Value for money during a residency is vital; and outcomes are sometimes pressured by the need to provide evidence that money was well spent. Your artist must not only be an excellent practitioner in his or her art form but must be able to communicate what they know, adapt it to specific age groups, use appropriate oral and visual vocabulary to suit audience ability and be in tune with your classroom etiquette as well; and you may have to take a flier at all this, with an artist that you and your staff (some of whom, especially at Primary level, might find the whole thing outside their comfort zone) have never worked with. Quite a daunting prospect! As an experienced teacher, with enhanced CRB Disclosure, I have worked in nursery, primary and secondary schools in a number of ways.
I have been writing Art and Design programmes of all shapes and sizes, in collaboration with Arts co-ordinators, over a number of years now, delivering them in residencies ranging in duration from two to seven days, hung on the skeleton of a wide range of different themes – from “India” to “The life and times of John Lennon”; “Space and Spatial Awareness” to a “Millennium Garden”; “Life in Tudor Britain” to ”The Sea” and “Junglemania”. They have varied in their format from class-based to school-wide; in their outcomes from group murals to individual posters; models to poetry; communicating ideas and information through a host of vehicles including Art History, Graphic Illustration, Drawing/Painting techniques, Caricature, Computer Visualisation, Drama, Calligraphy, Theory of Design, Perspective and Axonometric principles, Music, Cartoon, History of Architecture and lots more.
The list is endless; limited only by time, budget and the resources you have, or can procure. We can work with poster paint, charcoal, oil and soft pastel, aquarelle crayon, coloured papers, water colour, graphite sticks, clay, felt, tissue paper, acrylics, fabrics, corrugated card; whatever you have. And the concepts are equally varied; theory of colour; textures; leadership; understanding tone; observation skills; group etiquette; linear and aerial perspective; articulating ideas; scale and proportion; composition and more too. Despite this variety, most of my residencies are based on a trusted method. I will meet your Arts co-ordinator and discuss your initial brief, adding my own input and ideas. The earlier I can be involved the better, before you have done too much thinking and closed down any creative avenues. (“You don’t buy a dog and bark yourself”) Once a firm outline has been agreed I will draw up a programme for your approval, then set out a detailed timetable from your template for myself and all staff involved (including my enabling work before and after school). I will cost the scheme, and where required provide detailed lesson plans, with resources, aims, objectives and outcomes. On school-wide events it is usual to include a staff briefing meeting after programme finalisation but before the actual residency– with the right preparation everyone hits the ground running.
If you teach, you’ll know that finding space for an artists input is a difficult proposition, and not just because of tight budgets and the pressure of meeting targets in mainstream subjects, demanded by a myopic curriculum. Once you’ve found the time slot and the money, how do you find a suitable artist?
Programmes normally include time for consolidation and feedback, and inset training can be included too if you wish, so that the residency can form the catalyst for the school to further develop its Art and Design objectives. I don’t look on Art & Design as an optional icing on a cake of core subjects. Properly organised, I think A & D can be a pivotal part of the curriculum; full not only of its own unique messages but dovetailed as well into other areas to enhance and enrich the children’s understanding of any issue. For this reason, I research my subjects well, so that the work we undertake becomes a true extension of a field already under scrutiny. A recent study of Tudor England produced five murals, each a visual representation of a different aspect of Henry VIII, together with a mural, scenery, madrigals, fictitious radio/newspaper articles and the drama of The merchant of Venice, all based around the Elizabethan era. If you would like an A & D workshop related to a Maths, English or Science topic, we can write one, and make it a creative, constructive, exciting, rewarding and fun experience. I recently completed a great year as Art & Design teacher to Y7, 8 and 9 pupils at a school of special religious significance, helping at the same time to introduce a new GCSE in Design and Technology Graphic Products, an area of particular interest to me. If you are considering an Art and Design project and would like to discuss your ideas, whether to test the scope of a concept, to see what your budget might buy, or maybe just to brainstorm a shopping list of ideas, please contact me, I would love to talk to you. If you like I can also put you in touch with schools with whom I have worked.