15 years of Arts Awards at City Arts

Date published: 31 Mar 2021

Posted by: Alma Solarte-Tobón

Arts Awards

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In this blog, Creative Producer Alma Solarte-Tobón reflects on City Arts’ Arts Awards journey. The qualification, awarded by Trinity College London, inspires young people to grow their arts and leadership talents. This month, we were delighted to learn that 13 of our young participants had achieved their ‘Bronze’ level Arts Awards.

Arts Awards have been a part of City Arts’ work with young people’s for over 15 years. The award was created to give young people another way to achieve in the arts, outside traditional academic qualifications. We took part in the awards’ pilot back in 2004.

An Arts Award certificate
An Arts Award Certificate
A zine made by our young participants
An Arts Award Workbook

The Beginnings

When I joined City Arts, we were running a project called ‘apt’. The pioneering project brought together arts, youth, education, community and specialist support agencies in Nottingham. It created opportunities for 13-17 year olds who had been, or were at risk of being, excluded from school to take part in the arts. ‘apt’ aimed to help them overcome the barriers to learning that they faced.

apt - creative pathways for young people
Flyer for the ‘apt’ project

In Summer 2002, we were asked by the National Youth Agency and DCMS to consult with a group of young people on a proposed DCMS Arts Accreditation Scheme. Following a few years of testing and development, this became the Arts Award. City Arts staff were trained to run the scheme. In July 2006, our first group of young participants successful completed and received their Bronze Arts Award.

High Achievers

Between 2002 -2006, following their time with City Arts, we would encourage our young participants attend the Creative Room, part of Nottingham’s Youth Service. We supported some to achieve all three levels of Arts Awards: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Now in their late 20s, they remember their time with us fondly:

I was part of City Arts when I was a teenager. I was a shy teenager but being a part of the youth group really made me more confident. I enjoyed making new friends and learning new skills. After being with City Arts for a while I then joined Creative Room which was amazing! Not only did I become more confident but I also learned skills that I never thought I would learn. I learned how to do circus skills, dancing and even drama.

Being a part of the youth group changed my life and I will be forever grateful for the group! It was the best time of my life!!!! Honestly a lot of what I learned through the youth group made me who I am today.

Hayley, former City Arts participant

When I first did my Bronze my life wasn’t good but doing all three – Bronze, Silver and Gold – was an achievement and a goal that I thought I couldn’t achieve. My confidence went up. All those who were involved in helping, like Alison and Alma and a couple of other people from other arts projects, made the Arts Awards very enjoyable to be involved in. To be in a room with creative people, and to try different art forms like dance, art and music was good fun. To get a certificate out of that is so good! I’ve still got them! It has brought a lot of confidence throughout the years. I do graffiti now. It is because of City Arts that I still do it. I met an artist who is mate now. Thank you again for the opportunity.

Jack, former City Arts participants

It’s great that they still value the projects they took part in – and are proud of the recognition they received from Arts Awards. Our work has had a lasting impact on its participants.

Express Yourself in Gedling

In 2009, we started working with the arts and health teams at Gedling Borough Council and CAHMS. We created a new project based on the same principals as ‘apt’.  Named ‘Express Yourself’ by a participant, the programme has supported hundreds of young people to get an Arts Award.

Our 13-17 year old participants have learnt many creative skills. From print making and puppetry, ceramics and coding, to VJing and graphics design. It is taking part in creative activities that our past participants most enjoyed. Their Arts Award added extra value.

(Creating) was my favourite part (of the Arts Award). I really enjoyed making the dragon puppet and thinking about how build the structure. I also like the digital graffiti (project) because I really enjoyed randomly doodling on random things. Plus, adding sounds to them that was really really fun!

Ella, former Express Yourself Particpant
Young person taking a photograph

We aim to make the process of achieving the Art Award as different from the school arts curriculum as possible. We employ skilled artists that make the process really enjoyable. They support small groups of young people, encouraging them to work together to achieve ‘something bigger than themselves’. The end product – an exhibition or artwork – is the result of teamwork. It is celebrated publicly. I recall many conversations with parents, carers and family members of our participant who have been astonished by their achievements. The pride felt by all is immeasurable.

Creative Pathways

Young Producers is a group for 18-30 year olds looking to be a part of Nottingham’s thriving creative scene. The group support and encourage each other to take part in the arts. City Arts supports the group with resources, funding and advice. Its members include ex-Express Yourself participants who we’ve continued to support them into adulthood.

When I started the project and the Arts Award, it was during a time when I didn’t think I could start something new. Looking back, I’m so glad that I had the experience and did in fact start something new when I participated. I’ve made new friends and met many inspiring people and I continue to try new things because of the people I met who were involved with the project. Having those connections also helped me regain my love for arts and my will to improve.

Anika, former Express Yourself Participant and Young Producers
Participants making screen prints
Screen printing T-shirts with Express Yourself

We have supported one Young Producer to get their Gold Arts Award. Meridith began her journey with us as an Express Yourself participant. They volunteered for the programme while studying Foundation and Fine Arts at Nottingham Trent University. Meridith also became an Arts Award Youth Network Associate from the East Midlands. They wrote for Voice Mag, including this article on the experience of completing a Gold Arts Award.

Getting involved with Arts Award is what helped me decide on where I wanted to go with my future in terms of education and eventually career prospects. Being indecisive, I went back and forth between a number of options but I had such a great time being involved in creative activities outside of school that it helped me decide.

Meridith, former Express Yourself Participant and Young Producers
Meridith Dickin & Alma Solarte-Tobon of people posing for a photograph

Meridith is now works for us as an artist, running sessions for the Express Yourself programme, as well as other projects.

Looking back

It’s incredible to have been able to touch the lives of so many young people over the years. I’m pleased that I am still in touch with some. Some have taken up the arts as a career, others continue to create as a hobby, and some simply have fond memories their involvement with us as a time when art helped them in some way.

We continue to run activities for young people through our Express Yourself, ART CLUB and Young Producers programmes. We still support people to gets Arts Awards. It is a fantastic framework for young people to achieve in the arts.

Want to do an Arts Award?

View Points - Be Active, Get Creative, Express Yoursefl

We are currently looking for participants for our View Points project. 14-17 year olds in Gedling can sign up to receive an activity pack, as well as remote mentoring to get their Arts Awards. Learn photography skills and explore your local parks.