Developing Creativity at Mustard Tree
Mustard Tree. Say this to many people in Manchester and they will look at you blankly. A few will connect it with the store front in Ancoats. Fewer still know about the huge variety of work that the charity do. Or at least this has been my experience whilst undertaking a placement with them. I have to admit that going in, I had only a limited overview of the charity’s work thanks to a quick internet search and a read of the Mustard Tree website. Despite limited acknowledgement in the wider community, Mustard Tree is an important organisation for around 4,500 people a year.
Essentially, Mustard Tree, in their own words “exists to create choice and opportunity for people who are homeless and marginalised”. With this as my starting point I was introduced to the Art department and met Graham Hudson, the Creative Programmes Manager. Although Graham is the only member of core staff focused solely on the Creative programmes department, the programme itself is diverse in its representation. A full list with description of the courses available can be found here: http://www.mustardtree.org.uk/projects/art/ .
In order to get a better idea of what the art department were all about and meet some of the participants I joined Graham at a couple of the Art classes. This was of particular interest to me as we had already agreed that the 10 week structured art course would be the focus of my placement. In keeping with the size of the art team, the classes are small- hosting at most 8 people. During the 10 weeks participants are introduced to a variety of skills and an understanding of the importance of sketchbook development enabling them to create fully realised works of art. Talking to people as they worked it is clear to see the impact that art department has for them and the promise of an exhibition later in 2014 was certainly motivation for some. Many of the participants had come to the class through Mustard Tree’s schemes for involving people who needed help.
As the art class was developing there had been discussion of taking the next step. This is where I came in. I was asked to research and prepare a proposal that considered all of the aspects needed for accreditation to be possible. Mustard Tree already offers access to education and qualifications through some of their other projects (such as the Freedom Project) so it makes sense that this a suggestion for the Art department. Accreditation in itself is big field with a variety of options open to anyone interested in setting up as provider. The issue has been working out which of the many options would suit the needs of Mustard Tree clients and fit with the values of the charity. Aside from this there are also factors such as cost and administrative requirements that had to be taken into consideration. The work that will need to happen before the course is accredited is fairly extensive. That said I think it is definitely something that Mustard Tree can achieve and will be an ongoing project for the art department.
Having recently been gifted the premises at 110 Oldham Road, it is safe to say that Mustard Tree has been given an excellent chance to continue their work and help the growing number of people needing assistance.