Thomas Bewick School is a special needs school for children with autistic spectrum disorders in Newcastle. Thanks to funds from The Gillian Dickson Trust, students from Thomas Bewick spent a day at Highgreen in July 2015. The morning was spent forgaging with Northern Wilds. For lunch, pizza’s were made from scratch and cooked on the outdoor clay oven. The afternoon was spent drawing and weaving with Artist Helen Pailing.
“I visited Highgreen with a group of 11 students all of whom have autism. The visit was absolutely wonderful. The students were completely engaged through the whole visit and there was an abundance of experiential learning opportunities. There was something truly charming about foraging for our own food and then cooking it up in the pizza oven in the wood. Activities were accessible for all students no matter what level they were working at. It was a wholly inclusive day which both staff and students enjoyed immensely. We have had the students asking if we can visit every week! Thanks again” Francesca Brown, Senior teacher Thomas Bewick School July 2015
Contact with the school was developed by Newcastle University student Esra Oskay on behalf of VARC. She put together a programme of visits that included a trip for students to Highgreen to explore the area and make clay objects, a visit to an exhibition at the Hatton Gallery with a workshop and a guided tour of students’ studios in the University’s Fine Art Department. Esra and VARC liaised with the school’s Head of Art, Claire Gladstone to identify what VARC could do to complement the school’s art programme. As a result, VARC funded a project 2009-2010 which was led by artist and former VARC artist in residence, Karen Rann.
Karen delivered a series of ten sessions at the school using a mixture of man-made materials and natural materials gathered by the students during regular walks. The completed artwork was displayed as part of an exhibition by the school’s students held at Customs House, South Shields January/February 2010 and then later back in the school.
In May 2012 a group of students from the school spent a day at Highgreen using the woodland area to make shelters and the barns to make prints, ‘stained glass’ panels using coloured acetate and cellophane and ‘big painting’. Best use was made of the barn spaces to make and display work. Staff feel that the students get a great deail from making and spending time in a very different environment to that at school.