Beverley Ashton on her experience as a student on NYCI’s Certificate in Youth Arts
As part of her blog series, our first resident blogger NYCI’s Senior Project Officer, Youth Arts, Anne O’ Gorman continues to throw a spotlight on various aspects of NYCI’s Youth Arts Programme.This week she asked Beverley Ashton to talk about her experience as a student on the Certificate in Youth Arts.
Here’s what Beverley had to say:
I had been volunteering for a youth organisation for a while, in the capacity of a visual artist, working weekly with a group of young people on various projects.
The organisation offered to fund my trip to Cork to participate in NYCI’s residential youth arts summer school 2012 and I jumped at the chance. This was a major turning point in my career path. The three days I spent with others who work with young people in various roles was truly inspiring.
Apart from the excitement and fun of working creatively in collaboration, I realised that I needed to further my knowledge and understanding of my role in youth arts. I decided to apply for a place on the Certificate in Youth Arts.
As I had not been involved in a learning/education situation for some time I was worried about the written work. I need not have been anxious. The learning process was so well structured that I realised that I was absorbing knowledge almost without being aware. One major part of this process was group experiential learning. Pooling our knowledge and exploring many themes was a very exciting way to learn for me.
Aspects such as keeping a reflective journal, concise presentations, handouts and comprehensive session timetables meant that everything was outlined clearly and followed a well planned path. The support and encouragement from the course co-ordinators and lead tutors was such that at no time did I feel out of my depth. They were always ready to take a ‘phone call or email if I needed some advice, which I did on occasion!
We had the opportunity at various points throughout the year to experience, as participants, the most amazing workshops. These highlighted for me how truly important it is for the young people that we work with to be involved in high quality, authentic art experiences and that our role as a facilitator is key to that. We put ourselves in their shoes and it was revelatory. Two of these workshops stand out for me; creative writing and drama. These reignited old passions of mine from my own early years and I plan to incorporate these in a project later this year.
When the certificate course started, initially I felt very nervous and somehow “less than”. All the other participants seemed to be already experts in their field and I really wondered whether I should be in such company and if I had anything to contribute. These fears were totally unfounded. Some of the group had the same trepidation, which we shared over time and were able to support each other through our learning process. This was a really important aspect of the journey for me. I forged some close friendships and it was brilliant to have the chance to share our work practice experiences in a non judgmental, uncompetitive way. I have built up a strong network and have already collaborated with one of my peers on a project and we are planning more.
As for the impact on my work practice, well, where to begin?
After each session of the course I took back to my group of young people new learning, such was the immediacy of the course content. For example; my confidence to use warm up/group games, the understanding of what true participation for young people is and how to implement this, also an overview of group dynamics and the recognition of the need for thorough planning. I also feel totally confident in approaching funding bodies to support future projects.
Most importantly for me was an appreciation and recognition of my skills and abilities as a youth arts practitioner. I have set the bar pretty high on how I plan to work with young people in the future and that is because they deserve and indeed are entitled to nothing but my best.
My experience of this certificate programme was wholeheartedly positive. I did struggle a little financially and balancing my home commitments so that I could travel to Dublin, but I did and it was worth it!
Content and views expressed by our guest Bloggers in Residence does not necessarily represent the views of NYCI
Beverley Ashton is a youth arts practitioner specialising in visual arts. Beverley moved from her native London to rural East Clare to raise her new family some twenty odd years ago. During that busy time she qualified as an interior decorator specialising in paint effects and tutored for the VEC,
FÁS and various CE schemes.
The projects she facilitated included the exploration of specific techniques, materials and colour used in projects including the decoration of, a large community centre and a school playground. She also ran private classes in furniture painting and other uses of decorative media.
In the autumn of 2011 she approached Clare Youth Service, Ennis, to offer her skills in a voluntary capacity and over the past two years has been involved in many visual art projects with young people. She worked closely with youth workers and young people exploring themes, such as drugs and alcohol awareness, bullying and self image. Some of the core skills that she has shared with young people as a means of self expression include mask and costume making, puppet design and construction, sculpture, collage, graffiti/graphic art exploration and murals.
Beverley attended NYCI’s Youth Arts Summer School in June 2012 which, apart from being a creative time personally, highlighted for her the need to formalise her knowledge and appreciation of the importance of youth arts. Having experienced the transformative effects it can have on young people firsthand she felt she needed to have a more thorough understanding of the methodologies which underpin best practice in youth arts.Beverley completed the NYCI Certificate in Youth Arts in 2013 and is planning her next projects with a new and comprehensive vision of what the needs, expectations and entitlements are for the young people she will be working with. This is a career path that Beverley did not start out on but is thrilled to be exploring now.