Stories are like Stars

‘Build a Better World: Comics, Community, and Beyond’ is gathering pace. Kicking off with summer holiday art sessions at Acomb Explore, the project captured the communal vision of Westfield Ward’s youngest citizens via the perennially accessible medium of the comic strip. The 8 chosen artists were proud to be involved at such an early stage of what is growing to be a multi-faceted project for New Visuality. “We have perfected our approach to creating comic strips,” laughs project manager Arran Leith, himself a former participant of the charity’s previous project, “It’s our USP. Look at me, 3 years ago I didn’t have much to do, I wasn’t sure about the future. Things are still tough, but working with younger people is something I love doing and makes my CV stronger, and this summer I worked with a lot of Westfield artists who could easily be doing my job in a future project.”

The nature of ‘Build a Better World’ is to inspire young people to tell aspirational, local stories, not only as learners in the sessions but as teachers. It is a facet which has lifted the sessions from Acomb Explore and city centre locations to weekly visits to Westfield Primary.

Says Arran, “The best way to really, really learn a skill is to teach it. New Visuality director Greg McGee worked with me in the summer holidays to nail a few ideas – characters, expressions, speech bubbles, narratives – and he visited Westfield Primary School for the first time in 4 years.”

The weekly trips fused the ward’s young artists’ ideas harnessed in the summer holidays with the school’s ‘Virtues and Achievements’ list, extolling the ‘Gift of Character’, a perfect place to build the second stage of the project’s development. Says director Greg McGee, “It was humbling to visit the school after working with many of its alumni over the summer holidays. The atmosphere in the classrooms is one of focus and nurturing hard work, two vital ingredients for getting the most out of creativity for our charity. The results were excellent, not only in their own right, but were projected during one of the school’s open evenings and will be projected in city centre windows later . We’re finalising a list of artists to put forward for ‘Lord Mayor of York Shine Awards 2020’. The quality of the artwork is totally down to the quality of the teaching of the staff and the ambassadorial nature of a lot of the young people. Sharing culture and creativity is obviously a big deal in Westfield Primary, and I can’t wait to go back.”

John Hattam of Westfield Primary has been delighted with the results, “Manga illustrations were a strong vehicle to look at aspirational narratives and the school’s virtues. The sessions proved a great way for children to express themselves and convey meaningful messages in creative ways’’.

Greg is looking forward to working with the pupils in 2020, as well as building on the ambassadorial aspects of ‘Build a Better World: Comics, Community, and Beyond’ by employing the young artists of Westfield as assistants in next summer’s Art camp sessions. “We’ve got off to the best possible start,” he says, “and we are massively grateful to City of York Council’s Westfield Ward for funding what is proving to be a successful, far reaching project that have brought opportunities to the young people of this area of York. Art sessions, the chance to be ambassadors, a shot at Arts Awards. As a charity, we have complete pride in the young people we are working with.”

 

‘Build a Better World: Comics, Community, and Beyond’ is an ongoing project and has been funded by City of York Council’s Westfield Ward.

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