Long Loans to Newlyn School

5 May 2020

Programme Curator, Cat Gibbard, reports on Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange’s on-going project to take the Arts Council Collection into local classrooms as part of the galley’s National Partners Programme.

 

In 2018 as a response to the growing crisis in arts education, we began to investigate what action we could take as an art gallery to support creativity in the curriculum.  This led us to open an ongoing conversation with local primary and secondary schools which began with the question ‘How can we help you?’

Newlyn School, whose pupils are regular visitors to Newlyn Art Gallery, asked if we could support the delivery of basic art skills within their curriculum. We thought a great way to develop a programme with them would be through our partnership with the Arts Council Collection, beginning with the installation of nine pieces of work at the school in October 2019 around which we devised a series of activities to punctuate the twelve months the works were on loan for.

These include Arts Award Explore for Year 6, a creative writing session delivered by The Writer’s Block for Year 4, a Big Draw event with the whole school and, the pièce de résistance, a Palace of Culture originally programmed for June 2020.

This participatory project will transform Newlyn Art Gallery into an inspirational setting for three weeks of intense, art-based activity, programmed by Cultural Secretaries, artists Sophie Butler, Theo Carter Weber, and photographer Oliver Raymond Barker - as directed by the children. For this, the school will lend seven of the art works to the Gallery to form part of the set, returning to the school when the doors of the Palace close.

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Year 5 pupils from Newlyn School began their collaboration with us by selecting the colour of the Palace, which in turn informs the palette of paper artists Anthony Crosby and Laura Drayson, who have been commissioned to transform the gallery. The session began with a slide show of Newlyn Art Gallery’s 2017 Palace of Culture, which was glorious shade of pink. In deciding the colour of the new Palace, the class considered how different colours made them feel through an exploration of My Many Coloured Days, by Dr Seuss. Blue was chosen.

From its elevated position above Mount’s Bay, blue is the colour that can be seen from the school windows, “It represents life in a fishing port.” “It’s a calm colour.” “The colour of our uniform.” The class selected works from a longlist of 175 from the Arts Council Collection for their blue Palace. Thumbnail images had been printed out and the children were asked to pick their favourite, giving a written explanation for their choices. These works formed a longlist, from which the whole class voted on their final choices carefully considering their classmates’ reasoning:

The Kestrel David Woodford: “The reason I chose this picture is because just looking at it reminds me of the time when my Grandpa and Dad took me to a place like this and colours and view and the place it’s set in, takes my breath away.”

Arts Council Collection: Long Loans to Newlyn School
Arts Council Collection: Long Loans to Newlyn School

Cat, 1954 by Robert Clatworthy: “I chose the cat because it looks old and teaches you that old things can still be used.

Strass Paraskos’ painting, Bathing, from 1968 (pictured, left), provoked a lively discussion; some members of the class felt the imagery may be inappropriate [watch the video below to hear responses] for a school while others found it a liberating piece: “I chose this one because it shows the people in the sea swimming and it looks like they’re cleaning themselves from anger.”

Five months after making their selection, the works were installed. The school is built on two levels with a double height entrance hall at the rear. Headteacher Isabel Stephens was keen for this area to be the site for a Newlyn School Gallery. The first job for our technicians was to apply a fresh coat of white paint, walking the Gallery’s scaf tower up the 200m incline that separates the two institutions.

The installation was in two stages, the paintings being hung first, followed a week or so later by the sculptures with their newly commissioned acrylic covers. The work was installed after hours and we were indebted to the school’s cleaning staff who enabled us to work on past their regular hours.

What became clear very quickly is how the whole school community have become attached to the works. On our numerous visits to the school since, there’s always someone who will stop and tell us about their favourite piece, or how much they value having the work onsite.

“I still can’t get over how amazing our ‘gallery’ looks! I stood by the hall as the parents and children came in on Tuesday morning and it was lovely to hear the gasps! Our children were offered a rare opportunity when they were given the power to choose artwork to be displayed in school and in Newlyn Art Gallery. However, it has become a lesson in the value of culture. Our children feel so privileged that we have been entrusted with this artwork; they feel valued; they feel they have a voice. The impact on their self-worth has been significant.”  Isabel Stephens, Headteacher

In response to the Covid–19 lockdown we are currently negotiating an extension of the loan of works to Newlyn School with a plan to deliver all elements of the programme devised at a later date.

 

Cat Gibbard is Programme Curator at Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange, one of three current Arts Council Collection National Partners.

The Palace of Culture project is currently postponed until further notice. For regular programme and content updates, please sign up to the Arts Council Collection newsletter.

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The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.