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Four young men (ages 12/13), curiously dropping in to the Whistle Art Stop from the day it opened at Scarth’s Yard in August 2012, took their inquisitive nature to a new level when they signed up to the Keyfund Project in October. Steven, Matthew, Joe and Daryll, came up with an idea to create their own art club that they could help younger people explore through creativity. Mentored by Keyfund facilitator, Alison Raimes, the young men are learning that through the creative process they can start to see and think in a more inventive way that can be taken through to any career in the future.

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This is not an easy ride. They are having to work very hard – developing their ideas, working as a team and solving many problems. They are learning basic skills of running a business – budgeting; accounting; marketing; design and project managing. They tested their initial idea, worked through some of the problems, fought a little, resolved that and then pitched the whole thing to a panel of independent facilitators with a power point presentation. Alison grew extra grey hairs.

And so the Art Fartz Club was granted £250 from Keyfund!  Really well deserved. As part of their pitch their budget included a trip to three art galleries in Gateshead and Newcastle on Sunday 27th January with artists Alison Raimes and James Routledge. The rest of their grant will be spent on resources for their art club and is match funded by the Whistle Art Stop.

After a rocky start – the train broke down at a rainy, cold Haltwhistle and the next one was not for an hour – a taxi delivered us to the sunny Quayside in Newcastle. The budget took a massive hit but showed how budgets can be knocked and why contingencies are important!

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We were lucky with the exhibition at the Baltic as Jim Shaw, an American artist prominent in the 1970s, took over the whole exhibition space. It was a good show for a starter (as none of the guys had been to an art gallery before). The staff were great in talking to them about the work and there was a lot of note taking and sketching going on. Impressively engaged with the whole thing, the time went very fast.

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After a healthy lunch (they gave us all a bowl of salad to go with our fried mush), we headed over to the Baltic 39 – the space used by Northumbria University for studios, projects and another gallery space. Jim Shaw’s exhibition continued with a selection from his private “collection” … we decided he liked bad art.

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Then onto the Laing Gallery in Newcastle, which turned out to be a huge hit! The lads enjoyed seeing older and less contemporary art and discussing how painting has changed and why. We took portable stools as we went around the gallery and sat next to the paintings to debate reasons and did some observation skills tests. Four young men in hoodies enthusiastically asking an artist questions. It looked impressive. There were also plenty of interactive things to do – bridge building; writing ideas on a huge blackboard and plenty of things to touch. The idea of stuffy old art galleries definitely did not go with our day out.

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What are your hopes and fears for the future? No one seemed to have fears (except Alison). The lads saw art making as their primary hope and that in itself was a huge inspiration. How amazing that four young men could come so far in such a short time. The future, for these four boys, is very, very bright!

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