Creative Pathways at Towner Art Gallery

11 September 2018

Towner’s Head of Learning, Marina Castledine, describes the gallery’s successful Arts Award provision for a group of vulnerable young people and how National Partners exhibitions have inspired new creative pathways.


Since 2012 the local authority, through a partnership with the County Council alternative education service, has commissioned Towner to provide academic provision in a vocational setting, to support young people aged 15-16 who’ve been excluded or are at current high risk of exclusion from mainstream school.

The ultimate aim is reintegration into mainstream education, although alternative settings often provide a holistic environment, enabling young people to more successfully gain qualifications and therefore enter pathways to further education and employment. At the gallery, we do this through delivery of Arts Award, a nationally recognised arts qualification, designed as a framework for personalised skills development.

Young people create individual portfolios evidencing three core criteria: communication, leadership and artform knowledge and understanding. The qualification is unique in that in begins with each learner’s baseline as a starting point, allowing them to take agency of their own learning by designing projects around their existing skills and interests.

The programme is funded by schools with some students travelling upwards of 20 miles to attend. We’ve been incredibly successful at Towner in offering both a safe and creative space to learn and achieving Arts Award. Classes include warm up, grounding and closing sessions plus art workshops in a range of media.



The Arts Council Collection National Partnership programme at Towner has provided a rich and diverse range of artists and themes from which to draw on and exhibitions such as ‘A Certain Kind of Light’ (pictured) and ‘We Stared at the Moon from the centre of the Sun’ have sparked imaginations in a way that more conventional exhibitions might not. That’s not to stereotype young people, it’s based on reactions from new students who often exclaim what they experience in the gallery challenges their assumptions of what art is and how it has been presented to them through school.

In response to ‘We stared at the Moon from the centre of the Sun’ we commissioned Audio Active, a ground-breaking music organization who work with young people to explore technology and contemporary urban culture. Students were able to spend time in the exhibition, including visiting several times during one day, encouraging a more immersive approach, engaging in different ways each time and often looking closely in detail at smaller pieces initially ignored.

The Arts Council Collection : Creative Pathways at Towner Art Gallery
The Arts Council Collection : Creative Pathways at Towner Art Gallery

One of the artists commented, “It’s exciting to see young people create sound, seeing them shift from being reluctant to engage to trying new methods, making something that is true to themselves, that they think is good art.” Another reflected, “It was a magical moment seeing the young people light up in a discussion about their musical influences and preferences. They really responded to using the artwork as a point from which to share authentic responses. Especially important was a culture or cultures, that they consider exclusively for their age, safe therefore by its lack of perceived understanding by adults.” A total of 5 students completed portfolios during the Autumn and Spring terms leading to successful achievement of Arts Award Bronze, a Level 2 qualification.


Marina Castledine is Head of Learning at Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne. Towner's latest National Partners exhibition, At Altitude, is on show until 30 September.


Find out more about Arts Award.


The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.