Story Makers: Masks, Seeing and Being Seen, 2012


Masks, Seeing and Being Seen, 2012

After a successful partnership with Wood Farm, Bayards Hill and Rose Hill and The Ashmolean Museum in 2011 this was the second time the project was able to run. Working with touch, colour, movement and sound, it provided a space in which children could build their ability and confidence with regards to processing, reflecting and understanding information. Building also on their ability to express themselves, the project encouraged children to enrich their vocabulary for communicating.

In 2012 the project worked with the Pitt Rivers Museum and looked at art and the anthropological significance of masks and shadow puppets from all over the world. Children were able to handle masks and Wayang Kulit shadow puppets from the museum's collections.

Fusion Arts also teamed up with Artscape and The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Mental Health Services, which was running classes for adults living with dementia and their carers. Working all together at that point, parallel projects were conducted alongside the children. For instance, inspired by their visits to the Pitt Rivers, a shared session ran at the Fusion centre where all project participants made masks. These were then exhibited upstairs in the Pitt Rivers Museum (18th December 2012 - 14th January 2013).

A Family Day with lots of craft activities also took place at the Pitt Rivers on Saturday 12th January.

To finish off, there was an opportunity to come and see the colourful masks made by the Story Makers participants - a chance to explore new worlds of stories and adventures! Having made miniature friends and bringing them to life, puppet stories and animations were also put on show at the Pitt Rivers Museum.


Story Makers is an annual arts based initiative that has been running since 2011 working with children and staff selected Oxford primary schools to help them explore their creativity & emotional self-expression together and boost their confidence, all whilst supporting their learning, speech & language development and providing tonnes of fun! The programme has been developed by Fusion Arts and Arts Psychotherapist Helen Edwards, with funding from BBC Children in Need. Each year the project partners with and draws inspiration from visits from one of Oxford University's Gardens, Libraries or Museums (GLAM).

All participants are thought of as artists and over a 12 week journey they are encouraged to develop new ideas about their identity and relationships. They engage in sensory and artistic activities that are designed to reveal and stimulate experiences of the GLAM's collection. Later during school sessions, they use movement, drama, model making, printing techniques, drawing, painting, sculpting and writing to help them articulate feelings, ideas and stories that have been inspired by the collection, revealing new found confidence, creativity and communication skills.

New modes of education

Importantly, stepping out of traditional educational roles means that children and adults can consider what it can mean to learn in group setting in new ways. Through the years, Story Makers has set up plethora of different workshops to explore these approaches through different art forms and group work, marking a formative experience for so many children and their parents. Particular emphasis is always placed on engaging and being driven by one's senses. Direct sensory contact with inspiring objects and natural materials can build self awareness and confidence. The playful trusting atmospheres built in the groups serves as a potential safe space to share thoughts and feelings not previously articulated, and thus, worked to develop open self-reflection. The safe, creative dialogues that are fostered in the spaces hence lead to the natural enrichment of speech and language.

Story Makers hopes to bridge divides between science and art in education. At a time when art and music are increasingly being withdrawn from curriculums, this work of showing how understanding and observations can be honed and conveyed through these subjects is so important.

The projects

Each time the project runs, the children are taken to a different Oxford museum to discover a new collection and find inspiration in the objects and the people who made them. On this creative journey, the children are accompanied by teaching assistants, a speech and language therapist as well as volunteers.

As "Story Makers" themselves, the participants are exposed to new contexts as well as new modes of artistic thinking, creating and reflecting, which they are encouraged to share with the group. Importantly, these moments provide a space for participants to build their own self-confidence and their capacity for emotional expression.

During the project, the group visits the partnering museum several. From here the children create new stories, exploring narrative strategies and experimenting with model making. Costumes, face painting, shadow play, dialogue and sound are all elements that came together to bring their vision and characters to life. The project generally finishes with an exhibition at the museum of choice and the participants receive a souvenir booklet featuring some of the amazing work and stories they created during the programme.

Explore More

Fusion Arts work with artists, groups and communities from across Oxfordshire and beyond to support a variety of imaginative and socially engaged projects.

Tetiten Swarane Tandur - "Hear the Seeds Sing"

Tetiten Swarane Tandur - "Hear the Seeds Sing"

Exploring Climate Change Through the Eyes of Indigenous Farmers in Indonesia. A collaborative project with Soboman Artspace 219 in Yogyakarta.

Tetiten Swarane Tandur - "Hear the Seeds Sing"
Write On!

Write On!

Creative writing project for young people across Oxfordshire, building writing skills as important tools for self-expression.

Write On!
Story Makers

Story Makers

Long term project using interactive art strategies to develop speech and language in young children.

Story Makers

Supporters of Fusion Arts

Oxford City Council Arts Council England National Lottery Funded Project Grant National Lottery Community Fund Oxfordshire Community Foundation Here for Culture Doris Field Charitable Trust BBC Children in Need Levelling Up South Oxfordshire District Council Christ Church College Jesus College