Plymouth City Council – I.AM.NOT.A.ROBOT

Winner in the 2018 Hearts for the Arts Awards for Best Local Authority Arts Initiative.

I.AM.NOT.A.ROBOT is an artwork and social-marketing campaign to encourage more people to consider becoming a foster carer, conceived and designed by five young people aged 12 to 17 who are currently in care.

They worked with professional artists and University students over the holidays to train as artists and curators, and to develop their ideas for the show. During that time the group developed their artistic skills; focused on audience motivation and engagement; and researched work in other art spaces across the UK including Peninsula Arts, RAMM Museum Exeter, and the Southbank Centre.

The project is a partnership between the Plymouth City Council, local arts charity Effervescent, The Big Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Plymouth University. The children and young people worked under the guidance and tutelage of professional artists.

I.AM.NOT.A.ROBOT was an immersive art installation consisting of 60 customised interactive robots, each representing an individual child in care. Visitors have been reading stories to the robots and donate hugs through interactive window technology, every hour they sing before they go off to sleep. In the gallery, ‘The bureau of fluff’ took over 100 applications from visitors to foster a robot and families have been uploading photos and uploading as part of a social media campaign. The young people wanted audiences to know that children in care are all individuals with different stories, hopes, dreams and needs. They all have very different reasons why they need a stable and safe care placement and that it is really important that there are enough foster parents in the system so that children can be placed with the right person or people for them, so that they can flourish, have exciting and inspiring experiences, and grow to their full potential.

The project also gave the children and young people the opportunity to develop skills in design, programming, marketing, creativity and arts and working within a team; develop confidence but also have fun; and engage with the service and promote the need to recruit foster carers to the wider community. Through the project the council promoted the service in an innovative way that resonates with a wider audience; worked with partners in finding new ways to grow the service and improve outcomes for children; promoted the service via engagement across multiple channels; promoted the idea that local people can get involved in the foster care community in different ways; and gave looked after children a platform to express themselves in a creative way.

The project opened to fantastic reviews as part of the Plymouth Art Weekender in September and continues to run at the Radiant Gallery, Plymouth.

What the judges had to say:

“An innovative and inspirational project supported by a range of excellent partners and funders. This is the sort of initiative that could be rolled out nationally. Excellent!” What Next?