Artsmark Partnership Case Study – Curious Minds

Artsmark Partnership Case Study


The People's History Museum in partnership with Manchester Secondary Pupil Referral Unit
The Represent! project in 2018 was a partnership between People’s History Museum (PHM) and Manchester Secondary Pupil Referral Unit (PRU).

The aim of the project was to engage 15 young people, who face disadvantage or challenge in their lives, with the democratic process as part of PHM’s 2018 exhibition Represent! Voices 100 Years On (2 June 2018 – 3 February 2019).

For this exhibition, the museum was looking to find innovative and new ways of presenting young people’s voices. The project culminated in an artistic response that was displayed in the exhibition, with the finished artwork uncensored, to give the young people freedom to talk about real issues that affect their lives, and provide a platform to this underrepresented community.

Manchester Secondary PRU works with young people who have experienced real difficulties in mainstream high schools. As well as teaching the core curriculum, it is committed to providing a creative programme that helps pupils feel a part of their community.
To begin with, two Manchester Secondary PRU students were selected to visit the museum and help interview the shortlist of potential art practitioners. Conscious of the need to make the process a fun and engaging experience, the three artists were each given a stall to pitch their project idea. The students, teachers and museum staff could all walk freely around the stalls and gather information in a more relaxed and less formal setting.

The artist Joseph Rynhart was chosen. His project focused on social media, misrepresentation and how people label others.
"Seeing the students respond so well to new adults in and out of the museum … I think students saw themselves as creators and innovators. They have a voice."

PRU Teacher

Ten contact days over the space of a full term were split between workshops at the museum, in school and out in the community. The very nature of Manchester Secondary PRU meant that we could not guarantee the same students would be participating from the start to the end of the project so, to ensure a meaningful experience for all, each session was tailored to both allow new students to pick up quickly and for regular students to feel they were developing skills.

The final artwork, Who Represents Me?, a bold colourful and powerful piece of artwork featured as part of PHM’s exhibition and online across the museum’s social media channels. Every student, whether they spent just one session or saw the whole project through, had a featured contribution, leading to 21 images and creating a physical social media wall. When the exhibition closed in February 2019 the artwork went to the PRU where it is still on display.

Evaluating Impact
Through this project the confidence of the participants was increased and both personal and practical skills were developed whilst playing an active role in decision making processes. The project provided access to art based learning to boost aspirations to work in the cultural sector, and also provided a creative outlet for those who do not respond to traditional teaching methods.

Feedback from the students was extremely positive and confidence was developed in the participants’ own ability. Another student, who was initially disengaged, found their place in supporting the artist by taking ownership of managing the photographs taken and storing them on the computer.
"I learnt more about myself and others, and Joe has made me open up and be true to myself by being proud of your work."


At the end of the project the progression of one of the participants was recognised through them winning an award at the North West Cultural Education Awards 2018.

PHM began the project by asking the students a set of questions, which were then replicated in the evaluation at the end. This allowed the project leaders to assess how their opinions had changed. The students were also asked to self-assess after each workshop, to monitor their own progress. It was clear from this their answers that progress included both practical skills - such as using professional cameras - but also that the students’ confidence had improved.

Arts Council England's Quality Principles were used to support initial planning, the project brief and to evaluate the impact of the project. The principles ensured participants went through an authentic artistic process, with opportunities to develop personally and to work collaboratively as a group.
Representing Value
As an Artsmark partner, PHM has been able to support the Manchester Secondary PRU to provide opportunities to students who do not respond as well to traditional teaching methods. PHM were able to provide authentic artistic experiences and a professional platform for the students work to be displayed. The Manchester Secondary PRU has also supported PHM by contributing to the story told in the galleries, helping shape museum practice and experimentation with new ideas.

Case Study prepared by:
Liz Thorpe
Learning Officer
People's History Museum