5 Unique Places in Kent to Inspire a Love of Art

UPDATED - June 2021

“Young People and Arts Engagement - What We Need” is a report that was commissioned by Arts Council England. The report was carried out by ART31, an organisation that is working hard to increase the engagement between arts organisations in Kent and young people. After speaking to 659 people under the age of 25, they found almost 70% of participants who said that art is very important to them. One of the biggest ways they found to increase engagement was by visiting some of Kent’s inspiring landscapes, galleries and art exhibitions. 

1) Sissinghurst Castle Garden

Sissinghurst Castle Garden is bursting with inspiration for the budding young artists in your class. The Tudor houses were originally built on the land of a pig farm. Over the centuries, Sissinghurst House became the residence to 3,000 French sailors whom were captured and kept prisoner in some fairly dreadful conditions. The sailors called Sissinghurst “Le Chateaux” which is how it became known as a castle. In the 1930's, the garden was kept and farmed by the WLA (Women’s Land Army) who grew vegetables and cereal. During the Second World War, the castle and gardens had another incarnation as a dairy farm. Today, the gardens are kept by the National Trust and are open to visitors. 

If you are taking your class, or perhaps your own children, to visit Sissinghurst talk to them about its inspiring history. Encourage them to incorporate the past into their paintings, using their imagination to show how the castle once was. Walk around the gardens, taking in the colours and scents and or ask your class to sketch the birds and wildlife that they see in the grounds. There are so many ways that the beautiful gardens can be interpreted.

2) Folkestone Artworks

Folkestone Artworks is the collective name for an incredible group of artwork and sculptures that are on display all over the town. In 2018, The Evening Standard reported there were 27 in total, enhancing the surroundings and watching over the changing landscape. Visiting the Folkestone Artworks is the ideal opportunity to discuss with your class how art is so much more than what you put on the page.  Art can be changed by the weather, the view and the seasons around it, becoming an integral part of the vista. Encourage your students to think more about the surroundings during painting, as well as considering how to capture the changing light.

3) Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral is one of the oldest Christian churches in the country and it is also a World Heritage Site. For children, it is incredibly inspiring and can bring new dimensions to their artwork. Talk to your pupils about the rich colours and light of the stained-glass windows and see how they use the windows to inspire their own paintings. Look around the cathedral at the different textures, from the impressive stone columns to the deep wood of the pews. Discuss how you can interpret different textures into paintings, simply with the application of colour and with brushwork. Canterbury Cathedral welcome school groups and it's easy to book a school visit

4) Ightham Mote

The original builders of Ightham Mote are unknown to us, however, a collection of wealthy people, MPs and an array of interesting people have inhabited it since the first occupiers moved in around 1360. The first known inhabitants of the house were the Cawne family, one of them being Thomas Cawne who was knighted for his military efforts in the Hundred Years War with France.

The house itself contains artwork dating back centuries; this should provide inspiration for pupils to create art with more historical, cultural and social context, portraying how people thought and painted in the past. Historical context gives the artist the option to draw in the mindset of the time, the periods which it has stood through or choose to draw or paint in its current form as it stands today.

5) Bewl Water

Bewl Water is a lovely reservoir between the boundaries of Kent and East Sussex. It was created in 1973 as part of a project to increase water supplies to the local area. Today, the reservoir and the surrounding landscape is used for many activities, including water sports and cycling, but nevertheless it still holds its beauty.

Ancient buildings and historical artefacts are extremely inspiring. However, the creativity inspired by nature is a fine match for the inspirational relics of the past. For example, the movement of the water, the blowing of the trees and all the animals that go along with the environment are fantastic stimuli for getting the imagination going and the creative juices flowing. 

If you need any more persuading about the importance of the arts for children’s learning and development, then here are 51 Benefits of Art Education for Kids. 

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