What makes the Art Play Group work?

I host a group called the Art Play Group in Valencia . I recently wrote a post explaining what it is and why it matters and how it came to be.

As I have been planning and preparing each Art Play Group session, I have had an instinctive feeling for how I do and don’t want to go about things. Ultimately informed I suppose, by my aim to make each session fun, friendly, hands-on and a break from adult life! Here are some of the ways I’ve gone about doing that.

The Basics
  • I am smiley and welcoming to all attendees.
  • I use simple, clear language. Not art-speak
  • I set a simple objective for each session. The objective relates to the process NOT an output
  • I don’t show an example to aim for. Why? because I don’t want to intimidate or overly direct the experience. I want participants to be able to freely explore and play with each activity
A Bit more Under the SkiN
  • I am aware that this type of creative activity may be something that feels unfamiliar,  scary, or nerve-wracking for some.  It takes confidence to experiment with something new.
  • I repeatedly emphasise that there aren’t any rights or wrongs, both in English and in Spanish. No hay ciertos ni errores! This sounds simple but is not to be underestimated
  • I try and include a moment for the group to look at their work together and share their thoughts on the activity. Sometimes this is mid-way, sometimes at the end of the session
  • I research locations carefully. I visit at the same time of day as I will be hosting the group – I check for shade, busyness, ideally soft grass, nearby toilets, bus stops and bike racks.
  • I make notes after each session about what worked well and what not so well.
  • I send a follow-up email after each session and only then do I sometimes link our activiity to something more formally ‘Art’.
Other things I’ve Learnt Along the way
  • People walk slowly, and even more slowly when talking to someone new or doing something. Quadruple time estimates of any walking involved
  • It is generally easier to have a static base that the group can work around and make forays out from as required.
  • I don’t like to think of myself as an art teacher. I prefer to think of myself as a host or facilitator.
  • My hypothesis that ‘everyone is creative’ holds.
    • Age is no barrier – I have had from teenagers to 70+ year olds participate
    • Nationality is no barrier  – I have had participants from 20+ nationalities
    • Occupation is no barrier – I have had doctors, teachers, civil engineers, architects, software developers and students participate amongst others
  • The diversity of outcomes that can spring from a single starting point is staggering, dazzling and endlessly inspiring!