Day One at Harrow Way Community School

“Do you know what I’m going to do when I get home? I’m walking my dog and doing this – I’ll let my dog walk on my page and make footprints!”

Today we ran the first session of this year-long project, with Year 8 children from Harrow Way Community School, introducing them to ways of using art to explore and record. We are focusing on Ash Trees, but also incorporating the students’ experiences of the local environment as a whole.

Following introductions to me (Project Artist), Becky (ATU Education Officer), Andover Trees United and CAS (Chapel Arts Studios), we initiated a group discussion in response to the question ‘What Can Art Be?’. We wanted to get a sense of what the group understood art to be, and to begin a document that we could add to and update over the length of the project.

After sharing examples of my own artwork, and the ways I combine different media to document multi-sensory experiences of places, we took our sketchbooks outside onto the school field and began to experiment.

We focused on a group of trees to one side of the field, which included some fairly young ash trees, laid out the resources on a groundsheet, and invited the group to explore the area and record their experiences in their sketchbooks.

The group were encouraged to be playful and experiment, to combine rubbings, printing, text and found objects in ways that worked for them, whilst paying attention to their senses and their feelings.

“This is my first time doing art outside

“I loved collecting Ash leaves”

Each child will use a sketchbook or journal across the length of the project, both within and outside of the 3 project sessions facilitated by myself and Becky, so that they can keep a record of where their investigations take them.

At the end of the morning, we came back together in the classroom, to hear the students reflect on their experiences, share their artwork, and start to plan for our next session in February, when we will be walking to and working at nearby Charlton Lakes.

Central to this project is the belief in the need for the students themselves to be involved in the planning. We want to work with them to develop a project that gives them opportunities to learn about where they live, in ways that are fun, that involve all their senses and which places that learning within the context of global environmental issues and their local heritage.

Next week I will be working with Vernham Dean Gillum’s School. Please come back then for more updates, and get in touch if you would like to share your own stories, artwork or photographs relating to local Andover Ash trees.

Introducing Ash Tree Stream

Ash Tree Stream is a one-year visual arts project, led by artist James Aldridge, in partnership with Andover Trees United, CAS (Chapel Arts Studios) and five schools in the Andover area:

Ash Tree Stream will enable children and staff to use visual arts processes to learn about Ash trees and Ash dieback disease, outside of the classroom, and within the context of local cultural heritage and climate change.

The project will provide an opportunity for children to meet and learn about the work of a professional artist, many of them for the first time. James will support the children to develop new artistic skills through documenting their experiences of Ash Trees and their place in their local heritage (Andover is thought to get its name from ‘‘on dubr’ meaning Ash Tree Stream).

New artwork by James and the children, along with project documentation, will be shared with the wider school community and the public, through an exhibition at the CAS exhibition space in central Andover in Summer 2020.

Together with Andover Trees United Education Officer Becky McGugan (funded through the Ernest Cook Trust), James will support teachers to explore the value of art within outdoor learning, as a way of enabling learning through the whole person – their body, emotions and imagination, as well as intellect.

After declaring a climate and ecological emergency earlier this year, and taking part in a recent National Assembly with Culture Declares Emergency, I am keen to use my work as an artist to promote awareness of the crises that we face, and what each of us can do about it.

This funding from Arts Council England and CAS will enable me to develop a new body of work through my own research into Ash trees and Ash Die-Back, and ways of working with schools/communities and their local trees that can be applied to other towns. This comes at a time when an appreciation of the need for and value of trees within our communities is increasing in the face of climate and ecological breakdown.

James Aldridge, Artist – October 2019

Please do come back and follow our progress here, and keep in touch on social media by searching for the #AshTreeStream hashtag.

If you would like to tell us about the Ash Trees in your area, or share your own Ash related artwork, we’d love to hear from you, just go to the Contact page and send us a message.

Thank you.