• Samuel Taylor

Midzomer Mokum: Street Art for Kids


Over the past summer, SAMA took part in a government initiative MIDZOMER MOKUM to boost the general wellbeing using each organisations methods to reach out to their respective communities. The idea was to provide the local inhabitants of each district with various means of distraction, especially needed for the young in these current times due to schools being cancelled and indoor leisure centers closing. The elimination of organised activities leaves many children remaining stagnant with few options to continue developing; be it physically, mentally or emotionally. Furthermore, having the children stuck at home can produce negative externalities on the families and parents mental health and financial situations. To exacerbate the issues, continuously felt by the virus, is the inability for a large portion of the first and second generation immigrants, currently living in the targeted neighbourhoods, to be able to go and visit family and friends. These compounding factors can all lead to feeling isolated in an environment where those feelings are already prevalent. A second benefit of the initiative is not only for the inhabitants of these communities to integrate better into their own neighbourhoods, but into Amsterdam more generally.


In response to the government's call for organised community activities, SAMA created the workshop Street-Art for Kids (SA4K); comprising of 9 sessions and 2 final pieces bringing together the kids newly acquired skills in various ways. In those 9 sessions, the 2 to begin with were to build the kids artistic skills through simple drawings. Along with beginner artistic skills, they were encouraged to explore, inquire and express themselves by the means of illustration. All done with the help of TEAMBLAZIN & BEN DE BOEF, who's fluid

calm manner help to slowly build their technical and theoretical foundations, and confidence. These artistic foundations progressed from: composition, proportion, and perspective; to light, texture and shading.

SAMA followed the expressive writing by inviting the Dutch artist and graphic designer, TEAMBLAZIN, to head 2 sessions on Calligraffit; a combination of the traditional calligraphy with that particular zing of graffiti art. These classes engage in physical writing, which has been shown to stimulate critical thinking, memory retention and creativity. The physical writing requires slow deliberate focus, introducing the new art savants to creating calligraphic text by hand with flatpen, ink, brush and paint. All the skills being picked up in this workshop are designed to encourage creativity, patience and focus, as the long term benefit is more rewarding than the short term gratification that is so commonly seen today.

After the pleasure of having TEAMBLAZIN join us, BEN DE BOEF transitioned the kids over to a more sentiment based teaching method by promoting respect, openness and diversity of thinking, through art. They were taught a wide range of painting skills from colour theory and colour blending, to perspective and figuration. The ethical and sentimental lessons that are trying to be promoted, begin with simple steps such as the colours used in a piece, and progress to respecting one another's choices and decisions which affect their own piece. For the technical side, the kids will be shown how to obtain a mix different colours using a limited colour palette. Once the colours are understood they will be taken through the aspects of form and composition. Over the course of the workshop a various range of paint techniques were taught, including the basics of spray can, so that that they could build confidence in ability to express themselves in an open, artistic method of their choosing. The possibility of various paint techniques is meant to broaden perspective, and provide opportunities for conversation and collaborative thinking.


The final 3 sessions were a graffiti workshop where the participants were shown 'can-control', the manipulation of spray cans to achieve different effects and results. These include the choice of spray can top, playing a vital role in making a precise line, filling in a space and shading. Whilst the spray can top is not the only decider, SAMA and SA4K were joined again by TEAMBLAZIN, as well as the pleasure of having the vibrant character BEN DE BOEF, to educate on the proper use of the spray can.

The training is to better help in fully unlocking the kids creativity and motor skills. A brief lesson on graffiti history and various examples of famous graffiti artists will be given, to show some of the possibilities in what can be achieved if they apply the skills developed, and continue expressing themselves through street art. By the end of the 3 sessions, the learners will have designed their own stickers, place them across the neighbourhood and be given the chance to create their own unique pieces .


As a culmination of the skills the kids have acquired, 1 of the final 2 projects at the end of the workshop was all together painting a wall using any means, techniques, styles they chose. All their different outlooks provide an opportunity for collaborative work and thinking, whilst being in an open environment, both physically and creatively.

The theme of the explosive final project was determined cooperatively between our staff at SAMA and the participants using their own designs or pre cut stencils provided to them by SAMA. This push of a non-traditional format, of creative expression and learning, emphasised active theoretical problem solving skills to create thinking strategies and represent them in a visual manner. Before putting paint to brick, the kids got to further practice their skills whilst designing the tag, painting or illustration that they'll leave on the wall. All their individual creations culminated in a vibrant, curiously chaotic and a possibly overly enthusiastic spread of different finished pieces.


As solitary as street art may seem, it is arguably the most social form of set-piece art that exists - a legacy of DADA, Surrealism, Fluxus and Cobra - owing to how available it is for everyone to enjoy, or feel repulsed. The sentiments you feel towards a piece are your own, and have the right to them, which is why in the final course of canvas painting the participants were encouraged to be respectful of how a piece may appear to the oblivious eye, and of each others creative workspaces. To do so, those at SAMA came up with the idea to put all the canvas sheets side by side to create 1 seemingly large canvas. On the back of each canvas sheet will be signed the name of one of the participants. The kids then all worked on the canvas as a whole, at once, exercising the promoted character traits previously stated. Once the canvas as a whole was finished, it was separated into it's original smaller sheets to be taken home. The catch is that the kids didn't know who's name was signed on the back of the canvas they chose to take with them.

LESSONS LEARNED:

  • both parents and kids are asking for regular and systematic programming

  • parents are looking towards creative development which lacks at local schools

  • children are seeking a place where they can be engaged with, talked to, honed

  • security - vandalism diminished

  • community - after bbq and shopping together we got to know the families intimately for the first time in 5 years

  • easiness of administration - access to funding - and minimalistic reporting : results speak for themselves

  • we got to know 10 new families from all over Amsterdam who had never been before to this neighbourhood

CONCLUSIONS:

  • Even though the number of children per group was supposed to be around 12, the popularity of this contemporary art genre brought around 20 - 35 children per session.

  • Many families living the in community where SAMA conducted the workshops are not actually active online and an interesting pattern emerged - only the non-local families registered for the event.

  • The program peaked the kids interest right from the start, as it proved to be popular throughout the whole duration. It also helped that at each workshop they had the opportunity to experiment in various ways.

  • Initially it was thought that punctuality would be an issue, but what was discovered is that they were so keen to take part that some showed up early. Their keenness was the reason we were able to stay on time.

  • What was surprising as the workshops, and their popularity, made headway was the interest of participants from outside the Nieuw-West area. This was a positive outcome which was not foreseen at the start when the prominent majority of the kids who participated were from the the aforementioned distract.

  • Social media played a heavy role in increasing the popularity of the program, especially outside of the designated neighbourhood. During lockdown, it would be safe to say that a large part of the success came from the strong social media push from SAMA, as it was correctly assumed that many people would be on their devices.

  • The parents engagement in the program varied widely from, some staying throughout the whole workshop to others never being seen. At the final bbq, the parents who were present showed great interest in what their child(ren) had produced during the final workshops. The presentation of the kids final pieces, and their excitement, showed the parents a new outlet into which their children can expend their energy.

  • The registration of participants was a mixed result as the majority of those who came from this neighbourhood weren't registered. Whereas, those coming from outside were more willing to do so.

  • The 2 hour duration of the workshop proved to be a bit too long, as the overall concentration levels visibly began to wither towards the end. Furthermore, the overarching program duration of 2 months was an insufficient duration in order to achieve the desired results.

  • The workshops visibly had a wide range of diversity which SAMA took pride in as it represented how art is non judgemental and in theory open to all.

  • Over the course of the program, the parents were pleased with the efforts on the part of SAMA; as all the workshops were well supervised so they knew their kids were in a safe leaning environment, and because professional artists were invited which showed SAMAs commitment the program.

The proof of the success of the program is in the pudding:


🎨 Art in every nook and cranny 🎨


"The children of today cannot concentrate."

"They are so busy and they get bored super fast, after ten minutes they want something else."


You hear these and other statements every day in 2020. Hundreds of Midsummer Mokum workshops proved that this is total nonsense. As long as they do something they really like, together with people who really like it, stimulated by people who really enjoy teaching children something.


Take this workshop by visual artist and calligraffiti artist Teamblazin (Daan Wille) at Street Art Museum Amsterdam (SAMA). If someone had told you: today I will take you to a room where ten completely different children of all ages from all nooks and crannies of Amsterdam all work very concentrated for an hour and a half with a brush and a calligraphy pen. Would you have looked at them in surprise? Little bit right? Well, look, you can.


In fact, director Anna Stolyarova just brings in some playing children from New West next to the applicants, gives them a canvas, a brush and paint and hop, there they go. And in the meantime, Teamblazin explains patiently how everyone makes a beautiful background for their own painting and how everyone can write their own name in the most beautiful letters.


It must be said, SAMA is an inspiring place, with art in every nook and cranny. No wallpaper required, the interior and exterior walls are full of drawings by countless artists. And fair is fair: the promise that they will soon be allowed to spray graffiti on the whitewashed wall next door again and again also helps 😊

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