Making a difference: The Arts Society Colchester
2 Feb 2020 - 18:55 BY The Arts Society
A donation towards the cost of sensory toys and equipment has had a positive effect on children visiting Firstsite, in Colchester.
The Arts Society Colchester is always keen to get involved with new projects. In previous years, it has organised tile-making workshops for refugee families and provided funds to buy art materials for St Helena Hospice. So, when Julia Stephen, the Society’s Young Arts lead, heard about the work Firstsite was doing with underprivileged children in the community, she knew it was something the Society would want to help out with.
Photo by Jayne Lloyd
Located in the heart of Colchester, Firstsite is a visual arts organisation that runs contemporary art exhibitions, alongside a range of creative activities for families. Every school holiday, it runs the Holiday Fun programme, which provides free art workshops and games for children, as well as low-cost lunches – free for children who receive free school meals. ‘It provides families with a fun day out where they can get creative, eat a nutritious meal and enjoy physical activity,’ Sue Hogan, programme manager for learning and education at Firstsite explains.
‘The toys and equipment make it easier for children with special educational needs to feel safe and comfortable within the building.’
After meeting with the team at Firstsite in May 2019, Julia and The Arts Society Colchester decided to give a donation towards the cost of sensory toys and equipment for families who attend Holiday Fun. With the funds, Firstsite has been able to purchase items including a dark den, a sound and light projector, rain sticks and glow lights, which are tailored towards children with sensory needs. The donation has also allowed the venue to create a relaxed dining and play area away from the main canteen. ‘Firstsite does a lot of work to encourage children into the gallery, and the donation helps to support their efforts,’ Julia says. ‘The toys and equipment make it easier for children with special educational needs to feel safe and comfortable within the building.’
Since arriving at Firstsite last August, the new items are proving popular with visitors. ‘Families are commenting on how welcoming it is to have the option of sitting in the relaxed area, where they can respond to the individual needs of their family more easily, and without the fear of judgement,’ Sue explains.
Julia and The Arts Society Colchester hope that the equipment will help to make the venue more accessible for children with special educational needs, and encourage them to discover art. ‘The sensory equipment makes the venue a friendly space for the children, and a place they can call their own,’ she says. ‘It’s not for other people – it’s for them.’
She stresses how funding from Arts Societies can make a valuable difference to the local community. ‘As Members of The Arts Society, we are lucky and privileged to have the opportunity to listen to incredible speakers talking about all sorts of subjects,’ she says. ‘If we can pass on that privilege, by giving children opportunities to discover things they haven’t encountered, and encourage them to seek beauty in this world, then that’s a wonderful thing.’
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Has your Society organised an initiative that’s made a positive difference to your community? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
To discover the range of activities at Firstsite, visit firstsite.uk
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