Top tips for running an arts workshop

We hear from Genevieve Rudd, Youth Engagement Officer of Creative Collisions about how to run successful arts skills sharing workshops and what to do when it doesn't go to plan. 

Top tips for running an arts workshop

I'm Genevieve Rudd, Youth Engagement Officer at Time & Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth. I co-organise National Saturday Art & Design Club and other Arts Award projects with my job share colleague Tricia Hall, through theCreativeCollisons youth arts network.

What are your tips for running a successful arts workshop?

Stick to a schedule - My top tip for running a successful workshop would be to schedule time beforehand for planning. 

From my experience, having a clear start, middle and end of any project are key – whether you’re running a one-day session or a regular group over several months.

As a facilitator, it will help you feel more confident about what you’re delivering. For a participant, it’ll help them know what is expected of them.

So, when I’m running a workshop, I usually start with a really clear introduction which tells the group of participants who I am, what the aim of the workshop is, explain the techniques or skills that will be used, and what the intended outcome is. That way, everyone knows what to expect!

Then, the middle part of the session is the activity -- it’s the making, the doing, the creating part. Then finally, the end. It’s easy to think of the end of a session as just the part where all the materials get packed away (which is important too, of course!) but the way a session ends can be just as significant as how they begin. 

Throughout the session, keep an eye on the time and let people know how long is left.

When there are 20 minutes left to go, for example, tell the group so there is a gradual progression towards the finishing time. This gives the facilitator chance to do a quick review of the intended outcomes, and see whether the group is on target or not.

Reflect on what went well - The end of the session is a really good time to review what happened during the workshop. Also, to open up space for feedback from the group by asking whether they achieved what they wanted to or whether it lived up to their expectations, what they liked or what could be made better. This might come in the form of an open discussion of thoughts for the last 5-10 minutes, a ‘show and tell’ of what was produced during the workshop, or through feedback sheets.

Be prepared to go off plan - Sometimes you can make a really clear plan for a session but, for whatever reason, it just doesn’t work out. Don’t panic! After the session, take time to review why the outcome wasn’t achieved. Was it too ambitious? Were there enough materials? Did the participants understand the activity? Was there enough time? Don’t beat yourself up about it -- think of it as a live learning opportunity. 

As long as you take time to reflect on both what worked well and what didn’t, then it isn’t wasted effort, it’s a chance to develop more insight and experience.

Remember to think about the things that did work out, as well as the things that didn’t.

If you’d like further tips on facilitating, talk to your Arts Award advisor or tutor, as they can give you support from their own experience. Chances are, the times when things didn’t go well were the best learning opportunities!

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Time & Tide Museum (Norfolk Museum & Archaeology Service) is an Arts Award Supporter. You can see their profile here.


Nici West

Nici West Voice Team

Nici is the an editor for Voice. She loves all things books, theatre, music, art, visiting other countries, anything creative, and sometimes attempts to make YouTube videos. Alongside Voice she writes and edits through her own pursuits.You can occasionally find her running marathons dressed as a black dog.

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  • Kayt Button

    On 18 April 2018, 09:34 Kayt Button commented:

    All great advice. The time and tide museum is a really interesting place too so if you get a chance to visit it do pop in.

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