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Culture of the Countryside was a Heritage Lottery funded three-year programme aiming to encourage a better understanding of the culture and heritage of the East Anglian countryside through direct engagement with the Sainsbury Centre collections of art from around the world.


Schools and communities  interested in the rural context are being visited by teams of creative educators, artists and volunteers, who come from the University bringing a van, packed with objects from the Centre’s handling collections, which people can hold, study and respond to in various ways. Objects are used as a device for discussion,  to ask questions, to encourage curiosity, to challenge and consider values across cultures and between peoples.

By learning from art from another part of the world, the idea is that we develop an awareness of different stories, rituals, beliefs to enrich our native experience. We use deductions and comparisons from elsewhere to gain new insights together which are relevant to the countryside cultures of East Anglia. 

Following the initial observations and reflections, comes a phase of active interpretation. Through making, writing, acting out artistic and practical responses, the ideas of all participants can be expressed creatively and in a contemporary way.

Our projects reflect on different aspects of the environment and relate to experiences which differ from, or inform our local ways of life. 

For each Culture of the Countryside project an artist devises workshop-activity alongside the main theme and develops this into a practical set of activities for pupils and students to engage in. These activities are always designed to give significant autonomy and scope for creativity to the children.

A project’s outcomes will be characterised by a combination of all the aspects of the project itself: the ‘world art’ objects, the local ideas and sources, the distinctive influences from the artists and teachers, and above all, the children’s responses.  The outcomes will hope to illuminate new aspects of countryside culture. 

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