On June 7, 2017, CEN8 opened the art exhibition My Dreams, My World in a gallery located in the basement of Out of the Brew, a café at the heart of Goldsmiths’ student life. Celebrating the artistic achievements of our young bright artists, the exhibition also provided with a momentous occasion to reflect upon our community, and on the fundamental place children’s artistic development plays in it.
On the 7th of June, as the launch of the CEN8 Kids art exhibition was about to begin, volunteers gathered in the basement of the café Out of the Brew. Guided through the staircase by a long-winding fresco of colourful children handprints, volunteers reached the gallery where they stood in awe of the amount of work which had been achieved by CEN8 Kids this year during Wednesday and Thursday art workshops. The title of the exhibition suddenly became all too clear: the artists – barely older than ten years-old – had generously invited us to discover and explore worlds unsuspected, dreams that had never been dreamt before. Understandably, the excitement was tangible. Art workshop facilitators and children alike were eager to share months of hard work and of artistic endeavour with parents and, in the days to follow, with the vibrant community of New Cross.
The opening ceremony soon started, as Goldsmiths’ warden, Patrick Loughrey, made his way to the garden of the café. Praising CEN8 activities, the university warden expressed his faith in the children’s talent and the necessity to nurture their creativity at a very young age, to let them know that “their work at least is as good if not better than anyone else’s”. He further acknowledged the fundamental role that the partnership between CEN8 and Goldsmiths, University of London played in ensuring children’s dedication to the arts, insisting that the strength of the community constituted a fertile ground for children’s artistic growth. Addressing the assembly of parents, children and volunteers, Patrick Loughrey urged our young artists to hold on to their craft. “Art is for me, for us” he said. “Don’t let it be for lucky people. Let it be for you.”.
His words could not have resonated with more echo. As the assembly came down to the gallery and discovered the children’s works of art, there was no doubt regarding our CEN8 Kids’ understanding that art belonged to them.
Pat Loughrey cuts the ribbon opening the exhibition
The exhibition – described by the curators as the representation of the “ways in which the children of CEN8 Kids Art Club explore their environment […] and their efforts to bring those dreams to life through creative projects”, and as a manifestation of “children’s freedom of imagination and interpretation” – concretely evidenced both the collaborative work which children had undertaken, and the individual artistic effort they had contributed during the art workshops. From two-dimensional puppets, which illustrated figuratively the ways children pictured themselves, to felt masks reminiscent of super-heroes and pointing to the affirmation of children’s self-confidence, every single piece of artwork came to tell the story of young artists’ promising awakening to their own presence in the world; to the place they are to take within society.
In that regard, one striking, meaningful piece caught attention. Made out of single sheets of geometric pattern drawings produced individually by children before being woven together, a flying carpet hung, ready for use, on the back wall of the gallery. This magical artefact, resulting from a collaboration between children, was a sign directly addressed to the future; not only the children would “fly off to their dream places”, they would fly off to a future which they decide to build together – a future that belongs to them.
The children have shown us that collaborative effort and team-work are key – both at the microcosmic level of CEN8 art workshops, and the macrocosmic level of the wider local, or even national community. Initiative like CEN8 matter. One of the parents, who expressed his admiration and pride at the “great initiative” undertaken by CEN8, passionately claimed this golden truth, arguing that “initiatives like this should be replicated nationally, around the country, in order to develop children’s vision from a very young age.”
Artist Richard Dedomenici has said “As children we’re natural artists. Then we get that inclination beaten/taught out of us at school and have to pay thousands of pounds to relearn it in art school.” May our CEN8 Kids never be taught out of their artistic inclination; may they grow within an environment which fosters their confidence in their own talent; may they make their dreams come true, and leave their imprint into the world.
By the look of the walls of the Out of the Brew gallery, they’re off to a pretty good start.