Case Study: Mary Strickson, Silver Arts Award

Mary Strickson was an Arts Award Voice Reporter from 2014-15, and is now a regular contributor to the magazine. She is also close to finishing her Silver Arts Award.

Case Study: Mary Strickson, Silver Arts Award

I first encountered Arts Award when I went to review an event at Nottingham Contemporary which was run by Meridith Dickin, who was then working as an Arts Award Activist (this was the first review I submitted onto Voice). Meri was informing the public about the different levels of Arts Award and what it could offer to young people. I have to admit that I had never heard of Arts Award before, but was keen to get involved. Meri advertised that they were looking for Activists and Voice Reporters. I sent in my application to the Youth Network and voila, here I am today!

I really wanted to join the Youth Network and become a voice reporter, mainly because Meri made it sound so good (and it has lived up to my expectations!). I've always enjoyed writing and I really wanted to expand my experience and gain the chance to work on writing articles, reviews and blogs and it was the fact that it is all about the arts, which has always been where my passion lies. I also have a passion for photography and the Youth Network has allowed me to use that in capturing events and festivals, which has been really enjoyable.

I liked that the Voice Reporter role was not only writing, but would also give me this photography experience - it felt like a chance to be creative and learn new skills! I have also really enjoyed meeting new people and the Youth Network has been so welcoming. I've travelled to various places around the country on my own (ok Meri and Emrys kept me company a lot of the time, but you get what I mean!). I had never travelled anywhere outside my home cities of Nottingham/Derby and Sheffield (my uni town) on my own before and I haven't been on many holidays or international travels either so this was definitely a new experience for me!

Once I had attended the initial residential in September last year and become a Voice Reporter, I was keen to actually take an Arts Award myself. After all it would feel hypocritical to advocate something that I haven't done myself and to be honest I couldn't wait to get started! Not only would completing an Arts Award fuel my creativity and get me into producing artwork myself once more, but it also would also help me to stand out and will look great on my CV.

At the time, I had already begun the process of becoming an Advocate for Nottingham Contemporary and was attending steering meetings to begin planning for our upcoming young people's festival, Affinity. So I asked Alice, the youth programmer at Nottingham Contemporary if they were able to facilitate Arts Award for us. Alice approached us a few weeks ago to see if we'd be interested in completing our Gold Arts Award with her. We had the initial meeting so now...just watch this space!

But for the past year now, I have have been working on my Silver Arts Award and am well on my way to completing it! In November last year, I started attending Illuminate, a group for 15-25 year olds as part of Nottingham Museums and Galleries Collective. Rosny who leads the group, invited us to complete the award alongside the various projects we were working on. Rosny has been really supportive and we have regular portfolio sessions to keep everything up to date - I am almost finished, with just my arts challenge to go!

I have to admit that the arts challenge is the part I am most looking forward to. I absolutely love creating art myself but I rarely have the time to do it. I attended workshops to learn new painting techniques provided for free by Derby Museum and Art Galleries Vickers Award Project (I got involved with this in January). This has inspired me to try something new, and I am really enjoying it! I've learnt that I should make more time to create art and should push myself more to try new techniques and learn new things. Often I feel like I can't attend workshops or learn new skills because they are too expensive, but I felt like this opportunity made me realise that really I can just give it a go myself and play around with techniques - I shouldn't just stick to what I'm used to just because it's safe and I know what I'm doing.

I really like that I've been able to link Arts Award into the various projects that I'm already involved with and across different arts institutions: including things I've been doing at Nottingham Contemporary with Collabor8 Collective, at Illuminate at Nottingham Museums and at the Vicker's Award Project at Derby Museum and Art Gallery. My advice to anyone taking Arts Award is to utilise any links you already have and make the most of what is available to you and this opportunity to be arty; be as creative as you like and don't feel that there are any limits. Also don't be afraid of things you haven't done before - the first resi I was terrified of getting on the train on my own and travelling to a place I didn't know, but it turned out to be really exciting and make for a brilliant year as a Voice Reporter.


Read more about the Youth Network, as well as the Silver Arts Award.

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