Lockdown ArtLab

Children from primary and secondary schools in Reading have been getting creative during lockdown, thanks to a cutting-edge art and technology project run by the University of Reading.

ArtLab, which is run by staff and students from Reading School of Art, aims to help teachers, parents and pupils understand the value that art brings when combined with technology. The school children involved gain valuable new skills in computing, digital media and new technologies, and learn about the opportunities and potential careers the creative economy can offer.

For the last five years, ArtLab has successfully run one-day workshops with primary and secondary schools around Reading, as part of its outreach and widening participation activities. They believe that ArtLab can unlock the laboratory of the imagination, open up creativity, and unlock passions, beliefs, identity and emotions.

Due to COVID-19, it was not possible to run this year’s one-day workshop, however the launch of Lockdown Lab has ensured that school children do not miss out.

Lockdown Lab

Reading School of Art was determined to find positive outcomes in the face of lockdown, and rallied around to offer support during this challenging time for young people.

They have created a dedicated area on the ArtLab website, called Lockdown Lab, where planned activities have been recreated online. The activities are aimed at years five and six pupils, but can be adapted for young children.

Activities so far, which span an array of subjects in relation to art, include:

  • ArtsMark 360 MERL Challenge: Pupils are invited to create content inspired by a 360 degree version of The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) – combining their artwork with subjects across the school curriculum to create a unique tour of the museum that can contribute to the Maiden Erlegh School in Reading’s Artsmark Award.
  • Animate Your Home: Art students explore the world of the home, and the everyday things we have at our fingertips through stop frame animation to tell creative mini stories and inspire pupils to make their own.
  • Positivity GIFs: ArtLab’s co-researcher art students, Lennox and Jennifer, review two apps for making GIFs and share their positivity GIFs, encouraging school children to make their own Lockdown Lab Positivity GIF.
  • Kidtronics: Inspired by animatronics, the Kidtronics ‘make-along’ videos teach children how to make puppets, learning about different mechanisms and creating movement and expressions to tell their stories.

Tina O’Connell, Director of ArtLab, said: “ArtLab is concerned with how we make the most of young people’s futures. By bringing a wide range of children from across different social backgrounds into contact with cutting-edge art and technology projects we hope to open their eyes to new ideas and future opportunities.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we were unable to engage with local school children in the normal way this year but I think that Lockdown Lab has proved to be a great success and has taught everyone involved valuable new online skills.”

University students involved in Lockdown Lab have also created a resources section on the website, where they review and recommend the best free activities available online. These students have gained valuable new skills themselves during this process, including video editing and using voiceovers and subtitles to demonstrate activities and review other online content.

Khadija Niang, a recent BA Art and English Literature graduate, who has been working with ArtLab, said:

“ArtLab makes art more accessible and more tangible to children who may not necessarily have this access. There is so much opportunity in art and it’s great to be able to share it in this way.”

The success of ArtLab has led to it being offered as an optional module by the School of Art and is forming the basis of an Arts and Humanities Research Council funding bid.

Find out more about Lockdown Lab.