Over the summer I worked with a group on the Stepping up Project. The group of young people were involved with Youth Work Ireland Tipperary in Tipp Town.
The project was about re imaging education systems. In this case we looked at youth work as an educational space and literally looked towards the physical environment. The group decided to overhaul the stairs in their local youth centre and to create a public art piece (although they didn’t call it this).The three story youth work centre in Tipp town is utilized by many different young people and adults. These people come to the service for a range of different reasons ranging from fun, listening, support, progression and so much more. We wanted the people who used the stairs in the centre, to feel a sense of fun, motivation and encouragement as they used them and used YWIT. The young people also identified that they wanted it to influence the workers as well as the service users.
Before the project, the staircase looked a bit dull and gloomy and wouldn’t fill a person with enthusiasm when ascending them.
This project was playful, fast paced, involved group work and team work. It was a refreshing and positive project to work on. The young people were really engaged and enjoyed working on the project. They were a fantastic group to work with and we had a number of great sessions.
Other workers in the building were interrupted by ‘art in the making’ which added some performance and drama to environment and pushed us all out of our comfort zones. A gentle reminder that it’s a youth space as well as a work space.
It is definitely a project that could be replicated by any youth group and youth worker without the expertise of an artist. It really is about giving young people the space and then trusting what they come up with.
When the young people finished they decided to launch their project to the public during a local community festival. During the launch they hosted an Ice cream party on behalf of Down Syndrome Ireland. This was an important element of the work. It highlighted to me the need to share and celebrate work and that young people want to give something back.
The project worked on so many different levels. It gave the young people something interesting and engaging to do over the summer. It gave them an opportunity to get involved in arts and create an art piece for the service. It illustrates good youth work using arts as a core methodology. The young people built stronger relationships with youth workers. It was very affordable. The stairs has a growing audience, months later the project is still generating conversation and comments.
This project was an element of the Arts Participation Bursary Award that Teresa received from the Arts Council of Ireland.
Teresa Normile is a Tipperary/Midwest based project worker with over 10 years experience having worked with youth justice, youth project and now family support. She is also an artist who has an interest in making work about, with, and in the youth/ community and voluntary sector.