When we were asked to go along to the Ark T centre in Oxford to take some photographs for their website, we were excited to see the work they were doing and to meet some of the people benefiting from the activities held at the centre.
The Ark T Centre is an inspiring organisation that focuses on using art and creativity to improve the lives of individuals going through tough times. Spending time at the centre made it easy to see how their vision, “Creativity changes lives”, really rings true. The centre aims to promote tolerance and celebrate diversity within the local community. They believe that art and creativity can help people to “discover new things about themselves and unlock their potential”, and provide a safe, non-judgmental space for children and families, LGBTQ and disabled young people, and long-term unemployed adults to develop their skills and confidence.
The place itself has a relaxed vibe and we enjoyed a delicious coffee in the Camerados Living Room Cafe. The cafe is open to the public, and the warm and welcoming atmosphere made it a real hub of activity for the centre – a creative space to grab a coffee and meet a friend, with artwork lining the walls and one of the centre’s regulars playing the piano.
Exploring the centre was a heart warming experience. There was a real buzz about the place. We got some great shots of the ‘Our voice is our power’ workshop – a group of long-term unemployed adults working together to produce a community newspaper – and this kind of reportage photography, where you get to take candid, unobtrusive shots of people in real life situations is great fun.
We took a variety of photos of the space and facilities for the centre’s own commercial use, then visited the art rooms – a hive of activity, where we photographed children taking part in ‘Creativity camps’, creating stop-motion animations, making photo frames and completing other craft projects. These camps are aimed at children with educational, emotional or behavioural needs, and it was clear that the Ark T centre is a lifeline for them, with big smiles lighting up their faces as they got stuck in to the art activities.
Just spending a day at the centre was inspirational – having the opportunity to witness and photograph first-hand the strength of the individuals facing such diverse challenges and the projects run by Ark T, which really are life-changing, was an incredible experience.