Layla is an art assistant at art-K Greenwich. After joining our first ever art-K branch as a student, she returned in 2017 as an assistant, eager to continue connecting with our programme and students. Since then, she’s worked across several different art-K clubs! We spoke with her about her educational journey and how it has helped her to get to where she is today.

What led you into teaching?

I had always been a creative child growing up. I loved music, art and theater. I had been part of an art club for a few years that had to shut down. Some of my school friends recommended art-K – at the very first branch in Ashtead! I joined art-K when I was 11 years old, and Kathryn was my teacher. She would go on to teach me for 7 years until I started university. I volunteered at art-K as part of my Duke of Edinburgh Award. Afterwards, Kathryn offered me a job as an art assistant. I have now worked long term in three branches (Ashtead, Dorking and Greenwich) and assisted in another two (Kingston and Angel).

Did your experience at art-K shape your education choices? How?

Kathryn pushed me to look at art for my A levels after I had taken art for my GCSEs. I wouldn’t have applied to study Visual Art and Design at the Brit school if it wasn’t for art-K and Kathryn. Although I now study Biomedical Science, I still thank Kathryn for the belief she had in me whilst I was her student, even when I transitioned from art to science.

Are there any skills you have transferred from your artistic training into your present studies?

There are definitely skills from art that I have taken with me to university whilst studying biomedical science. I learn visually. I have found that I learn better by drawing diagrams and pictures, and thinking in creative ways has been essential for studying and revision. I created a poem about all the bones in the skull and face which is my favourite example.

The skills I have gathered from working at art-K has also helped with my studies and university life. I have gained more confidence talking to adults, which has helped me engage in lectures by asking and answering questions. It has also helped me work with other people during lab sessions.

You’ve experienced a few different branches now, how do the branches show their own personality?

Each club has freedom over how they decorate the classroom. Most clubs display current art works of students as they are being made which, from experience, stimulates conversations between artists and teachers.

It’s also great when we get to see art from the team. Often the branch leaders and assistants are involved in the classroom decoration and their personalities shine through with the window designs and the work that is displayed throughout the classroom – such as murals, zentangles, and educational posters. In art-K Greenwich, I have painted educational mini murals on a pillar, and two other art assistants are working on a large wall mural. This all adds to the community feeling of the studio.

What keeps you working at art-K over the years, what do you enjoy most?

I love working with children and I love art. The students see me as a role model and I love to see the positive influence I have on the children. I have created connections with students who are on the autistic spectrum, who are non verbal, who have behavioural issues and being able to help them express themselves through art is something I will always cherish. My favourite thing is seeing students proud of what they’ve created. They work so hard on the creative process to make pieces of art that reflect their personalities and nothing beats seeing the smile on their face when it’s finished and they get to take it home to display. I had a student recently who finished the cape project. They were jumping with joy with a cheesy grin as I was sticking the painting onto the cape. They dragged their parents in to show them what they had done. The smiles keep me here.

What’s your favourite project and why?

There are two that stick out to me. The house project and the clay food project. I feel that these two projects really give the students creative liberty and I’ve seen some wild, wacky and fantastic designs and finished pieces for both of these projects. I also get to use my creative abilities to help each student achieve the desired effect. I’ve helped make benches out of lolly pop sticks, glass doors from acetate, curtains that can open and close, McDonalds fries boxes, donut boxes, the list goes on. The creativity and individuality of the children sticks out and I love to see what they come up with.

You can see what Layla helps her students create in art-K Greenwich on Instagram @artkgreenwich

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