Models of Practice
Visual Arts & Youth Work

Visual Arts

In our approach to arts and youth work we think of three things:  art as education, art as fun and art as a professional option.

The Rialto Youth Project’s Visual Arts Programme is structured into three age-related developmental strands. Each strand offers a clear progression in visual arts for young people from their primary school years through to transition from secondary school to further education and other creative directions.

Rialto Youth Project Visual Arts Programme


We believe in equality of opportunity for children and young people. We believe in the uniqueness, dignity and equal worth of young people and in their right to access opportunities that enhance their lives. Young people should be treated equally.


We believe in challenging and making a long-term commitment to transforming unjust social conditions through a pragmatic interface with the real politics of change. We are committed to social justice around questions of access to education.


We believe in the transformative power of art and creativity as a way of working with young people. We have a long tradition and a strong commitment to arts and cultural practice as a means of creative expression across a range of forms including the visual arts, theatre, music dance and street performance.

RYP Visual Arts Programme

Our Visual Arts Programme is open, flexible and experimental. It’s about building the language of art, knowing materials and opening up to the broader art world. It’s a quiet space. It can focus and clear your mind. It can be therapeutic, an escape from real life.

Definition of Visual Arts

Visual art has been used at key points of history in Rialto, such as murals that have in the past been instrumental for the community to say who they are and to express their hopes and dreams.

In Rialto we believe that the visual arts can offer something different. Visual art opens up a different perspective for young people where they can express themselves in a safe and secure way, visualising their hopes, dreams, ideas and concerns.

We recognise that there are barriers present. Many young people involved in visual arts have never had the opportunity to experience art institutions or galleries. An integral part of the Visual Arts Programme is to open up the art world, therefore creating a sense of equality and accessibility. This can enrich a young person, giving them the opportunity to respond to new experiences.

Visual Arts Philosophy

Our Visual Arts Programme is not a class. We work with and alongside the young people. Visual programming and gallery visits are specifically chosen to match young people’s interests. The programme is about nurturing young people’s skills and interests.

The Visual Arts Programme creates a safe space where young people’s confidence, technical ability and sense of craft can be developed working individually or as a group. It’s a space where young people can take ownership of their work, instilling a sense of pride.

We introduce the language of art through the use of different techniques, processes and materials. This is done to develop a wide range of skills and to create the opportunity to discover their own personal preferences in art.

The Visual Arts Programme works towards young people leading their own work in terms of their visual expression through chosen materials in a style they prefer. The entire programme is based on instilling confidence in young people to develop and use their knowledge of materials and techniques to express their individual creativity.

A vital part of the programme cycle is showcasing work through exhibitions. At this point the work moves from a personal space to a public space. This reflects how young people select and evaluate their work.

An integral part of the Visual Arts Programme is about engaging in the world of art beyond the young person’s own community. It’s about the right to have access to art galleries, about developing an awareness of social behaviour in a gallery, about how to develop confidence to express an opinion about the work of other artists and about making connections between the work of the Visual Arts Programme and other artists’ work.

RYP Visual Arts Programmes

Visual Arts Programme
Three Developmental Strands

  1. Stepping Stones is a transition programme from ArtSparks working with 8 to 10 year olds with a strong focus on maintaining the young person’s interest in the visual arts. ArtSparks is the foundation programme for 5 to 7 year olds in visual arts and functions very well as a feeder programme for Stepping Stones.
  2. On the Road has a strong focus on skill acquisition for 11 to 14 year olds, introducing new technical elements through which the young person can develop in terms of ambition and scope.
  3. The Lines of Flight programme is aimed at encouraging older teenagers to adopt leadership roles in relation to the arts-based activities of the Rialto Youth Project and in the wider community. We work so that young people have greater ownership of the programme.

Stepping Stones

A Transitional Visual Arts Programme for 8 to 10 Year Olds

Programme Profile

Stepping Stones in visual arts offers a dual programme in Drawing and Making. It’s a very structured learning space. It’s a progression from the ArtSparks programme: a little bit more grown up. In Stepping Stones the world of art is opened up to young people. They are exposed to the work of other artists and to an artists’ way of thinking and looking at the world. Themes are explored over two to three week periods. In our experience 8to 10 year olds all really want to be there in the session.

RYP Visual Arts Programme


Themes drawn from history, nature and events in the children’s lives are worked out in 2/3 week blocks, allowing children to develop an idea, work on a piece over a longer period and come back to their original idea. Development of Basic skills introduced in ArtSparks, Introduction to range of materials and techniques.


Introduction to looking at artists’ work through planned gallery visits. Trying out observational drawing in a fun way through visits to the Zoo & Botanic Gardens. Tradition of regular showcases established including studio and neighbourhood exhibitions aimed at family, friends and local schools, providing important platforms for building family and school support for children’s continued involvement.


Young person’s interest in visual art maintained, Progression to the next stage of the Visual Arts Programme, Development of confidence in visual arts skill set, Broadening of the young person’s visual references, Development of openness and an explorative approach to the visual arts.

On the Road

A Skills-Oriented Visual Arts Programme for 11 to 14 Year Olds

Programme Profile

Young people are encouraged to develop a focused approach to the visual arts, developing their own visual expression. Focusing on skill acquisition, new technical elements are introduced towards developing ambition and scope. It’s a sensitive age group where young people can become self-conscious about their work. We pay close attention to retaining their interest and continued engagement. Our ethos is developmental, responding to young people’s questions. We emphasise drawing skills and building transferable skills. Art history is a key element of our pedagogical approach, using examples of artists and introducing art genres.

RYP Visual Arts Programme


Exploration of artists and styles, Introduction to Art History & Contemporary Art, Studio, Gallery and Museum visits, Exploration of personal preferences, materials and techniques, Themed 6-week cycles, Methods: Perspective, Vanishing Points, Landscape & Colour Fields, Mono & Lino Printing, Portrait Painting, Scale Differentiation, 3D Work and Puppet Making.


An integral part of the On the Road programme is systematic exposure to the arts world and to a wide variety of artists work. This is achieved through visits to art galleries and museums, in situ workshops and by introducing the young people to the exhibited work of the older teenagers.


Identification of a focus / interest in a variety of visual forms, Acquisition of basic creative skills across a range of visual forms, Experience of visual work in a range of studio-based and hosting visual arts institutions, Confidence in creative visual expression, Engaging with artists about their ideas and work, Development of an identification with visually creative self.

Lines of Flight

A Visual Arts Leadership Programme for Older Teenagers

Programme Profile

Older teenagers are encouraged to assume leadership roles in the arts activities of RYP and the community. Opportunities to take greater ownership of the programme include mentoring younger students of visual art by assisting in workshops and involvement in project planning and development. Participants can explore issue-based project work, critically engaging with educational, social, cultural and economic inequalities. Connections are formed with colleges to develop mentoring relationships between teenagers and students, creating a dialogue around third level access. In partnership with the National College of Art and Design the programme focuses on pathways into the cultural industries.

RYP Visual Arts Programme


Further Encourage & Develop interest in Art History & Contemporary Art, Exploring Visual Arts & Social Justice, Self-Expression and Challenging Social Injustice, Pathways into Cultural Industries, Pathways to Third Level, One-to-One tutorials.


Encounter: Visits & workshops with key cultural institutions including: National College of Art and Design, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin Print Studio, Hugh Lane Gallery & the National Print Museum, Work with international artists in residence, Showcase: Participation in NCAD exhibition, Organisation of local exhibitions, Residency: Studio 468.


Enhanced skills in chosen visual arts forms, Enhanced visual expression, Identification with visually expressive self, National / International visual arts platform for study visits, Leadership model for participation in community visual arts, Studio intercultural, human rights & social justice initiatives, Greater awareness among young people to explore option of third level art education.

our critics speak!

Where & When

Before formalising the Visual Arts Programme, we tested young people’s interest in visual arts during the summer of 2009 with a group of 12 young people aged 10 to 12. Six of those young people are still involved and make up our Lines of Flight group. Over the last five years the programme has expanded and developed, both in the number of young people involved and the breadth of activities. Stepping Stones is a very popular programme for children who really enjoyed ArtSparks and want to continue exploring visual arts practice. In visual arts Stepping Stones has had a waiting list since it was established in 2012. The group plans special activities such as museum visits and trips out around midterm breaks and school holidays. The young people in On the Road work on longer term and joint projects, exhibiting their work for family and friends. In Lines of Flight we regularly plan visits to art institutions as well as workshops at the Blackchurch Print Studio and NCAD among others. In addition to the weekly workshops other events are organised as suits the specific programme and participants are notified at the start of the programme block. The young people play an important role in decision making around what direction the work takes and they assist in planning. The programme encourages older teenagers to develop their leadership skills and to pass on their skills to participants in the younger groups.

RYP Visual Arts Programme

Key Values


Voice in Society

We are committed to being a great place to find your voice and gain the confidence to let your voice be heard beyond the local, in the wider society and within spaces where decisions are made.


Working with Young People Where They’re At

We believe in working with young people where they’re at. This requires flexibility and creativity. Our programme can change to meet the needs of the person rather than the other way around.


Choice and Opportunity

We believe in offering real choices to young people and supporting them to make choices that are right for them. We’re committed to creating possibilities for young people to access life opportunities and to grow within their community.



We engage, empower and support young people to build their own capacity. We believe in self-empowerment and working to empower young people. We believe in young people’s capacity to make good decisions and transcend imposed limits.

RYP Visual Arts Programme

Working with the RYP is a unique and dynamic exchange between the artist youth workers and young people. It can be challenging at times but when you see some of the young people really engaging with the process and coming out of their shell it is so satisfying.  It is about a real and meaningful exchange and It’s the little things that happen within the group that have the greatest impact. I feel privileged to be part of the team and look forward to building on the great foundation that has been laid down by previous young people, youth workers and artists.

Janine Davidson, Artist & Facilitator RYP Visual Arts Programme

Programme Coordination

The Rialto Youth Project’s Visual Arts Programme is coordinated by the Visual Arts Working Group, which is made up of 3 Youth Workers and 2 artists. This Working Group meets once every 4 to 6 weeks after each block of work to plan, develop and review the programme.In addition to coordinating the Arts Working Groups, the Arts Team Co-ordinators meet weekly to ensure a shared approach to planning and reviewing the RYP Arts Programme.

The Rialto Youth Project’s Information Management System (IMS) assists in the Visual Arts Programme planning and review. The Information Management System stores Individual Learning Plans (ILPs) for every young person from 10 years of age upwards. It also stores Programme Session Sheets, Summaries and the Logic Model Planning Tool. These tools enable us to plan and develop the Visual Arts Programme with young people. The IMS also allows us to extract quantitative and qualitative data, enabling us to plan and support our work from a strong evidence base.

Rialto Youth Project and the Arts

The RYP Visual Arts Programme is one of 5 core developmental arts programmes. RYP is also engaged in many long-term collaborative arts projects, seasonal festivals, performance events / exhibitions and conferences that attract hundreds of local participants and multiple audiences city-wide and nationally. There is also an active EU and International dimension to key aspects of the work of RYP and the Rialto Arts Plan (2012 – 2016). The Rialto Arts Plan sets out a vision for a new and innovative model of local arts development, to be delivered through key strategic partnerships organised at local, city and national level.


Erika Freeney

Rialto Youth Project,
St. Andrew’s Community Centre,
468 South Circular Road,
Dublin 8.

P: (01) 4531638
E: Erika