Reflections – Natalya Smith

Reflections – Natalya Smith

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As What We Do Now transitions towards an exciting new phase, those involved reflect on their experience.

Natalya Smith looks back at some of the highlights of this time.

Why did you want to be involved in WWDN?

The concept of WWDN is something that I think is really important for young people and I’m particularly invested in helping young people grow and develop in ways that differ from traditional teaching. Too often children’s creativity is stifled by curriculum and I’ve seen that even more so since working with this project so I think opportunities like this should be more plentiful for young people.

What have you learned during phase 1 of WWDN?

I’ve learned so much in so many different ways; my main take away would be the skills it takes to work with children in a way that is really rewarding and engaging for them. Many times I presented activities to my group that I was passionate about but I wasn’t approaching it the right way to get that passion from them too so its been really interesting learning ways to bring ideas to them in a way that makes them want to engage.

I’ve also learned a lot from the kids about things like why despite them being creatively minded, they don’t enjoy their art class at school and that’s really helped me to know what not to do. The kids are painfully honest so they’ve always let me know when what I’m doing isn’t working for them.

Why is a project such as WWDN important for Dumfries and Galloway?

I think this kind of project is important everywhere since schools increasingly favour academics over creative subjects – I think it’s really important as an artist to show young creatively minded people that the arts are still an option for them. I’m not from Scotland so I’ve got a really outside perspective but I’ve noticed in Langholm that its a place with really traditional values with little pockets of creativity hidden around, and I’ve noticed this when visiting Dumfries too. I think the effects from projects like this will last and the young people we work with now will help these pockets of creativity blossom and in doing so, shift the perspectives of the past.

How would you sum up your WWDN experience?

My experience with WWDN has been really interesting. I have learned a lot and I have found new passions. It has showed me a field of work that I knew I was already interested in but it showed me that I have the ability to make a difference. In regards to the more logistical side of the project I have often been disappointed with the lack of communication from The Stove. Unfortunately I have often been forgotten about which isn’t a great feeling but has also caused problems since I wasn’t kept in the loop about things.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into creative arts?

I would say if you’re really passionate about it then you need to just go for it. The arts are so important, more important than school or governments or academics would have you believe. You can’t let anyone tell you your creativity isn’t important.

What inspires you generally?

I try to let anything inspire me, I love spontaneous ideas that blossom as you go. I don’t believe in bad art as long as you benefit from making it and this is something I tell my group all the time, as long as you had a good time making the art then it holds value and I practice this in my own work. I’m learning to let go of perfectionism and just really enjoying the creative process.

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