Throughout the summer term, the Mead Gallery is excited to present a thought provoking exhibition of installations, sculptures and photographs by international female artists. ROOM explores ideas around architecture and the domestic environment – historically perceived as a female sphere of activity. Certainly not your normal run of the mill topic for primary school children and with the added disclaimer that the exhibition ‘includes imagery containing nudity, and language, which might cause offence’, there’s a chance that teachers looking for a class trip might be put off.
Don’t worry though, the clever curators in the Mead Gallery have laid out the exhibition in a sensitive way that means a whole class can visit and not be exposed to any of the nudity and language mentioned. Additionally, the Creative Learning department have created a fun Explore & Make session to accompany the exhibition that guides the children through the pieces from an accessible point of view. Children will be engaged in discussions around ‘homes and habitats’, the ‘impact’ that environment can have on them and how the artists might be asking some ‘who, what and why’ questions by creating these artworks.
Put this together with some exciting crafty activities that invite the children to create small homes or houses for someone or something of their choice, and the children will soon be looking at the exhibition with an excited, understanding and questioning mind. Combined with a Sculpture Trail that looks at some of the various pieces on campus with ‘home and habitat’ in mind, these Explore & Make sessions offer a fun and engaging day that provokes thought and stimulates imagination for both primary and secondary schools.
Just ask Corpus Christi Catholic Primary School – their year 4 students were this term’s lucky VIP guests and they got to see the exhibition before it was even open to the public along with a taste of the new Sculpture Trail format! The children arrived in the morning, ready to don their detective hats and take part in an Art Investigation. The Art Detectives looked for clues at each sculpture – ‘what are the colours?’, ‘what are the shapes?’, ‘what are the materials used to make it?’ and ‘why might it be here’? Armed with tools of the detective trade; magnifying glasses, pens, clipboards, colour charts and paint brushes to trace shapes, the detectives got up close with some of the incredible sculptures on our campus. Upon their return to ‘investigation central’ inside the Arts Centre, they presented their findings to each other and named the ‘chief suspect’ of the day, also known as their ‘favourite sculpture’. It was definitely a successful investigation, with lots of interesting clues discovered, questions asked and answers given and with Op Mobile No. 10 and 3B Series 1 being caught red handed as the ‘most amazing sculptures’, the case was closed and the children took a much needed lunch break!
But there’s no rest for an Art Investigator and after lunch the children were invited in to the exhibition to take a VIP tour, led by the Mead Gallery Curator, Sarah Shalgosky. Looking at pieces like Beverly Buchanan’s Florida Hurricane Repair, Heidi Bucher’s Herrenzimmer and Klara Liden’s The Teenage Room, the children learned about the artworks and artists through a home and habitat looking glass. Sarah talked them through why the pieces have been made, how they were made and why they all come together into one collection like this. It was a wonderful and child friendly insight into an exhibition that might normally have passed them by because at first glance, it’s not a traditional class trip.
Using all of the information from the gallery and trail, the children then took on the crafty challenge of making collages inspired by their visit. The results were incredible with layering, colour, repetition, texture, structure and 3D elements coming together to create some imaginative pieces to take back to school to exhibit in their own gallery. While the children were getting crafty, their teacher pointed out that ‘this was the first time many of the children had been in a gallery setting and that it has helped them to understand how to behave’. She mentioned that the class had been to a museum the week before and they ‘ran straight through, not really looking at any one thing in any depth because they weren’t aware of how to approach, look at or get the most from the exhibits’. Our trail leaders, stewards and curators all helped the children to understand expectations which set up a framework that encouraged them to feel safe in discovering the artworks and asking questions. Just knowing that when inside the gallery we look and question but don’t touch and when looking at sculptures outside, touching and climbing on the pieces is fine and even encouraged, really gave them a base from which to freely explore. It was also clear that arming them with questions like ‘who, what, why, and how’, significantly helps the children to focus on the art in front of them and to gain an insight that might not normally be independently reachable.
Their teacher went on to say that although Corpus Christi are lucky enough to have a dedicated art teacher, many schools aren’t so lucky and those students suffer greatly from a lack of exposure to the visual arts throughout their education. Even with the luxury of an art teacher in school, ‘it’s hugely important to make the most of free opportunities like this one because they enhance the children’s understanding and help them to make connections to the real world that is immensely important for their development’. Being given the chance to explore artworks in both a gallery setting and outside in the fresh air, without doubt breaks open the mysterious world of ‘art’, making it not only accessible, but fun and enjoyable too. Ask any of our Trail Leaders and they’ll tell you that one of the most rewarding things about any school visit to the Sculpture Trail and Mead Gallery is witnessing the spark when a child realises that there is no wrong answer. The moment you see a child make that magical connection to a piece of sculpture or art, you just need to stand back, wait for the imagination to do its work and before you know it, you hear a stream of consciousness that would rival any university educated adult’s evaluation; with an added metaphorical unicorn or two for good measure!
There are still spaces available to book an Explore & Make session this term. Please contact us to book your school trip or to find out more about the Creative Learning Department and the work we do in schools and the wider community.
Or if you’re looking for a school trip for the Autumn Term, we have an exciting exhibition arriving that explores colour, shape and repetition in 1960’s visual art: Kaleidoscope. The exhibition will run from 5th October – 9th December 2017 with special extended school visits that allow time to visit the Gallery Exhibition, tour the University Sculptures and get crafty in the Creative Space, all in one visit! Get in touch now to book for next term or to register your interest in the VIP School Tour of Kaleidoscope!