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'Art Matters' to young people in London

students in class

More than 3000 students participated in this year’s Art Matters exhibition held at UEL, which features work by local schoolchildren as well as students from the University of the Arts London (UAL).

“Art is power”, “Art is freedom”, “Art makes me who I am.” These are some of the inspiring comments that students wrote on the posters placed at the entrance of the exhibition. The gallery display includes recreations of the work of famous artists - Warhol, Monet and Van Gogh – as well as contemporary pieces dealing with topics such as the environment, identity issues, and segregation.

Over fifty primary and secondary schools in Newham and surrounding areas took part.  Their work was displayed alongside pieces by students from the Drawing Programme at the University of the Arts, UEL’s Saturday Masterclass, and local colleges.

“I like art because you don’t just have to paint but you can be creative by using recycled materials and maybe even tapestry,” says Julia Kosek, 8, from Windsor Primary School in Lewisham. Art helps children “release and calm down, as when they have to face everything with a normal day they can create something different,” adds Sean Jinadu, 12, from Eleanor Smith School.

Catherine McGill, who provides art-related support for local Newham schools, says art is “an absolutely crucial part of children’s development” as it allows them to think in a completely different way.  She says art offers students the opportunity “to develop manipulative skills, aesthetic judgement and an understanding of other cultures.”

Supporting schools and the local community was one of the main priorities for Simon Robertshaw, the Dean of Arts and Digital Industries at UEL. When visitors look at students’ work they see “a great wealth of experience, expertise and phenomenal creativity,” he says.  The show is the final product, but it’s important to acknowledge the hard work that staff, students and schools put in during the course of the year. Simon Robertshaw says Art Matters creates such a great vibe that it should take place more than once a year.  “We need to do more and more of this engagement,” he says, “That’s really within the ethos of the university, to see it as a civic engagement, as a core principle.”

It’s hoped that the collaboration between UEL and UAL will boost visitor numbers; 2,000 people are expected to attend this year’s exhibition.

The exhibition is open from 8 -16 July at the AVA Building at the University of East London.

Notes to Editors

The University of East London (UEL) is a global learning community with students from over 120 countries world-wide. Our vision is to achieve recognition, both nationally and internationally, as a successful and inclusive regional university proud of its diversity, committed to new modes of learning which focus on students and enhance their employability, and renowned for our contribution to social, cultural and economic development, especially through our research and scholarship. We have a strong track-record in widening participation and working with industry.