Micro-grant 3: Artists’ residency – primary (Watercliffe Meadow)

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Micro-grant 3 has a similar focus to Micro-grant 2, except that it is based in a primary school and over a longer duration.

Following changes in the education system and funding of schools during the past 5 years, working as an artist in schools has become rare and increasingly curriculum/product-driven. Micro-grant 3 would aim in the longer term to identify if artists in residence can work successfully within the school environment to enhance the students’ confidence, self esteem and to work with the staff to make a real difference to particularly children who struggle with these issues.

Micro-grant 3 details:

When?

Summer term, 6 sessions, 1 hour each, same group of 6-8 children.

Who?

The project would be focused on primary aged children with low self-esteem and low confidence issues.  Artists SB and CN will work with teacher/commissioner NW.

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Overview (written by lead teacher and artists)

The project took place for one hour session a week over a 6 week period. Artists Soo and Charlie from Artboat worked with the same 6 children each week, the children were chosen by the teachers at Watercliffe Meadow.  The sessions took place in an outdoor space called Amy's Garden for 5 of the sessions, 1 session took place inside due to the weather.

We planned the sessions around external nature art and showed the children pictures of Andy Goldsworthy and similar artists throughout the sessions. We loosely planned the first couple of sessions, but allowed time for the children to direct what they did. For example, after session 3 the children were talking about the animals in the garden and many of these were bugs and beetles. We decided to use this observation to create mixed media bugs in the next session.

It was important to be in an outdoor space and Amy's Garden provided many opportunities for hanging the children's art in the trees and using natural materials in the sessions, such as leaves and stones.

We also felt that it was important to give the children a pack to take home containing a sketch book, glue stick and colouring pencils. At the end of each session they were encouraged to take home extra collage materials and mount board to create pictures at home. Over the 6 weeks, 2 children brought their pack to each session, took home extra materials and produced artwork at home, which they brought in to show us. This included collages, drawings and 3d bugs.

Week 1 – collecting sounds and textures in the garden

Week 2 – making dream catchers using willow, wool, stones and leaves

Week 3 (indoors) – making willow hedgehog houses and clay hedgehogs

Week 4 – creating mixed media bugs using foam, pipe cleaners, paper and fabric

Week 5 – printing flags

Week 6 – nature art inspired by Andy Goldsworthy

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Observations

During the sessions we noticed some changes in the children's behaviour often due to the topic/materials used in the session.

Child V often became frustrated when carrying out activities with a prescribed outcome, for example, making foam bugs which required certain steps to be carried out in the right sequence – wrap the wool, fix on legs, fix on wings, etc. At one point he did not like the way he had wrapped the wool and became frustrated and threw a pair of scissors into the ground. This distracted him from the task and he found it difficult to concentrate and continue with his bug.

In the final session the children were given materials and encouraged to make shapes and patterns on the ground. We asked them to start with a circle, but after that it was up to them. Child V became very engrossed in this task and worked with Child M to create an artwork using reeds, stones and sticks. He talked clearly about how he wanted it to look and how to achieve this. He was patient and concentrated throughout the whole session. Afterwards he commented on how he could not believe that he had made it, because it looked so good.

Observations from from teacher - Child V demonstrates social and behavioural difficulties and usually finds it very difficult to cooperate with other children on tasks.  The way that he worked on the final afternoon is very rare.  According to the class teacher, he would normally need adult support in achieving this. 

Child S did not speak to anyone during the first session. She did take lots of extra materials with her at the end of the session and the next week brought in a collage of a garden that she had made at home. In the next session she was keen to experiment with the materials we had brought – leaves, wool, wire – and made an artwork using leaves that she had hole punched. At the end of the session she spoke very quietly to ask if she could take some mount board home. Child S brought her pack back each week and often made something at home, which she brought in to show us. By the last session she was talking to both of us freely.

Observations from teacher - Child S has shown a huge increase in confidence throughout school and at home she is talking much more about what she has been doing during the day.  She is now playing with other children at social times and sharing her ideas with a partner during lessons.  She will initiate conversations, which previously she would not, and has a smile on her face.  As her class teacher, I would definitely say the art sessions have had a big impact on her increase in self-esteem, as she was able to express herself creatively in a safe space with people she trusted on a regular basis. 

Child H seemed to find some of the activities which required fine motor skills difficult. She would often immediately ask for help or say that she couldn't do it, before trying the task. She would often continue to ask for assistance throughout the session. In the final session she chose to work on her own to make an artwork using reeds, stones, sticks, seeds and shells. She did not ask for any assistance during the whole session. She requested that we went to see what she had made, and she would then explain the art to us – she had a narrative account for the art involving a story of a boat catching fish and her living in a tent.

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Artists' reflections:

We had one meeting with the lead teacher to plan the sessions and this worked well as we seemed to have the same aims.

It was good working with the same children each week as felt that we could establish a relationship with them and build on their skills each week.  For the children, this also worked well because they could invest themselves and their trust in the project.

It was important to be working outside as this made the sessions different to normal lessons and they could display their work in the trees.

It was difficult to get cover for teachers/support staff to observe and join in with the sessions.  This meant we were not able to collaborate as much as we hoped. 

We hope to be able to continue a similar project within school, targeting vulnerable children with low self-esteem. 


Thanks to Soo and Charlie from Artboat:

https://artboatuk.wordpress.co...

https://www.facebook.com/Artbo...

Thanks to Tash from Watercliffe Meadow Primary: 

http://watercliffemeadow.com

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