10. 11. 2018
Artists in Schools: Port Augusta Secondary School
Carclew’s Artist in Schools Projects have been operating in various formats for many, many years and have produced a range of student led outcomes that support in-school curriculum and the profiling of schools in their local community. More than 75,000 South Australian students in junior primary, primary, secondary and area schools have participated in Carclew Artists in Schools projects.
Through my role this year we delivered a small Artist in Schools project with Port Augusta Secondary School.
I started talking with Port Augusta Secondary School Drama teacher Nathan Lambert early in my role about some work he was doing developing an after-school drama group. The after-school drama group was created as a response to the cancelling of senior drama classes at Port Augusta Secondary (due to low numbers). Nathan was (is) also concerned about the lack of creative opportunities for young people in Port Augusta outside of school and in a funny coincidence, one of his own high school drama teachers was my old neighbour when I lived in Port Noarlunga. So Nathan and I had been talking about a whole bunch of things over email and a couple of times in person including some suggestions on appropriate scripts for high school drama students and Nathan also attended our Youth Arts Facilitator HotHouse in June. So when an opportunity came up (internally at Carclew) to support an Artist in Schools project in a regional secondary school, it made perfect sense to pitch an idea to work with Nathan and students at Port Augusta Secondary School to continue and deepen these conversations.
One of the big things Nathan and I had been talking about was the distinct lack of scripts for young performers and our shared desire to support regional young people to tell their own stories and pursue creative careers (if they want to!). We’d also been talking about the challenge of exposing students and young people to professional artists who can be super inspiring but also feel really removed and far away from the experiences of regional young people. These two things formed the foundation of the small project we ended up delivering.
Over seven days – split into two visits – students at Port Augusta Secondary School had the opportunity to work with emerging artists Kyron Weetra, Joshua Mensch and Shay Leach*. I asked Kyron to develop a 10 minute script from creative development workshops with students that the school could use in class, and with Josh there to support Kyron in facilitating sessions with the students and Shay there to document the process with film & photography. This was the first in-school project Kyron and Josh have facilitated and they are both emerging artists still honing their craft and developing their facilitation skills – and both under 26 – so I was also there for the entire project to support their learning journey and be an additional creative professional in the room with students. Our intention with the project was to provide space for students to participate in creative workshops led by practicing artists, inspire students to start creating their own script ideas, and provide students with a ‘line of sight’ towards creative career pathways.
During the first residency visit students studying Year 8, 9 & 10 Drama and the afterschool mixed Drama group Shock N Awe worked with the Kyron and Josh exploring creative writing and performance skills and contributing characters and ideas towards the short play. Following the first visit Kyron then began writing a short and silly script based on student ideas which students then had the opportunity to explore and further develop during the second and final residency visit. Over the final visit each of the classes had the opportunity to read the script in draft form and see it continue developing as Kyron continued writing throughout the visit.
This Artist in Schools project provided students with the opportunity to share their own ideas, to meet and collaborate with South Australian performance artists, to gain insight into the arts sector and be inspired by opportunities for future career development, and to develop their own skills in creating, developing, working with and interpreting original texts.
Students interested in pursuing creative careers were also offered an extra-curricular extension day focused on creative writing to finish the project. I led everyone through the day with a series of creative tasks to create a set of texts exploring the theme of water, which we roughly self published as a zine at the end of the day. This was a really fun way to finish the project for the students, Nathan and us.
While we there one of the Year 12 students also interviewed myself, Kyron and Josh towards her Research Project assignment investigating the process of producing a play. I also sat in on a rehearsal of Compass – a play by Jessica Bellamy – which was one of the scripts I’d recommended to Nathan earlier in the year for Shock N Awe. Compass was originally written and produced by Australian Theatre for Young People as part of their Foundation Commission in 2012.
In school projects have a whole range of challenges, especially when working with younger year levels who haven’t opted in to the subject matter and within the strict time constraints of school lessons which are not very conducive to building trust or to developing creative practice. Navigating these challenges was a big learning process for Kyron and Josh who were leading the in-school engagement, but it was fantastic to see them both develop their confidence as the project progressed. Although the project itself was very brief, it provided an opportunity to continue developing trust with Nathan and students at Port Augusta Secondary School towards future outcomes and collaborations in the region. It was really satisfying for me to see the evidence of this when I returned a week and a half later to see the final performance of Compass and was greeted warmly by the students who now recognise and know me through the Port Augusta Secondary School Artist in Schools project.
Let’s keep making art!
IMAGE: The creative team with participants of the creative writing extension day. Photo by Shay Leach.
*Brief description of creative team
Kyron Weetra is an Adelaide-born Narunggan man who is also a descendant of the Saxon clan. Kyron is a part-time bard, part-time thespian and all-year-round creative hustler. Sometimes he eats and sleeps.
Josh Mensch began his journey into the arts at the age of four, when he was chosen to play Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer out of a group of nearly 60 children. This had absolutely no effect on the ego of this soon to be superstar. Josh is an Adelaide based writer and performer.
Kyron and Josh have recently returned to Australia after presenting the live version of their Radio Adelaide show ‘Huge News’ at Edinburgh Fringe during July/September.
Shay Leach was born and bred in Berri and is currently based in Adelaide. She is an experienced radio broadcaster and producer, having hosted Pride and Prejudice for Radio Adelaide for the past six years. She is also an emerging film-maker and has been documenting Kyron and Josh’s residency at Port Augusta Secondary School.
Alysha Herrmann is a daughter of the Riverland and an award winning cultural practitioner working across the arts, education, youth work, social enterprise and community development. Alongside her freelance and independent work, she is currently employed in a state-wide joint position with Carclew and Country Arts SA dedicated to nurturing creative careers for young people 12-26 in regional, rural and remote communities