Neil Hodgkin was seeking support for his organisation’s vision of constructing 50 Straw Bale houses as part of an environmentally friendly, semi-rural eco-community in the heart of the city. The scheme is potentially the largest social housing developing project in England. Through OPUN he engaged Farida Makki, OPUN Design Support Enabler and architect, to help create vision and a visual representation of the scheme as an advocacy and development tool. He was in need of creative support to develop his vision into something that would inspire yet also reassure statutory agencies and funding bodies that this innovative approach is a viable method of construction and of creating a community. Neil has received plaudits and support from central government and the Homes and Communities Agencies. The benefits of creative input in particular gave Neil a new confidence to discuss his plans with built environment professionals ‘on an even footing’. He has been able to confidently engage Leicester’s universities in developing technical building issues. The creative visualisation is able to start development discussions with groups hitherto unengaged and is confident of securing significant funding for the project.
OPUN enabled the Academy and photographer/digital artist Paula Moss to plan the use of new space resulting from the restoration of the 1907 octagonal gallery and surrounding courtyard. Paula supported the students to engage the architect, local and international arts organisations as well as the local community to develop programming and curatorial vision for the new gallery space. Students are using these links to review and curate contemporary exhibitions in the gallery as part of their Silver Arts Award and feel that their experiences have been greatly enhance through working with an artist in this setting. They felt that working with an artist was a hugely positive experience, encouraging them to think in new ways, allowing them to make their own decisions, take risks and learn more about the real world. It also gave them valuable insights into their own skills and how teams work best by utilising specialisms. The school view the outcomes to be transformative and lasting. They find that they are engaging more people from the local community in the life of the school as a result of the effects of the project.
Tubespace at Lady Manners School, Bakewell, Derbyshire
OPUN enabled artist Walter Jack and students at Lady Manners School to design a new outdoor space. This was achieved through a series of workshops with the students who created a specification for Walter to design. The school subsequently raised £19k to make this concept design a reality. Walter worked with the students themselves and with the school’s construction company to complete the prototype and build the piece. Walter helped delivered this shared vision, by creating a beautiful structure which is also a practical seating area for the students.
All those involved noted significant changes in how they approach problems, think in new ways, make decisions, work collaboratively and continually adjust expectations. All agreed that the quality of the design and the build stage was made appreciatively better due to the genuine engagement of the students in the process. The design was much more creative than they had anticipated and has inspired the school to work in this way again. From the artist’s perspective significant learning was gained both in technical and material terms and opened up a whole new field of creative practice working with young people.