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"Young At Art believes that every child benefits from creative expression, and that every child has the right to have that creativity nurtured and developed. To me this belief is the absolute truth.
As a child, growing up in ‘90s Belfast, many activities were too costly to commit to, or involved competition and attainment, which I felt I had enough of at school! I felt most at home in creative activity classes and clubs. In me these inspired not only a lifelong passion for the Arts and a chance to get hands-on with materials I would not otherwise have seen, but also gave me confidence to try new things, to meet new people, and to be proud of my achievements away from the grades and tests of school. I continued studying art and literature through school, but stayed involved as much as I could with art clubs, so my younger successors could enjoy themselves as much as I did.
After this, adult life kicked in, and bills needed to be paid, so I stepped up onto the corporate ladder. For a long time, this was enough. I gained promotions, I climbed the ladder, and thought this would be enough to shake the vague dissatisfaction I felt. Then, one day last year I was in a meeting that was incredibly important, but I could not force myself to pay attention. I realised all in an instant that I had had enough of dress down Fridays, corporate incentives and shareholder dividends, I wanted to do something that I felt was worthwhile. I wanted to feel passionate about my job. I wanted to give something back.
Deciding on a career change is a scary prospect, and especially in the Arts community getting a foot in the door can be a challenge, but I was determined to follow my passions. My first decision was to gain my degree through Open University. Whilst I rediscovered my love for learning and get so much from my studies, I was itching to finish so I could finally start working in my chosen field. Then, one day I was browsing social media when the Open University shared an opportunity to intern with Young At Art, supported by Santander. I had very low confidence that I would be selected, as I thought surely there would be others with more relevant experience, but I decided to apply anyway as nothing ventured, nothing gained! When Young At Art selected me for interview, I could not have been more delighted! The Open University were extremely helpful in preparing my application and even practiced the interview with me, and they assured me that my experience was relevant, I just had to be confidant in my abilities. Preparing for any interview can be daunting, but with the support of the OU, I knew that even if I wasn’t successful, I had at least done my best.
When Young At Art called me to invite me to the internship, I was absolutely blown away, and I believe I spent a solid ten minutes doing a victory dance! I counted the days until I could start, but still had some nerves on my first day, not knowing what to expect. I was mesmerised by how different the YAA ‘office’ was to those worked in before, as it was bright, colourful and comfortable! It was also bulging with art pieces, props and supplies, and I couldn’t wait to see what treasures there were! But, it was the people of YAA that made the biggest impression on me. Every single person was so proud of what they did (with good reason!) and as I made my introductions and learned about how YAA operates, their enthusiasm and dedication shone through. Even when attending to the administrative tasks that any office or organisation must do, I could tell that the YAA mission statement was always the driving force- everyone was dedicated to improving the lives of children through art.
As I settled in with the team at Young At Art Events, I was amazed at the amount of work and organisation that went in to developing and delivering each Event. With lots in the pipeline coming up to Halloween, I was reminded of acrobats keeping many plates spinning at once! From the moment a client got in touch with an idea for an event, the team would get to work applying their creative flair to expand that vision into something truly unique. I was impressed by how they strove to exceed the expectations of the client, and still care deeply that every child would find it fun, engaging and maybe even educational! Once an event had been scheduled, I was astonished by the immense amount of co-ordination and organisation involved just to make it happen- we met with actors, scriptwriters, artists and everyone in between, not to mention sourcing all kinds of weird and wonderful props. The team’s enthusiasm never waivered and every event from largest to smallest was given the dedication it needed to be spectacular. It would be useless to try and describe a typical day with Young At Art as no two were ever the same- one day I would be scouring the town for a rubber fish, the next I would be dressed up as a Christmas Elf complete with Santa’s naughty list!
Although my internship was only for four short weeks, I will take what I have learned from it with me forever. I have seen what magic can happen when artistic, resourceful and quick-witted people believe in what they do. I have been inspired to step outside my comfort zone and give myself whole-heartedly to anything I accomplish. I have found that enriching the lives of children through art, drama and music was that missing element I was looking for in that meeting long ago. If Young At Art can inspire children half as much as they inspired me, they are truly changing lives. "