An open group of participating OCA students from across all levels and disciplines have been working closely with Dr Ope Lori, the Founder and Director of PILAA (Pre-Image Learning and Action), a visual arts and educational consultancy specialising in the areas of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. Dr Ope Lori is also an award winning artist.
In designing this programme we tried to produce a series of online workshops that could operate, either as a coherent series or as a collection of independent events. This worked well as the student group went through a metamorphosis from the first workshop in December 2021 to the fifth and final session in April 2022.
Throughout the programme, this was a very safe and non-judgmental space where everybody was encouraged and welcome to participate, and discuss and share their own experiences. The feedback from participants was very positive and I personally found the whole experience to be so inspirational and important in my personal and creative development.
We discussed difficult, if not taboo, subjects, Whiteness, Class, Mental and Physical health, Sex, Gender roles, essentially deconstructing all forms of inequality and discrimination, and discussing how they intersect.
We explored difference within our society and culture, the consequences of Inequality, conversations around Inclusion and Exclusion, the Individual in discussions around Self-Censorship and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues, and the role of the ego.
We discussed Being Your Authentic Self and the development of self-confidence, covering Inclusive Language and Safer Spaces, and what it means to be an ally.
Before we began this initiative, we understood that within OCA there was plenty of desire to create a more equal and inclusive student environment, but we wanted to begin to acquire the knowledge and training to make this happen.
So this is why OCASA decided to commission PILAA to facilitate this series of online training workshops around Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, as it relates to Higher Education, learning and teaching, the Arts and the curriculum.
Of course, this workshop series alone will not bring about significant change, but it has been a major event in beginning to take meaningful action, and it represents an important step in our Student Association’s ability to be ready and able to take the initiative for change.
PILAA have a very successful track record and have worked on similar projects with organisations such as Tate, Courtaulds Institute of Art and the British Army, so we were extremely pleased to have them sign up and deliver these workshops with us.
This newly formed OCA Student Association is working hard to generate greater participation and engagement, and initiatives such as these Equality, Diversity and Inclusion workshops are the core of the strategy to positively influence the OCA student experience and bring about genuine Equality for everybody.
I’ve written before about frustration in the lack of meaningful action being taken to improve Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, not only in art colleges, but in institutions across the entire spectrum of society. We know we face challenges just like the wider society, so we need everybody to do the work and together we can bring about change.
We already have a very healthy 'visiting artists' programme so pleased get involved!
I would just like to thank all of the participating students, all of whom were extremely generous in giving up their Saturday afternoons, sharing their own personal experiences and discussing their values and beliefs in such an open, safe and transparent manner, it was truly an inspirational experience and journey.
If you would like to discuss this project, or contribute more to our approach to EDI then, as always, I am more than happy to make myself available to have an informal conversation.
Assuring you of our best intentions!
OCA Equality, Diversity and Inclusion student Co-representative