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Newlyn Art Gallery – Think, Talk, Make Art

Newlyn Art Gallery – Think, Talk, Make Art

Rebecca English, Programme Curator (Learning) at Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange, shares insights from their TDF project creating in-school galleries as an inspiration for a programme of live and digital CPDL for teachers.

The Art Ambassadors, Nancledra Primary School. Image: Newlyn Art Gallery.

Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange have partnered with nine primary schools in rural West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, to create in-school galleries at each location as part of our project Think, Talk, Make Art. Artworks have been loaned from the Arts Council Collection and Cornwall Council Schools Art Collection, and have been on display in each school for the last 18 months. These in-school galleries have been the inspiration for a programme of live and digital CPDL for teachers and senior staff led by artist-educators.

Technicians installing part of a large artwork by Richard Bell in Newlyn Primary School. Image: Newlyn Art Gallery.

As we near the end of the project, we have been reflecting on the power of art in school as a tool for children’s wider learning. Maddie Hicks, Assistant Headteacher at Five Islands Academy summed up her experience of this: “The artworks encourage us to look past where we are – portholes to different lives, different places. It gives us an immediate story to share with visitors, which is bigger than we are.” This feels particularly pertinent when working in partnership with such geographically remote communities and helps us to understand the impact on children’s feelings of self-worth and connectedness to the wider world.

Georgia Barker, Art Lead at Nancledra School, describes a developing momentum amongst the children at her school in the form of The Art Ambassadors – a group formed of a pupil from each class who champions the artworks in school. The group also curates and leads their own art programme for their peers. Georgia comments,

 “It feels quite powerful, they come up with the idea, deliver it and then reflect on it.”

 For these children, the artworks have been the starting point for this, Georgia explains, 

“Through the paintings in school, we are connected to artists and ideas.”

In addition to having the artworks in school, our focus has been on developing knowledge, confidence and skills in art pedagogy for our teachers, many of whom consider themselves non-art specialists. 

The focus of playful learning driving critical discussion in Year 1 was replaced with the Art Leads directing their own CPDL for Year 2. They have commissioned our lead artists, Naomi Frears and Alice Mahoney, to create a Make Art Toolkit, designed to support the Elements of Art, which underpin their art pedagogy. Alongside this, they have identified further learning opportunities, including sessions with educational specialists, skills-based workshops and peer-to-peer exchange. 

Exchanging postcards. Image: Newlyn Art Gallery.

One of our major challenges has been working with the remote nature of our partner schools. We have trialled blended, online and in-person events and developed both synchronous and asynchronous resources and project tools to meet the needs of our cohort. All have had a place, including sending postcards when all else has failed!

Our project Padlet has acted as the overview of activity and a repository for all the content we have created collectively. This has been key for our Art Leads to ensure they don’t fall behind if they cannot attend events in real time.

Project Padlet. Image: Newlyn Art Gallery.

We have noticed that this way of working has been incredibly useful for the Art Leads with them taking up and using the asynchronous films and resources the most successfully. 

As we begin our final work to consolidate and embed learning in school, we have been struck by the powerful bond the Art Leads have created over the duration of the project. Regular meetings, both in person and online, have supported a confidence and willingness to explore and reflect on new learning. 

Georgia Barker sums this up: “Through the meetings at the gallery we are connected to local artists and other teachers. We talk, we share, we grow.”