ARTISTS from rural Mexico are heading to the Dales for a collaborative project with artist and ‘creative champion’ Rachel Thornton.

Included in the project will be the creation of a sculpture for a primary school garden.

Bentham-based Rachel, who specialises in experimental and natural wooden artworks, is playing host to sculptor Kees Ouwens and ceramicist Carmen Del Carmen for two weeks this month thanks to funding from Great Place: Lakes and Dales (GPLD). The programme aims to use culture, heritage and the arts to retain and grow the population of under 35 year olds in the area.

During their stay, which will be the first leg of an exchange project, the artists will - it is hoped - inspire a new generation of creative young people with a workshop at Bentham Primary School.

The artists will work with the children to produce a stone sculpture for the school’s garden as well as teaching them printmaking and ceramics.

Rachel, 29, who uses print, painting and wood carving in her work is a ‘creative champion’ for the Great Place programme, inspiring other younger people to embark on an arts-based career in the area.

She said: “Kees, Carmen and I will work on various community projects including the Three Peaks Open Studio event and Bentham Primary School.

“We are excited to share our skills and experiences of living and building artistic careers in a rural context overseas.”

Kees and Carmen work from a studio in Morelia, Mexico, and Rachel will make the return leg of the exchange in January next year to be inspired and find out more about life as an artist in rural central America.

She said: “Through this project all three of us hope to encourage others to pursue a creative career while living in a rural area and contribute in their own unique ways to make the Lakes and Dales a more exciting and diverse place to live.”

The Mexican artists will be in the Dales until October 22, with the last of the two open studio events taking place this weekend at Rachel’s Studio 42, Bentham Business Park.

Great Place: Lakes and Dales is one of 16 pilot projects in England funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England and is focused on the rural corridor linking Skipton in the south and Grasmere in the north.