Walking with Josef Herman - Josef Herman Art Foundation Cymru Schools Award Artist Residency Project, 2012.

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Every year children from four counties take part in the annual Josef Herman Award for Schools organised by a partnership between the Josef Herman Art Foundation Cymru and the four unitary authorities. This year the children worked with media artist, Alastair Duncan and poet, Emily Hinshelwood to create a digital account of their walk through Ystradgynlais in the footsteps of the Polish artist, Josef Herman.

Josef Herman was a refugee from the Holocaust who spent eleven formative years in Ystradgynlais in the Swansea Valley. He arrived in 1944 in response to an invitation from Dai Alexander, a writer from the village. It was here that Josef found his artistic voice, drawing and painting the miners and their families whom he grew to love and respect. His work chronicles life in a small Welsh mining community in the mid 20th Century, a way of life that has now largely vanished.

The children’s work by contrast provides a snap shot of Ystradgynlais in the early 21st Century.Much has changed since Josef was there but also much remains of what he saw and experienced. It is this that the children have captured in drawings, photographs, sound recordings, spoken and written words.

Each group of children ranging in age from nine to ten spent a day in Ystradgynlais where they saw examples of Josef’s drawings on display in the Welfare and learned about his stay in Ystradgynlais. Then they walked around the village, through rain and shine, visiting places that Josef would have known, documenting their experience as they went. They worked in groups,some using sound recording equipment, some using digital cameras, some drawing whilst others made written accounts of their visit in poetry and prose.

Back in school the children spent three days working with the artists to compile, edit, record and create the story of their walk that reflected their own interests and experiences. Theirs is a contemporary view that provides us with an opportunity to reflect on change and continuity.Their concerns with the natural environment are evident as is their enjoyment of the whole experience. The images they recorded provide us with an archive of Ystradgynlais in the early21st Century in pictures and words, through the eyes of children.

The work on display is a mere fraction of what the children produced, but it captures the spirit of the project. The Josef Herman Award for Schools from its inception has grown and expanded into a partnership that crosses boundaries and provides a special illuminating experience for all those who take part.

The Josef Herman Award for Schools is supported by a partnership that includes the Josef Herman Art Foundation Cymru, The Welfare Hall, Ystradgynlais and four unitary authorities; City and County of Swansea, Neath Port Talbot, Powys and Carmarthenshire.

Participating Artists - Alastair Duncan (StillWalks) – a practicing artist whose work includes weaving and digital media, with many years experience of working in schools.

Emily Hinshelwood – a playwright, poet and short story writer with a special interest in climate change and the environment.

Participating Schools - St. Thomas Primary, Swansea, Llanfaes County Primary, Powys, Ynysmaerdy Primary, Neath Port Talbot, Ysgol Gynradd Parcyrhun, Carmarthenshire.

Llanfaes Primary School, Powys.

Josef Herman Notes, Part 1

Ynysmaerdy Primary School, Neath port Talbot

Josef Herman Notes, Part 2

St. Thomas Primary School, Swansea

 Josef Herman Notes, Part 3

 Parcyrhun Primary School, Carmarthenshire