Inside Art Seminar

The role of the arts in the criminal justice system: a case study from the National Gallery and HMYOI Feltham

Seminar April 2010

On 12 April 2010 the National Gallery organised and hosted a seminar on the role of the arts in the criminal justice system and featured the National Gallery’s Inside Art outreach programme as a case study.

The event was attended by over 60 professionals from government and the arts and criminal justice sectors. Delegates were invited to consider the impact and legacy of Inside Art for all stakeholders and discuss more broadly how such participatory arts projects can add value to wider agendas across the arts, and criminal and youth justice sectors.

The speakers

The panel of speakers included:

  • Dr Nicholas Penny, Director of the National Gallery
  • Professor Rod Morgan, ex-Chair of the Youth Justice Board
  • Tim Robertson, Chief Executive of the Koestler Trust and Chair of the Arts Alliance
  • Sophie Wood, Principal Officer of Well-Being at the National Children’s Bureau
  • Emma Rehm, Inside Art project manager, Outreach Officer at the National Gallery

Before the talk delegates viewed the paintings, collages and sculptures created by young offenders for the 2010 Inside Art display.

About the project

This current collaboration with HM Young Offender Institution Feltham (2009-11) comes after a successful three-year partnership with HMP Bullwood Hall (2003 –06). Both projects were funded by The LankellyChase Foundation.

The young men in Feltham, aged 15–21, were offered four week-long practical art projects per year, linked to Unit 5, the prison’s onsite art academy. This provides creative- and performing-arts courses designed to develop communication skills and support rehabilitation in preparation for release. In 2009, all but four of the 40 places on offer were taken up, demonstrating the appeal of this kind of activity.

National Gallery freelance artists and staff delivered the projects with support from teachers based at Feltham. Reproductions of paintings from the National Gallery collection were used as stimulus for discussion and for practical activities focused on a particular theme. For instance, one artist used 14th-century Italian altarpieces to explore gilding techniques, while another used works by van Eyck and Cézanne to compare the different methods that Renaissance and Impressionist painters used to make portraits.

Over the year, participants experimented with a wide range of practical techniques, including sculpture, drawing, painting, collage and print-making, using specialist art materials.

The discussion

The seminar explored a wide range of issues relating to the project, including the:

  • Impact on the young men who took part
    Evaluation showed evidence that they developed life skills including improved empathy and self-awareness, increased levels of teamwork, problem-solving, decision-making and communication: skills that can give young people confidence in their ability to make positive choices and take responsibility
  • Impact on the institutions involved
    Staff at the National Gallery and Feltham (management and teachers) reported that they felt encouraged to reflect on and develop their practice 
  • Impact on perceptions of the National Gallery
    Feedback for the Inside Art show indicated that visitors found the project and display ‘thought-provoking’ and recognised its wider significance in the National Gallery’s remit to provide greater access to the collection 
  • Ways to sustain the work of the project
    What further partnerships and future collaborations might be possible? What can National Gallery Education put in place to sustain the benefits of this work for participants and the institutions involved?

Next steps

Artworks resulting from the 2010 Inside Art projects are on display from 7 February to 1 May 2011 in the Learning Gallery, admission free.

The National Gallery will deliver four more Inside Art projects at Feltham during April to September 2011. A third and final display will follow in spring 2012.

See the Inside Art display for 2011