Challenging the way we see the world through art: Create artist Maru Rojas on social practice and her work with young carers

As we start this week’s inspired:arts workshops in Merton, South London, we talk to artist, writer and facilitator Maru Rojas about her experience of working with young carers on our projects. Maru is working alongside young people from Carers Support Merton in workshops across the week to explore a range of visual art techniques, creating their own pieces to be exhibited as part of an interactive installation.

“My work has a strong social element, rooted in interdisciplinary collaboration and socially engaged practices to make art that challenges the way we understand the world. I strive to pick apart the components of life, asking the viewer and participants – who interact with or are part of my work – to look twice at the world around them.

“As an artist collaborating on Create workshops, enabling a space in which this kind of reflection can happen is essential to the participants’ creative process. In the context of making art with young carers the most important element is a fun working environment, which provides a sense of freedom as a direct counteraction to their daily responsibilities. This is particularly true when the workshops take place during school holidays. As the creative leaders of a project, the young people have the opportunity to be fully involved, shaping the final outcome.

Artist Maru Rojas facilitates a Create workshop

“It becomes clear when working closely with groups of young carers, particularly for longer periods of time, that new friendships can emerge through their collaboration. The space in which they’re creating becomes a safe place, either to relax or to build up supportive relationships by talking about the similar responsibilities that they share. The effect that this collective creativity has socially on individuals is something that rings true for Create’s workshops with carers both young and older. There was one group member on a project I was guiding who became really emotional in the last session. It was the first time that she’d attended a project with other carers and had found the support from other people in similar situations invaluable. She benefited greatly from engaging in something creative and the environment of a participatory art session had created a chance to talk to others with comparable experiences.  

“Working alongside young carers within these projects is a great way of testing out new ideas and seeing what works and what doesn’t. Across different workshops we’ve explored ideas and themes through a diversity of media – painting, drawing, sculpture. We’ve had the chance to use a wide range of materials –from watercolours to resin. I really hope to do more of these projects with young carers – I learn a lot. The projects help to refresh and build upon my facilitation skills as well as the processes within my practice. Creating with young people continually helps these skills to develop.

“I’m looking forward to working with a new group of young carers in these inspired:arts workshops. This project is especially exciting because I’ve been given a blank canvas in terms of what the outcome can be and the media in which we work. I’m planning something messy and fun!”