Robert Menzies shares his story of working with Room 13 and how it has acted as his very own ‘art school’.
School was never one of my strong points and although I’ve always been interested in learning and art, I only scraped a C at Higher. I found it hard to turn up for classes so I felt that moving into further education would not be for me.
I was first introduced to Room 13 International in 2009, when I met Claire Gibb, one of the artists and directors on the project, during my last year in High School. I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after leaving, so to say it came at the right time is an understatement! Having an interest in art, everything was pointing toward sending off an application to an art school but considering my relationship with school, I thought it was best not to. This is something that still hangs over me but I feel that the experiences and opportunities I have been offered through my relationship with Room 13, have provided me with an ability to self- motivate and work on my career at a pace that I’m comfortable with.
When I left school, I got a job to subsidise the volunteering that I had started with Room 13. I was introduced to different activities where I was able to be creative and cement a mark on my surroundings, which I now know, is a very important and key incentive for me. My first job was helping to make public artworks for the refurbishment of a dilapidated underpass that runs through Fort William. I still find myself spotting images I created every time I use it. My images aren’t anything to marvel over but collectively with everyone else who contributed to it, the end result looked fantastic. Being a part of this process and the team of people who saw it come to life was extremely motivating.
That was five years ago, and since then I’ve found myself growing creatively as a result of the influences around me, the people I’ve worked with and the encouragement I’ve been given to follow the path that I’ve found myself on. I have always felt that my contribution has been valued and I very much enjoy being part of a team that is as excited about creativity as much as I am.
I made it all the way to Nepal in 2011 to deliver creativy workshops to young people; I’ve had work shown in Summerhall and spoken at the Scottish parliament – all as part of my relationship with Room 13. But I think the most important thing that’s come from my time working alongside the amazing artists, young and old, is the confidence I’ve gained in my own practice and the version of a higher arts education that I don’t think I could have found anywhere else.
I’m now working part time for Room 13 and have struck a balance between leading and learning. I have found a way to integrate education into my everyday life in a way that works for me, and I don’t intend to stop anytime soon.
Room 13 International is a charity supporting a network of studios for artists in schools and community settings worldwide. It provides creative education and development opportunities for young people and the wider community.
Originally established in Caol Primary School, Fort William, there is now a network of over 70 studios in schools and communities across the world. The charity was established in 2007 to support the network and promote the organisational values of art, creativity, enterprise and philosophy.
For more information, please visit www.room13international.org