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Art at the Heart CIC believes that every young person has the right to benefit from a arts rich education. We combat inequality through creative education, so embedding the Arts Award into our services was a natural choice.

Our art courses are grounded in 30 years of arts education experience. Led by Directors and Art Educators Kamaljit Suman and Mukesh Kumar, we offer art-college style community art clubs  because structured arts activities offer a number of benefits, from reducing stress to improving school performance and long-term employability.

Instead of standalone arts activities, we deliver Arts Awards through a suite of connected projects. In our Art Club, ArtLab and Youth Arts workshops, we nurture our young people’s curiosity and help them to experiment with new art forms. We use the Arts Award to empower our young people and give them a real sense of pride and accomplishment. It is amazing to see their transformation when they start to understand their own strengths and grow in their self-belief.

Of course, our work is not without challenges. When Covid-19 hit, we had to adjust quickly to deliver a rich and varied arts experience online. This came with difficulties, but the hard work paid off. After a year of restrictions and delays, we organised a spectacular in-person exhibition of our young artists’ work in a high-profile exhibition space. Their work was displayed to the public at the Courtyard Gallery in The Core, a multipurpose arts complex in the heart of Solihull.

Covid restrictions did not dampen our artists’ ambition. They continued to create masterpieces reaching nearly 3 metres in height. Our young people got the full artist experience, from making art to putting on an exhibition. We successfully delivered 24 Arts Awards across Discover, Explore, Bronze and Silver levels. This year we plan to start delivering Gold Arts Award.

Our advice to organisations wanting to deliver Arts Awards is to embrace the full scale of your young people’s ambition. Work holistically across the art and design process and then map it back to the Arts Award.

“The work I did [in Youth Arts] really helped me to put together my portfolio in a logical way and it was presented professionally… The coaching was really helpful… We covered 2D and 3D art and I looked up artists and designers who had influenced my work. In interviews [for university], I felt confident in presenting my artwork alongside the work I had already done at school and I am really pleased to have been offered [places on undergraduate programmes].”