Art exhibits and alternative education at The Playhouse

Siuan McLaughlin, artist, Playhouse (centre), presenting certificates to Mickey Burns and Jodie Doherty, on completion of the Foyle Alternative Education Programme on Friday morning last. Also in photo are Michelle Nash and Nicola Rogers, Youth Workers. 0105JM02

Siuan McLaughlin, artist, Playhouse (centre), presenting certificates to Mickey Burns and Jodie Doherty, on completion of the Foyle Alternative Education Programme on Friday morning last. Also in photo are Michelle Nash and Nicola Rogers, Youth Workers. 0105JM02

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The Playhouse and the Alternative Education Programme (AEP) have just celebrated the successful conclusion of a new project which uses art as an educational tool.

Thirteen young people participated in the first link-up between the organisations.

The pupils completed an art project on drug and alcohol issues which is now on display in the Artillery Street arts venue. In fact one budding young artist sold his work on the first day of the exhibit after a member of the public viewed it and wanted to take it home.

The pupils all have social, emotional and behavioural difficulties; AEP makes provision for pupils who have been referred to them by schools in Derry.

The art project saw 13 young people attend classes at The Playhouse, twice a week for five weeks, thanks to funding by Clear who paid £1,000 toward the classes.

Despite being “apprehensive” at first AEP teacher, John McCauley said: “The pupils got a lot out of this project despite being initially worried about it. They find it difficult to cope in mainstream education but manage a lot better at our centre but they responded well to the change in their routine and I believe that they got quite a bit out of the partnership.

“Their final works are just great and some of them would never have thought that they would be part of an art exhibition at The Playhouse.”

A total of 17, 14-16 year olds attend the alternative education programme in the Long Tower Community Club, which is a satellite service of the Western Education and Library Board’s The Laurel Centre in Maydown.

Project facilitator Siuan McLaughlin, of The Playhouse, said of the project: “We opened up a group discussion on role models and positive influences and a lot of the art work flowed from that discussion. We were able to challenge them on perceptions of drugs and portrayal of youth culture in the mainstream media.”

The pupils were also given lessons in techniques of collage making, stencilling, spray painting, painting techniques and communication skills.

Ms. McLaughlin said: “They clearly got an enourmous sense of pride from the project, it was immense and they are delighted that their work is on display in The Playhouse, though a few can’t wait to take their work home with them.

“We used art and the creative process as the catalyst for exploring the issues surrounding drug and alcohol use and misuse. We were able to engage them in a meaningful way, both through art and debate,

“I see this as the start of a really positive partnership.”

AEP pupil Jodie Doherty said of the classes: “Aye they were good, I really enjoyed them. I painted Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn as I really like them and they are both good role models.”