Marinela Caldarus

In her Spotlight feature, Marinela Caldarus, Creative Director of Art Classes Group, Slough, shares the ethos at the heart of the organisation, her ongoing work with the communities of Slough and the strengths and challenges of being an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation.

Marinela Caldarus  “My painting palette”, 2023

About Art Classes Group

I have always advocated for integrating art therapy techniques into the curriculum to address emotional and psychological well-being. This was possible by engaging myself and my team members in continuous professional development by attending workshops, conferences, and seminars and this ensured that we stayed informed about new teaching methodologies, art trends, and educational technologies.

Sustainability is always at the core of our organisational programmes and I always undertake initiatives that promote environmental awareness and sustainability through art by using recycled materials, creating eco-friendly installations and addressing environmental themes in student projects.

I like encouraging students to participate in art competitions and awards not only to recognise and celebrate their achievements but also to provide opportunities for them to challenge themselves and learn from the wider artistic community. Some of our students have exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts at the Young Artists summer show,  and some of them won local awards as the Slough Youth Awards.

On being an NPO organisation

Achieving NPO status was a significant milestone for our art organisation. We received greater visibility within the arts community and validation of our ambition and approach within the industry.

We have expanded our range of art classes and workshops, offering a more diverse set of opportunities for participants of different ages, and abilities. 

We have deepened our engagement with the local community by offering outreach programmes, and collaborations with other community organisations and we developed initiatives aimed at making art education more accessible to underserved populations.

As an NPO, our organisation strove for artistic excellence by curating high-quality instructors and developing an innovative curriculum.

Marinela Caldarus, Art and wellbeing workshop delivered at the Reckitt HQ

While achieving NPO status has brought many benefits to our art organisation, we faced some challenges as well. With NPO status came increased expectations and reporting from funders, stakeholders, and the arts community. 

Being part of the NPO has also increased competition among arts organisations that battle for limited resources mainly in a time of rising cost of living. 

While NPO status offers significant advantages, we have carefully considered and managed these potential downsides to ensure that we maintain our artistic integrity, organisational independence, and long-term sustainability.

On Slough and working with the local community

…if you unleash the potential of your community, your organisation can achieve anything

Marinela Caldarus

Slough, has a diverse and evolving cultural landscape shaped by its history, demographics, and contemporary influences.

Slough has a significant multicultural population, with residents from various ethnic backgrounds and nationalities, creating a vibrant and dynamic atmosphere. 

As one of the priority areas for the Arts Council England, Slough is one of the places in which cultural engagement and investment are low.

Young people attending Saturday club at Art Classes Group centre

Recently, the town has faced challenges related to crime and social issues. While efforts are made by local authorities to address these issues, perceptions of safety and security are affected. We are proud that we succeeded in collaborating with Thames Valley Police and Slough Borough Council to engage young people to take part in creating a Knife Angel art installation that consisted of a collection of tags with messages from Slough communities, and a series of paintings that create a powerful tribute to the original Knife Angel sculpture created by Alfie Bradley and the British Ironwork Centre.

Overall, while there may be negative perceptions of Slough, it’s essential to consider that different people may have different experiences and preferences, and what one person considers the “worst” place to live may be perfectly suitable for another as I consider that Slough has massive potential in arts but it has to be discovered, a place of eclectic sort of feelings.

Marinela Caldarus, Landscape painting at Castle Ward, Northern Ireland, 2022

Engaging with the local community allowed us to better understand the needs, interests, and preferences of residents. 

We have invested time and effort in establishing meaningful connections that led to increased participation, collaboration, and support from the diverse community. We learned valuable lessons about inclusivity, respect for cultural differences, and the importance of representing diverse voices and perspectives in our programming. We consider that if you unleash the potential of your community, your organisation can achieve anything. 

Communities are dynamic and ever-changing, and art organisations must be adaptable and flexible in their approach. 

Working with the local community as an art organisation offers valuable learning opportunities that go beyond artistic practice, including community engagement, partnership building, cultural sensitivity, and social impact. By embracing these lessons, we have enhanced their relevance, effectiveness, and sustainability in serving the needs of the communities that we serve.

 To find out more about Art Classes Group visit their website at

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