When I first came into this room it looked like a playground,” says Baipor. “I like it! I feel very comfortable in this room.”

Like North Cambridge Academy, Kettles’ Yard has been undergoing major building works. As one of Britain’s best galleries, the beautiful and unique house with its distinctive modern art collection also has an established learning programme, archive and programme of concerts. It closed in June 2015 for a major redevelopment to improve facilities for visitors, artists, children and young people, and is due to re-open in late 2017.

The partnership between Kettle’s Yard and the school will be long-lasting, says Wheeler: “We want to build a strategic relationship with North Cambridge Academy and to work collaboratively to engage young people with contemporary arts practice. There will be a lasting legacy through the public artworks at the school and we plan to continue to provide opportunities for students to participate at Kettle’s Yard once we reopen.”

Throughout 2016, Arens will work closely with students at North Cambridge Academy gaining insights into their aspirations for learning and their community. The project will culminate in new artworks being created in the school building.

Arens uses installation and video to survey the documentary properties of public interiors. After graduating from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, he received a stipend by the Netherlands Foundation of Visual Arts to complete his MFA in Fine Arts at Goldsmith, University of London. Since then he has worked on public commissions assigned by Arnolfini/Art and the Public Realm, Bristol, Letchworth Heritage Foundation and Jerwood Foundation London. He was awarded the Rome Fellowship in Contemporary Art by the British Academy and has been resident at Fondazione Antonio Ratti and the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam.

The ‘Motion Tracks’ alternative classroom  will be open 3–6pm on 24 June 2016 at North Cambridge Academy, Arbury Rd, Cambridge CB4 2JF.

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