Thursday, July 4, 2013

Return to work

A couple of weeks after I returned to work, we welcomed 100 year 9 students from Billanook College into our building at 130 Little Collins St. The City 9 week is a wonderful experimental collaboration between the Culture and Context Unit (in which I work) and Billanook College. This week puts the agency and individual gifts and interests of each student at its heart, as young people work in small groups to explore and learn from all the city of Melbourne has to offer. It's adventurous, fun, intense, challenging and there are lots of unknowns and surprises. My new colleague Laura was organising the logistics and managing the myriad of relationships required in planning for this week long event. (Basically she was doing all the hard work). Daniel Donahoo, (and Adrian Pyle (@adrian_pyle) and a team of Billanook teachers had done all the thinking and planning to make this happen....

...And I was lucky enough to waltz in at the last minute and be assigned the job of curating a space in our small chapel for some of the students. We took two hours out of the Thursday morning and gave them the opportunity to reflect and spend time stopping in the midst of their transformative week.

I worked with art installation group, The Seam, to create some stations for an installation in the space. The four women who make up the Seam, all have backgrounds in art therapy, so it was amazing to spend time working out a process of artistic inquiry with them. Drawing on a multi-disciplinary art practice, The Seam explore the space between shared experience and invite others to pause, notice and be immersed in a quiet visual world. The Seam are informed by creative arts inquiry processes, having studied together at the Melbourne Institute for Experiential and Creative Arts Therapy. Usually, with this kind of work, there would be a facilitator in the space, in order to depth the artistic explorations of the young people. Because we were allowing the students to explore at their own pace and will, we developed ways of facilitating this exploration through written instruction. We started our process by sitting with the questions that underpinned the City9 week for its creators: "How is Melbourne changed by having you in it this week?" and "How will Moorarlbark be changed by you after you return from your time in Melbourne?"

We were looking at the smaller world, and the larger world by exploring in the installation:

This little world we are creating      The big city world outside 
Known                                            Unknown
Small                                               Big
Welcome                                         Stranger

As students entered the space they were greeted by a box of index cards, and invited to take one that they felt drawn to.

Activity 1 
A guided free writing exercise 

There is a box of alphabetised index cards - on each card there is one sentence to get the students started. 

"This week, a moment that made me curious was…."

After the students spend time writing their letter they go to the second index card box. 
In this box there are instructions and 2 small envelopes. 

After you have written the letter: 
Read over your letter and underline words that stand out to you. 
What word stays with you now? 
Now it's time to share your word with a stranger.
On your little card, write your keyword and pop it in the two envelopes. 
Leave one in a special place in the city. Take one back with you to Mooroolbark and leave it for a stranger there. 

The next station was filled with jars, magazines, scissors and other bits and pieces:

Activity 2
Preserving your week. 

Which pictures represent how you feel now about your Melbourne experience? What things do you want to hold on preserve and treasure? Put them in your very own jar. 

The last station was all about maps...

Activity 3 
Mapping Melbourne- a private/public task 

The image cards are laid out on the floor and the large Melbourne map is on the wall 

1. Think about a moment from this week. Choose an image that feels connected to that moment. 
2. Describe your image in a few words. 
3. Put your words on the map. 

I enjoyed creating this space with The Seam so very much. The students were so still in this place, and many asked to come back again later. It is incredible to watch young people when they take on an ownership of a space. What makes them feel comfortable? How do those multi-sensory elements change a place and invite a sense of stillness? A few fairy lights do a lot to change a room, that's for sure. This space reminded me that I should make more of those space changes in my own home and everyday life. I felt very lucky to be back in my workplace, and given opportunities to do this kind of work with young people.  

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