Local artist Reuben Powell, has lived in SE17 for nearly 30 years and paints in oil paint onto tin plate steel, makes large scale graphite drawings and works with digital reproduction. We talked to him about what inspired him to come up with the Demolition Drawing Project, which saw local school children provided unprecedented access to the Heygate demolition site to create a series of artworks inspired by the regeneration of the area.
“My most recent work focuses on the urban landscape of London and the river Thames, and having family roots in SE17 going back decades, Elephant & Castle is of particular interest to me. In 2009 I helped set up the not for profit organisation Hotel Elephant to help to make art more available to the local community, with a commitment to the long term cultural future of the neighbourhood.
“Education is a key aspect of what we do at Hotel Elephant so I was very keen to set-up this Demolition Drawing Project, which grew out of a desire to ensure local school children were given the opportunity to be closely engaged with the regeneration of their neighbourhood. Working with Lend Lease, the project involved three visits over one year by five local schools to the demolition site:
- First of all, the pupils shot illustrated stories inspired by a visit to an empty flat.
- The second visit saw the pupils design their own buildings, after taking in a survey of the flat after it was soft-stripped – this is where the non-structural elements of a building such as the doors and windows are removed. The pupils also had a talk from an architect.
- Finally, the demolition of Claydon House was sketched on site, and then painted into large scale artworks at the Hotel Elephant workspace. The paintings were then displayed in a public exhibition at Hotel Elephant.
“It’s been fantastic to work on this project and see the results the children have produced – the work speaks for itself! The depth of involvement has been impressive too, with Charles Dickens School including the visit in their class blog and Michael Faraday School visiting the exhibition. The children were delighted to see their own work on display in a gallery.
“Involving children in this project not only encourages greater engagement with their own changing neighbourhood, it also provides a broad range of educational benefits; from developing team-building experience to helping to grow self-confidence, and also providing an opportunity for practical use of maths and other applied skills. Not least, involving children in art projects like this can inspire them to nurture a long term interest in art – I love hearing a child say they want to be an artist when they grow up.”