The Duchess of Cambridge joined a group of schoolchildren with behavioral problems this week as she visited one of her charities for the first time.
Her Royal Highness visited two schools in Oxford as Patron of the Art Room, a charity which uses art therapy. The Art Room is a charity based in Oxford aimed at 5 – 16 year olds who are experiencing emotional and behavioral difficulties. There are currently five Art Rooms in schools in Oxford and London, offering art as therapy to increase children’s self-esteem, self-confidence and independence.
The Duchess has been carrying out a number of high-profile visits to her favorite charities during the past few weeks, while her husband The Duke of Cambridge has been away in the Falkland Islands working as an RAF search and rescue helicopter co-pilot.
The Duchess put on a denim apron emblazoned with her name “Miss Catherine” to join the youngsters for a messy art therapy session at Rose Hill Primary School in Oxford. It was a present from the school and she wore it as she helped five pupils create paintings of characters from the Owl And The Pussycat poem by Edward Lear.
Lisa Hancock, manager of the primary school’s art room, praised The Duchess: “She seemed to have as much fun as the children and seemed very relaxed and in her element, I think. She had all the right language and was very calm and gentle.”
Ms Hancock added that at the end of the session The Duchess told the children how “fabulous” they were and praised their artwork.
During her time in the art therapy room The Duchess sat between two boys at a table covered in pots of paint, brushes and paper, and chatted to both of the youngsters as they busily worked away.
At one point The Duchess came to the aid of seven-year-old Mariam Olayinka who knocked over a pot of water sending the liquid cascading across the table and on to the floor during the session which lasted around an hour and 45 minutes. Her Royal Highness picked up her artwork as one of the staff mopped the table and handed it back to the little girl when her work space had been dried.
The Duchess also visited the Oxford Spires Academy, where The Art Room has another centre, used by the school’s teenage pupils and those of two nearby primary schools.
After lunch The Duchess joined a round-table discussion about the training of staff at the centre and listened to the experiences of four Year Seven pupils who attend art therapy sessions.
Julie Beattie, founder and director of The Art Room, speaking after the visit, said there had been times in the past when the charity, which has an annual turnover of £350,000 and employs 13 members of staff, had faced closure but that now it was looking forward to celebrating its 10th anniversary next month. She said: "We are overwhelmed to have our Royal Patron here. We are a small charity, and to have that recognition is fantastic. The message that came across in the session we had with The Duchess is that every school should have an Art Room.
“We’re hoping there will be more of an awareness now.”