This July, we took part in ArtFest 2018, organised by the RSA. 97 children from 11 schools around Coventry participated in workshops exploring dance, drama, spoken word, music and visual arts. We took an Imagination Hub to the event and here, Michelle Borda, Imagination Hub Project Manager, tells us what they got up to.

What is ArtFest 2018?

ArtFest 2018, organised by the RSA, was a day long event where 97 children from 11 schools participated in different workshops exploring dance, drama, spoken word, music and visual arts. The iOi were running activities exploring visual arts with the theme ‘belonging’. Such a rich and beautiful theme!

What activities did we get up to? 

We started the day exploring the question ‘what is imagination?’ and how we create. We watched some of Kirby Ferguson’s brilliant video ‘The Elements of Creativity‘ form the Everything is a Remix project for inspiration and explored the idea that most creations are built and developed from previous ideas. Most creations are born by ideas that that have been merged with others, transformed or adapted. We need previous ideas to create. We all have the potential to be creators and we are all are creators in many ways. And as creators, we belong to vast community that share, twist, remix and create ideas.

Based on this initial thinking, we proposed a challenge: how can we create a collective painting together using technology?

We merged two ideas: robotics with action painting. The starting point for the idea was Pollock’s, at the time, revolutionary idea of placing a canvas on the floor and using all kinds of materials to paint (such as sticks and strings) instead of the classic paint brush, to create abstract paintings.

A drawbot created by children in conventry

So next we posed the question, ‘how can we be a bit revolutionary using technology to paint?’ and ‘Can we use robots?’. We worked with the pupils to make a Drawbots or a scribble machines of different sizes and functions. Some of them dragged strings of paint to create shapes, some used felt pens and vibrations to make patterns. Some made mini jumps making dots, some made circles, some made lines. Some used balls or brushes dipped in paint to make patterns. Together they created a collective mural and their movement become a live performance, that also creating visual art as it went.

The final presentation

During the performance of the Drawbots their creators (25 children of different ages ranging from 7 to 17 years old) introduced their action painting robots. Each action robot had it’s own name and personality! There was Elsa who was 76 that had a funny leg. Tom the Tall who was 35 and came from Coventry. There was also Batman who didn’t want to say their age but of course came from Gotham City. He even shared his favourite song.

We had a great time during this very creative day and even if our newly created robots had some stage fright, they didn’t show it and a beautiful motorised dance was performed while creating a collective abstract painting, all in front of an audience. Participants gave a single word as a feedback for the day. Top word from the feedback? Proud. Well isn’t that wonderful. This is what keep us doing what we are doing!

Michelle Borda, Imagination Hub Project Manager

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