Kent Refugee Action Network students create art for eminent exhibition

24 November 2015

Internationally acclaimed artist, Adam Chodzko, has been working with Canterbury Christ Church University’s Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury Festival and Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) to help KRAN students strengthen communication skills, gain confidence and obtain art qualifications.

Each year Canterbury Festival’s LINK project aims to build connections between local communities and the wide variety of creative opportunities on offer in East Kent. This year it partnered with the Sidney Cooper Gallery to co-run a series of workshops with KRAN students so they could obtain a nationally recognised Bronze Arts Award qualifications.

Since early October, 23 KRAN students, who are from a number of different countries including Eritrea, Africa, Vietnam and Afghanistan, took part in a range of gallery tours, and art workshops engaging with contemporary art, and finally creating two artworks of their own.

The gallery tour with interactive activities and art workshop took place prior to the opening of Adam Chodzko’s exhibition, Design for a Fold , commissioned by the Sidney Cooper Gallery set to run until 21 November.

Students visited the Sidney Cooper Gallery, took part in communicative activities to expose them to gallery language and engaged with artwork on display. They were given information about Adam and his work and prepared questions that they wanted to ask him about his life as an artist whilst also telling them something about themselves. Adam then visited the gallery and answered each of their questions individually and used this information to design two different skills-based workshops for the students, whose ages ranged between 14 and 19 years old.

The idea for the piece was to symbolise a carnival in which people met in a forest and exchanged stories.  The title for the collaborative piece is: That night, in a clearing in a walnut forest, lit by the city light, the carnival changed, in order to tell a new story .

Kent-Refugee-Action-Network-students-create-art-for-eminent-exhibition That night, in a clearing in a walnut forest, lit by the city light, the carnival changed, in order to tell a new story

Branches and twigs were collected from walnut trees located on the University’s North Holmes campus and were randomly tied together with brightly coloured cable ties to create a beautiful rectangular sculpture to fit in the gallery window. Adam specifically chose walnut trees as ‘walnut’ in Old English translates to ‘foreign’ which he felt was fitting for this project.

Adam then worked with the students to create a video where each student had a minute to recall a story in their mother tongue wearing the carnival masks they had carefully produced. They used pages from out of date travel books and maps to create the masks, and shaped them in a way that was unique to them.

The remaining pages from the travel books formed the base of the walnut sculpture that stands in the window of the Gallery as a ‘city filter’ allowing only the light to pass through the gaps as the storytelling unfolds.

The sculpture and the video features in Design for a Fold , which corresponds with the exhibition’s theme mapping place, time and community of Adam’s continued engagement with Kent and the people who form its communities.

Hazel Stone, Curator at the Sidney Cooper Gallery, said: “Working with the group of young KRAN students has been truly inspiring. They have been enthused to learn about contemporary art and interact with the local community, working very hard to create a meaningful piece for Adam’s exhibition. They should be immensely proud.

“Our contribution to learning and our positioning within the community is important to us and we are thrilled to now be an accredited Arts Awards Centre, helping students, teachers and trainee teachers to grow their skills knowledge and confidence with art.”

During the Private View of the exhibition, it was announced that ten of the participating KRAN students had achieved Bronze Arts Award and they were presented with their certificates, which are equivalent to a level D-G GCSE qualification.

Natasha Wright, Volunteer Coordinator for KRAN Education Canterbury, said: “Working alongside the Sidney Cooper Gallery and Adam Chodzko was a fantastic opportunity for our students to not only engage with the professional art world but also to feel part of the local community.

“We are extremely proud of all the hard work and dedication our students put in to create the pieces of art for the exhibition and achieving their Arts Award qualification.

“By participating in this project it has also provided our students with the confidence and necessary skills to pursue creative courses at college and enabled KRAN to establish links with the Sidney Cooper Gallery to work on further projects.”

Dr Keith McLay, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Canterbury Christ Church University, said: “As the University’s Institutional Lead for Arts & Culture, it was a delight to officially open the Adam Chodzko exhibition at the Sidney Cooper Gallery and celebrating the achievements of the KRAN students in securing their Bronze Arts Awards. 

“There was a tremendous warm and appreciative buzz amongst those who had gathered for the opening in recognising and applauding the students’ achievements which were of credit to each and every one of them.”

Notes to Editor

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With almost 18,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 95% of our UK graduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.

*2012/13 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey


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Last edited: 05/12/2017 02:50:00