Micro-grant 2: Artists' residency - secondary (High Storrs School)

High Storrs

Following changes in the education system and funding of schools during the past 5 years, working as an artist in schools has become rare and increasingly curriculum/product-driven.  Many of the conversations we had during the 3 days of SNAP Practice returned to the importance of young people having opportunities to experience the process of making artworks and of working creatively.  Additionally, there were questions raised about how studios could be set up for community use, outside school hours, and conversations about how we build trust between artists and commissioners.

The aim of this micro-grant was to encourage an awareness of the potential and possibilities of an outdoor space in school, and what it means to be Artists in Residence.  It created opportunities for young people who do not usually get them to make and to ‘think like an artist’.  It aimed to open conversations and start thought processes about what a participatory art project/residency might look like in their school.

High Storrs

Micro-grant 3 details

Report (written by lead teacher and artists):

The micro-project planning resulted in two afternoon workshops that enabled and encouraged students to consider their space and to collaborate in a small scale transformation.  The workshops set out to encourage an awareness of the potential and possibilities of a particular space in High Storrs School, and what it meant and felt like to be creative in that space, and to open conversations and start a thought process about what a participatory art project/residency might look like in their school.

Two artists (Soo Boswell and Charlie Narozanska) worked with two separate groups on the first afternoon – each group having one and a half hours each (1pm – 2.30 and 2.30 – 4pm). The second workshop, the following week, we combined the two groups and worked from 1pm till 3.30pm. Each group was made up of Y7, 8, 9 and 10 students. The students were chosen by Heads of House when they were invited  to suggest students they felt would benefit from the experience. 

The two workshops provided the space and the resources that enabled students to create 3D pieces using willow and in the second week willow structures and printed ‘prayer flags’. In the second week the weather enabled the students to occupy the mostly unused exterior space and so add real value to the experience. 

High Storrs 5

The workshops:

  • Brought a range of students together with two artists and one teacher in order to create and share a space for making and having a dialogue
  • Enabled students to create with no pressure upon outcome – so the process of making and talking was the focus
  • Explored the idea of how beneficial a space ‘separate’ from the school day would/could be for students. Particularly when a student feels anxious, stressed, or in need of some ‘time out’. 
  • Enabled the artists to work with a range of students and create 3D structures and flags that were placed in the outdoor quadrant space
  • Enabled the teacher to have a series of conversations with students that gave an insight into the potential of a creative practise/residency within the school that involved artists, and where the focus was not necessarily on outcome all the time but on process and dialogue.  
High Storrs


The original question devised at the closing stages on the SNAP course was: How can a space be created in a school that can enable students to be creative and expressive and safe?

All the students expressed how much they enjoyed the experience of both making and being in a different space. 

The objective of the sessions was to be as ‘free’ as possible in terms of allowing the students to make their own decisions and to feel no great creative pressure about what they make and how. 

The result was two sessions where young people relaxed, talked, laughed, helped each other and enjoyed moving between activities and making. 

This simple free flowing structure created an atmosphere of mutual trust and those students who wished to work in groups and be with others did so whilst those who preferred solitary making were given the space to do so. 

Interestingly and quite powerfully there was never a sense that any student was ‘on their own’ due to the continual movement between activities and the sharing of resources. But it was also powerful to observe students who wished to work alone enjoy the experience and be productive. 

The space became a place where acceptance and understanding were writ large! Throughout the workshop I (lead teacher) was able to talk with students and have a real dialogue about school, creativity, possibilities and was struck by how the act of making can be a catalyst or a support to having a conversation, particularly in the context of a large and busy secondary school. 

Having the two artists working with the students and being open to their needs was fantastic. This element of the project was a real positive and a potential to be built upon in terms of planning for the next stage. 

High Storrs 7

Students talked about the space and being able to make things in it: 

  • The school is so big and noisy sometimes I want to be somewhere quieter and calmer
  • The field is very intimidating and big it is nice to be here in a smaller space
  • It’s been so good to be in a space that is calm and I feel more relaxed in
  • It’s good to come together and make things
  • I get very frustrated with things in school and this has been a nice thing to do. I have liked being with others and being a bit calm.
  • I feel calm, proud, happy
  • I have enjoyed the freedom to explore and be in a different space.
  • I have liked lying here in the sunshine and drawing – it feels very sheltered.
  • I have liked expressing myself personally
  • I have liked working with others and feeling that I can share my ideas
  • It would be great to have a space like this or be able to use the quadrants to make things in or read in. 
  • This could be a space that gets changed from time to time and artists could come and work with students
  • You could be given a pass to be in this space – like in the library
  • It’s been nice to get time off stressful subjects and do something relaxing
  • It helps people believe in themselves
  • Being creative helps make things nice for other people
  • I think it gives you confidence
  • It helps give you ideas and think outside the box
  • Releases stress which is important
  • It is a good thing to occupy your mind with if you have worries
  • It helps people be happier and probably good for mental health
  • It’s calming, liberating and makes people smile.
High Storrs

Desired next steps:

  1. To create larger document to share with Heads of House, Teaching & Learning group, and SLT
  2. To engender support within the school in order to involve other staff in the development and planning of larger project. Research other residencies in similar schools. 
  3. To research artist practice in order to understand possible further development and potential outcomes in terms of range of media and artist approach – which will inform the application for funding.
  4. To get support from SNAP in developing the idea in order to apply for further funding and to give support to the lead teacher
  5. Involve students in the development of the next stage – so the group already formed works together more to inform the application and share ideas with staff and others.
  6. Important to have a real focus upon student involvement and create a variety of ways that this could happen. Through the development of an application involve other students who HOH feel could benefit.
High Storrs 4

Thanks to Trish from High Storrs School 


And thanks to Soo and Charlie from Artboat


"It’s been so good to be in a space that is calm and I feel more relaxed in." - Student, High Storrs

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