Novus in Youth Custody A Landmark Commission

When the prison Governor commissioned a series of artworks to be prominently displayed at HMYOI Wetherby, few people could have predicted the outcome, but for Novus Art Tutors Alex Oddie and Rachel Hanks, the end result was never in doubt.

Alex and Rachel were commissioned to produce a series of mural boards based on UK landmarks. At first glance, the task seemed simple enough, but there were caveats to this otherwise straightforward exercise. First, the boards were eight feet by four feet, second the depiction of the landmarks had to include a twist, and finally, the completed boards, all 30 of them, were to be displayed at the entrance to HMYOI Wetherby for all to see, and therefore had to withstand the British four-seasons-in-one-day weather.

Undeterred by the enormity of the task, Alex and Rachel put together a brief, advertising the project to young offenders, to which the Tutors received a huge response. The twist on the UK landmark prompted varying degrees of lateral thought, from a rescue operation at Land’s End to Stonehenge being invaded my aliens. Alex says: “Those who volunteered produced some amazing artwork. Their imagination and creativity was staggering.”

Rachel adds: “We had to help out at times, but the project has taught things like perspective, colour and composition, and in doing that we have embedded Maths and communication skills.”

The Story

This initiative gave the young offenders an outlet for their creativity and a voice to communicate with the outside world. Having completed the project, the young artists are proud and protective of their work, according to Alex and Rachel, who entered a few of the artworks for the Koestler Awards.

The final act in this outpouring of creativity was to seal the boards in preparation for hanging them at the entrance to the establishment in a colourful, meaningful display for staff, visitors and offenders to appreciate.

I’m astounded by the amount of effort, love and dedication the young people have shown during their time on the project.

Novus Art Tutor Rachel Hanks

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