Issue 1. Volume 1. September 2009
Promoting professional arts practice with children and young people
“It’s a conversation; a conversation that is not just with words, but is mainly with images.” - Artist Jole Bortoli on her work with children
“This type of work is always so misrepresented outside of the local and misunderstood within the mainstream artworld... For me it’s crucial to talk beyond the local and to talk within an art context. - Artist Fiona Whelan
About this publication: Title: Practice Practice publication team: Editor: Orla Kenny Content & layout: Yvonne Cullivan & Heather James Copy-editing & proofreading: Jo Holmwood ISSN: 2009-2563 © writers, artists and Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership, 2009. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced copied or transmitted in any form or by means without permission of the publisher. Kids’ Own accepts no responsibility for loss or damage of material submitted for publication. The views expressed in Practice are not necessarily those of the Editor.
Published by: Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership Carrigeens Ballinful Co. Sligo www.kidsown.ie www.practice.ie email@example.com 071-91-24945
Contents 1 Introduction 2 Emergence 4 Selected projects 10 Artist profiles 10 11 12 14 15 16 20 21 22 23
Gareth Kennedy: One plus one equals three Sharon Kelly: Trusting your instincts Ann Henderson: It’s not a linear thing Andy Parsons: No smoke or mirrors Helene Hugel: Infant imaginings Fiona Whelan: Understanding difference Jole Bortoli: Trust, time and flexibility Ruby Wallis: Learning to slow down Liz McMahon: A way of learning Cathal Roche: Improvisation at the Core
“It’s down to initially starting something in a good way, allowing things to happen slowly, allowing people to find their own way within it. That inspiration is the first spark. You have to wait for that to happen. You can’t force it.” Artist, Ruby Wallis 24 26 28 30
Excerpts from Essays
Arts and the 21st century curriculum The arts’ intrinsic and instrumental values - two sides, same coin Diving into the child’s world...
“One of the remarkable things the arts teach is that there are multiple perspectives and multiple answers to complex questions. It is not either intrinsic or instrumental, but both. “
For additional copies contact Kids’ Own. If you are interested in receiving future editions of Practice, register your interest and contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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Cover Photograph: work made by children at Ballydown Primary School with artist Ann Henderson. 2
How practice supports you Members’ Profiles Membership
“What I love about working with young people is the lightness of touch, any nuance can become the ground for exploration, what captures the imagination is real.” Artist, Julie Forrester
Introduction Welcome to the first issue of Practice, a publication that aims to showcase and make visible contemporary arts practice with children and young people. This publication has emerged from Practice.ie (http://practice.ie/), an online space for artists working with children and young people, which was developed by Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership as an initiative that fulfilled our role to promote excellence and support professionals working in this field. Since September 2008, Practice.ie has been developing as a dynamic space for sharing and discussion around contemporary arts practice for children and young people and as a valuable database of the work that’s happening on the ground. Part of this work includes a number of professional development sessions delivered by Kids’ Own throughout the island of Ireland. These sessions provide an opportunity for artists to gather together to share practice, discuss and critique the core elements of their work and consider its role within a wider context. As the first edition of what will be a twice-yearly publication, Practice is relevant for practitioners and policy-makers alike, and all professionals working across the arts sector with an interest in children and young people. I hope that it will also encourage people to join the online community and engage in critical discourse with their peers. For artists working with children who would like to promote their work, I recommend that you register and participate in Practice.ie. Any artist can blog about a project in progress, share insights into their practice and gain visibility for their work, which may also be included in a future edition of this publication. You can blog about the development of a residency, commission, exhibition, installation, or collaboration. Explore what your peers are doing through features, blogs, essays and image library. Use the forum to get your questions answered and to find out how other artists approach their work and what issues are important to them. Join the community, network and link with like-minded artists and find new inspiration for your own practice. For arts organisations, local authorities or funding agencies, this work is a window on contemporary practice, providing insight through first-hand commentary
on issues and concerns for practicing artists. You can research projects and view work, use features and blogs to explore a wealth of diverse and interesting artists who have been featured by Practice.ie, many with web addresses so you can make direct contact. This publication provides vital insight into the current environment of artists’ practice by gathering together information from the professional development sessions and the online user-generated content and commentary on Practice. ie. Our hope for this publication is to promote and make visible the varied approaches, concerns, challenges and values around contemporary artists’ practice working with children and young people. It aims to be a significant place for critical engagement and discourse on the wide spectrum of approaches and activities in this sector. It is designed to widen the understanding of practice through artists’ first-hand experiences. The most exciting feature of Practice.ie is that it is led by artists and driven by their passion and commitment to working with children and young people. Practice.ie provides a platform upon which artists themselves can investigate and showcase their own work and hold it up to the light. The quality that shines through in this publication is the diversity of artists’ unique individual approaches, but which always have the creative process at the core. The honesty with which artists talk about the challenges as well as the rewards of working with children and young people is striking. Often, in the collaborative process, there are demands made on the artist that compromise their sense of artistic integrity. There are often challenges surrounding dichotomies such as: quality and quantity; product and process; child-focussed or child-led; as well as practicalities relating to space, time, preparation, communication and the artist’s own practice. The way these are dealt with can only be specific to each individual project and collaboration. But what stands out in the project descriptions, essays and interviews within these pages is the priority that is given to the child’s experience and the creative process between the artist and the child, above all else. I hope you enjoy this publication.
Orla Kenny Director, Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership
Emergence Orla Kenny explains how Practice.ie emerged out of years of mentoring and project management; how it has developed over the past year, and plans for the future.
• Project descriptions; • Image bank; • Forums; • Featured artists/ interviews; • Critical content in the form of commissioned Essays;
After twelve years working closely with artists on book publishing projects and arts residency programmes with children, Kids’ Own began to recognise what kind of support structures were proving most valuable for artists who were engaging in creative and collaborative projects.
These represent a two-way learning process. In addition to the selected features and commissioned pieces put forward by Kids’ Own as a means of reporting on the breadth and standard of professional practice, artists are invited and encouraged to report on their own experience, to build a bank of data which reflects the diversity of arts practice with children on the ground and the issues that emerge from this.
Throughout its history, Kids’ Own had developed a model of working which sought to provide the maximum support for artists working with children, and which recognised that the artists’ own creative journey and quality of practice was crucial to the emergence of a meaningful collaborative process with children.
Kids’ Own saw this as an opportunity to conduct research. The research element aimed to identify the needs of artists as another means of supporting their practice, e.g. ‘What supports do artists need in order to enrich and promote their engagement with children?’
In order to nurture and protect each artists’ own creativity, Kids’ Own facilitated regular meetings throughout the duration of its projects, in order to provide a space for artists to come together and talk about the work they were doing, as well as creating an online journal where they could reflect and respond to the project as part of their ongoing individual practice. The artists’ evaluations of these projects all indicated the importance of this time and space for sharing and reflection as a key factor in the success of the project.
In order to fully realise its potential, and as a user-driven facility, Practice.ie had to be ready to respond to the needs of its users. The development of the project was very much dependent on what emerged through this research. User testing and regular interface with members of Practice formed a key part in dictating its development. The development of the project and the website is outlined below.
As a small organisation, Kids’ Own was not in a position to financially support an increased number of long-term residency projects but we did recognise the potential for sharing the learning among and between artists as a means of informing and enriching broader professional arts practice. We recognised that there were a large number of artists in Ireland working professionally with children and young people but that the majority had no support network through which to share, learn, critically respond or reflect upon their work.
Initially planned as a one-year project, it quickly became apparent that Practice. ie would be more valuable as a long-term facility. Once the infrastructure was in place, Kids’ Own recognised the sustainability of the project, and there were few barriers to hinder its development. In order to be relevant, Kids’ Own didn’t want deliver a resource that was top-heavy.
Practice.ie was initiated by Kids’ Own in 2008.
Technology has always been embedded in Kids’ Own’s work and we knew that what it could offer was the capacity to reach artists all over Ireland and abroad and to create a feeling of community among people who were working in geographically diverse locations and sometimes isolating circumstances.
Building the community was an essential first step. Like real buildings or venues, virtual spaces need to be visited and are only worth what the users invest in them.
Practice.ie represents a direct and immediate response on the part of Kids’ Own to facilitate artists to share expertise, to learn from each other and to promote their own practice. This forms a core part of our ethos to support artists who work with children and young people.
Before the site went live in September-October 2008, Kids’ Own had collected a list of names through a simple form on the site. Sixty-eight people registered during that time from June to September and after some user testing, the site opened up. To build the community, Kids’ Own contacted arts officers, local authorities and Visual Artists’ Ireland for publicity. Meetings also provided a way to inform people directly about Practice and knowledge about the website spread very quickly through word of mouth.
The main features of Practice.ie are:
Practice.ie has grown steadily ever since.
• Member profiles and blogs; 4
A major development in the growth of the website and the project as a whole
was the emergence of professional development days, which arose from a realisation that face-to-face contact at the information days provided a necessary parallel support for users of Practice. These professional development days now form the backbone of Practice.ie. They provide an opportunity for interface at a local level among the members of Practice.ie and a chance to practically address and discuss issues of relevance. The professional development days are tailored to provide more direct skills and to give artists the power to promote their own work. A strength of the days has also been in recognising the experience in the room. The participation of artists at varying stages of their career provides a rich environment in which to listen, learn and share – both online and offline. Current status Practice.ie currently has 220 members. Among the active members on the site, a number of artists regularly update blogs and information about projects that they are working on. This publication aims to profile some of this incredible work. In February 2009, Kids’ Own began to issue a monthly newsletter, which aimed to bring out the content highlights from the site and to make it more accessible to people less familiar with the navigation of Practice.ie. The newsletter now has 487 subscribers. This printed publication reflects another stage in the development. The aim is to make this crucial information and inspiring work accessible to a much wider audience and to encourage those who are less technically minded or internet-savvy to go online and mine this wealth of information. This publication is also a celebration of contemporary arts practice with children and young people. We wanted to do justice to the expression of children’s creativity that is reflected on the site and to give the work the full profile that it deserves. To some, this may be a souvenir publication, savoured for its visual quality. To others it may serve as a critical resource that documents and reflects on contemporary arts practice. Irrespective of how it is received, it is a real reflection of the content and usage of Practice.ie in its first year. Building on the success of year one A key realisation for us, arising out of the first year of Practice.ie is that, while we have achieved so much, this is only the beginning. The excitement and enthusiasm that Practice.ie has elicited from so many artists only proves that this is a starting point from which so much more can emerge. Among our aims for year two are the following objectives: To increase participation;
To provide a more comprehensive overview of artists’ practice in different contexts. The community that currently exists online at Practice.ie still only represents a fraction of the artists that are working and activity that is taking place throughout Ireland. What has been established in the first year is an infrastructure, which we hope provides a solid foundation from which this supportive community can grow and develop. Artists often work in isolation, but communicating their work to others and making themselves visible in the sector can be really important in terms of making links, forging partnerships, reflecting on their practice, giving profile to their work and, most of all, feeling supported. We hope that more artists will see the benefits of connecting online and will find the support that they need from Practice.ie. The professional development days are crucial in terms of providing a real connection for artists who wish to go deeper into the issues raised on the site or who seek more practical engagement with their peers. In 2010, Kids’ Own would like to deliver more specialist training, skills sharing and mentoring clinics between attending artists. We want to build confidence, ignite creativity and find ways for artists to develop and focus on their own individual approaches. Some of our training has focused on internet usage and online presence so that artists have the tools to promote their work and create a presence for themselves online. As a user-driven facility, the artists are the main drivers of the project. We hope that in the coming year, artists will feel empowered to take ownership of Practice.ie and steer it in new directions. As part of our desire to make Practice.ie more expansive in 2010 and more representative of the breadth of work taking place within the sector, we will be engaging guest editors to curate the features on the website on a bi-monthly basis. We are very excited by the new perspectives that this will offer for users of Practice.ie as well as drawing in expertise from professionals whose work with children and young people spans a range of art forms. Having initiated from Kids’ Own, it is only natural that the first users of Practice. ie were those artists who were engaged in projects with us. But throughout the course of this first year, we have seen the membership grow as a testament to the relevance that the initiative has for all practicing artists. As an organisation, we are inspired and enriched by learning about the work of others. At present there is so much great work taking place with children and young people in Ireland and we hope that in 2010 more artists will make this work visible to a wider audience.
Orla Kenny & Jo Holmwood
To be more user driven; 5
Selected projects Practice.ie provides a showcase for art projects happening with children and young people around Ireland. Artists and arts organisations have been providing information about their projects, adding images of the work in progress and text updates outlining the development of the work.
To read more about these projects and others visit:
Below is a selection of the projects that took place between September 2008 and September 2009.
From Across the Border / Bridging the Gap students working with Catriona Ryan
Across the Border/Bridging the Gap Artist: Ruby Wallis, Catriona Ryan Project dates: Sept 08 - May 09, 16 weeks Location: Rural, Counties Tipperary and Galway Age range of participants: 8-11, 12-14 This project took place in both Rathcabbin National School in North Tipperary, facilitated by Ruby Wallis and across the border in Ballycrissan National School in Galway, facilitated by Catriona Ryan. The project ran over two eight week periods. In Rathcabbin artist, teacher and pupils explored family histories and genealogy using the multimedia practices of drawing/ photography/ video and sculpture. In Ballycrissan, artist, teacher and pupils focused on mapping and the infrastructure of human habitation. “How do we remember and recall our journeys? The journeys we take everyday, the journeys that are ingrained in our memories. The simple journeys, the roads, the turns, junctions, choices we make. Often we view these journeys through windows, car windows, train windows. These pictures of places and people and things we pass, are like moving pictures, a mini film. The car we journey in is the tripod and the camera our eyes.” - Catriona Ryan 6
www.practice.ie/project If you would like to add your project to the database and share your work, please register on Practice.ie and create a project page: and www.practice.ie/node/add/project
“Introducing language like zoom and moving image, I am trying to get some thinking on the idea of film and narrative. We all agreed that we needed to get more information on what we were investigating, so Eamonn suggested looking into local history with the class leading up to our next session. I am looking forward to what we will have to work with. I must admit I am quite excited, on the edge of a discovery. We will start out sculpturally, building our own scroll devices in an assembly line as a group. Then we will scroll these images in front of a video camera recording a narrative both through the scrolling map & through the audio voiceover from the student telling his/her story.” - Catriona Ryan “Today we added... an old rusty pair of sheep shears (found in a barn), a season pod brought from Africa by one girl’s great grandfather, A beautifully crumbling old book from 1841 and a gold wedding ring which had been passed down through the maternal blood line for the last two centuries........This is where I feel the project really starts to tie in to my own practice: I have decided to film each child talking about their object and to do this I will focus just on a close up of their hands as they talk about the object, paying close attention to the expression and movement of the hands while they are speaking. As with photography what I love about this way of working is the little clues that give so much away. “ - Ruby Wallis
From Across the Border / Bridging the Gap students working with Ruby Wallis
Students ‘Making Colour Studies’ with Kate Wilson
Artist in Schools - Roscommon Artist: Kate Wilson Project dates: Mar 09 - Jun 09, 10 weeks Location: Rural, County Roscommon Age range of participants: 3-5, 5-7, 8-11 This residency for Roscommon County Council, is a 50 hour project at Grange National School, Boyle, Co. Roscommon. I am working with both classes in the school, (it’s a two class school). With the younger children we are exploring the idea of the ‘grange’ which would have at one time produced the food for the monastery. With the older class we are using a broader theme of nature and spring for the project. “The older class have been creating still lives from plants and fruit and making charcoal and pencil studies on large paper and using a small viewing frame to really get in close and blow everything up to a large scale. The younger class have also been working from life, but in a much looser way, and have explored drawing and painting fruit and vegetables that they brought in, that would have been the type of produce the grange may have provided. They
idea of a bag, changes to a 3d container to hold some precious items. Each container holds items personally selected by the pupil and holds meaning for them. The containers will be brought together into an art installation for the classroom, capturing the essence of these pupils, at this time.” - Ester Kiely
worked with compressed charcoal and water with brushes and later with paint. I encouraged the children to work big and bold to make their vegetable really fill the page.”- Kate Wilson
Co-Motion Youth Film Outreach Programme 2008-2009 Artist: Finn Mac Ginty Project dates: Nov 2008 - Mar 2009, 16 weeks Location: Rural, Westmeath Age range of participants: 8-11, 12-14, 15-18 This is a New Media non-formal educational course for young people encouraging ethical use of digital media and the internet. A series of 16 film workshops with the Multyfarnham Youth Club, Co. Westmeath. This course is presented by The CoMotion Youth Film Festival. http://www.comotionfilmfestival.org/
From Craft in the Classroom, works in progress, by students with Ester Keily
Craft in the Classroom, Nicola Brown working with children from St. Mary’s National School, Drumlea, Carrigallen, Co. Leitrim.
Craft in the Classroom
Artist: Nicola Brown, Ester Kiely Project dates: Feb - May 09, 5 weeks Location: Rural, Counties Leitrim and Sligo Age range of participants: 8-11, 12-14 “I was lucky enough to be selected by the Crafts Council as one of the artist makers involved in their 2009 Craft in the Classroom residencies. Working hand in hand with Clare, class teacher and principal of St. Mary’s National School, Drumlea, Carrigallen, Co. Leitrim this is a great opportunity to develop my felting practice with children in a very supportive environment.” Nicola Brown “As a textile artist my aim is to introduce fabric, fibre and stitch to the children as a means of creative expression. I hope to touch on as many strands of the visual arts curriculum as possible (fabric & fibre, colour, construction, drawing, printing, etc).” - Ester Kiely “An old hand-crank Singer sewing machine allows the children to make seams and hems, add a drawstring and make a simple bag. The
“Our third group worked on the felt balls. These were made by winding long strands of wool tops in a tight ball shape, dunking in soapy water and then rolling, massaging and throwing until the ball got hard enough to bounce. Personally I find balls very difficult to make well and I think that the pupils did a great job. A few were even finished in time to experiment with bracelets and cords so I think that we can expand that idea a little further next week. Overall the work and progress of everyone has been brilliant! “- Nicola Brown “I am very excited to see how the big wall hanging will turn out. Next week I am bringing up an extremely large woven plastic mat and we will transfer the wall hanging onto this, wet it out and then roll and kick it around the playground (weather permitting) for a couple of hours. One of the things that strikes me during this Craft in the Classroom project is that it can be difficult explaining the relationship between time spent on felting and the quality of the end results. The longer pupils spend on laying out their wool, rolling and rubbing the better the finished piece will be. Hopefully now that we are well under way everyone is beginning to appreciate how true this is and I am now really looking forward to our next sessions at Drumlea!”- Nicola Brown
Further Afield Artists: Ann Donnelly, Ann Henderson Project length: Jan 09 - Mar 2010 Location: Rural, Counties Down and Tyrone Age range of participants: 5-10 A continuation of a virtual artist-in-residency programme, Space and Place. This collaborative partnership is between Ballydown Primary School teacher, Judith White, P2 class of 30 pupils and Ann Henderson. Further Afield also includes another collaborative partnership in the artist Ann Donnelly working with Marcella Wilson and pupils at Donaghey Primary School, Co Tyrone. Ann Henderson aims to expand upon the understanding of the notion of “artist in residence” within a school context. “Further Afield” facilitates this exploration through the creative use of remote communications. The remote communications aspect to the project allows the artist to work from her studio online with others.
Photo of students working with interactive whiteboard and Marratech chat software by Judith White, teacher on Further Afield working with Ann Henderson
“The pupils and I are collecting information from our respective places, Co. Down and
Rathlin, about growing potatoes from people we know who have grown their own at some stage. It’ll be interesting to see if there are any local specifics. The idea of planting our potatoes and experimenting with three different methods, planting: a whole potato, half a potato and a small area around the eye, came about through a conversation I had on the ferry with Bertie, on my way to the week 1 “real visit” at Ballydown. I’d been saying I remembered my parents cutting the spud in half to economize and he informed me that on some of the other islands they had planted only the eyes of the potato in order to eat the rest.” - Ann Henderson “Conversation is a fundamental part of any collaborative process I become involved in. Miss White also believes this activity to be important. P2, Miss White and I are spending at least a third of our contact time in this way. I’ve come to use the Marratech whiteboards as a way of developing this element of dialogue further, through the process of making it tangible, in a visual sense, in real time. While we talk, we type and put up stills from the web cam and arrange on screen. Who does what varies, according to the day and the specifics of each group.” - Ann Henderson
Mobiles Artist in School O’Callaghans Mills N.S Artist: Shona MacGillivray Dates: Feb - Mar 2009, 4 days Location: Rural, Clare Age range of participants: 5-7, 8-11, 12-14 Exploring shapes, colour, balance and light. Creating shapes from willow rod, adding a white tissue skin with thin P.V.A glue, then coloured tissue. Playing with the movement and balance as other shapes are added. Working individualy or in small groups. Infants found bending willow difficult so I changed my approach and we used just the tissue for it’s translucent and light weight qualities. I was inspired by Alexander Calders’ playful pieces, and we looked at some of his work and Miro’s use of colour. Finished pieces are to hang in classes with window light showing through. It was sunny on the last day (honest) and we hung all pieces from the trees in the school yard,while the infants played and flew with their butterflies on willow sticks.
“From the start, photography was a big part of the work. In groups, the class took photos from various perspectives around the boundaries of the school. One group took photos of the ground, taking a few steps between each image. The groups’ challenge was to stick to the perspective they were given. Each group chose an image from their shortlist and got ready to make a big painting, again, mixing colours but this time in bigger quantities. The big paintings were really beautiful.”- Ann Donnelly
If I was a.... Artist: Avril O’ Brien Project dates: Apr - May 2009, 4 weeks Location: Rural, Cork Age range of participants: 5-7, 8-11 ‘If I was a...’ cat? Tree? Dinosaur? Flower?...what would I see? How would I experience my world? This project brought participants through a mini guided meditation session; a look at the book illustrator Eric Carle; creating their own patterned tissue a la Eric Carle; creating their creatures in clay; drawing them; creating a background a character and finally a book which told the story of a day in the life of their chosen creature.
processes leading to the finished art work. The idea behind the project was to explore the theme of “Jobstown” under the topics of past, present, people and place. Each topic was matched with a particular art style such as pop art, cubism, abstract, dadaism/graffiti. These in turn were created through a variety of mediums and techniques, i.e. mosaic, collage, print and stained glass. The young people had the opportunity to decide which mix of the three elements of the theme they wanted to work with, to allow for their input right from the beginning of the project. The participants have been guided by the artistic facilitator but all decisions and creations have been youth led. The main aims of the project were: To impart artistic learning through research, field trips, lectures, demonstrations and practical workshops; promote the young people’s social & personal development through creative means and by encouraging interaction with the community & within the group; enhance the environmental aesthetics of the locale by creating several large scale visual art works for temporary & permanent public display in prominent areas frequently targeted by illegal graffiti; to develop a better understanding of and respect for the community in which the young participants live. During the project the young artists have come to the conclusion that art is not about aesthetics but rather the concept, the thought processes behind the art. We would like you the audience to understand that the finished pieces you are looking at are meaningful and are not just art for the sake of art. They are important because they came from realisation and imagination.
“My Place, Our Space work in progress on J.A.Y Girls pop art, mosaic piece” uploaded by Annette Woolley
My Place,Our Space Artist: Annette Woolley Project dates: Jan 2009 - May 2009, 6 months Location: Suburban, Dublin Age range: 8-11; 12-14; 15-18 The Jobstown Youth Arts project is essentially Art for the community, about the community, by the community. It has been running since January 09 and apart from the artist in residence, is facilitated on a voluntary basis. It involves 6 local youth groups with ages ranging from 8-18 years with 4 of the groups undertaking a 2hr workshop once a week and the other 2 each doing an intensive 4 day programme during the school holidays. In total approx 50 young people were directly involved in the creative learning
The creative energy, effort and education behind each piece alone is worthy of valid artistic critique and appreciation. The Jobstown Youth Arts Project will be continuing on an entirely voluntary basis from September 09.
“Field work” with artsit Christine Mackey
The Nature of Sligo
Artists: Sinead Aldridge, Yvonne Cullivan, Christine Mackey, Cathal Roche, Kate Wison Project dates: Oct 08 - May 09, 16 weeks Location: Rural, County Sligo Age range of participants: 5-7, 8-11 This project is a one year residency involving five artists-in-residence in four primary schools in County Sligo. The residency combines one contact day with the children and one process day for the artist per week. This will evolve over two eight-week blocks. The artists worked closely with one teacher over this period, engaging together in planning and within the classroom. The themes for each of the four residencies developed independently. “We began the morning looking at a slide projection of native wild birds that Tomas had put together and listened to the sounds each bird sings. The morning was so bright and clear we decided to take a walk. The children were asked to try and observe details in the landscape, listening out for bird-sounds and whether we could identify any. Some children took photographs of small details in their environment such as ice patterns on the track and new plants creeping out of the groundsnowdrops in the front garden of the priest’s house - as spring approaches new life follows.”Christine Mackey “I introduced the idea of creating 3d form with equilateral triangles using toothpicks and plasticine! The children created these small structures with great enthusiasm and then allowed their imagination to flow inventing and shaping small installations! We then decided to go out and harvest some willow from the locality and use this material to expand our constructed worlds into the playground. This was a great opportunity to meet with our neighbours.....The weather was superb and allowed us to play with the shadow lines our willow structures made. We chalked the playground and finished our day creating a tent from one tetrahedron shape to house a shadow play.” - Sinead Aldridge “An ambitious local train network scheme based on the disused lines is plotted on Google Earth allowing students to step inside simulated journeys passing through familiar and forgotten villages and towns. A giant steel chime train serves as the driver’s carriage and participants move the mallet from centre to right or centre to left following the direction of each simulated train journey. Through this fun activity, we perform and record our series of 24 melodic contours for quarter-tone chimes.” - Cathal Roche “Each child isolated three of the clearest shapes
from their paintings and drew them at the top of a clean sheet of paper. I used questions then to get them to write about those shapes as a list below each shape. They described the shape, then its qualities,(smooth, jagged etc). They described how they would make that shape with their bodies, what parts of the body they would use, what height they would do it at, if the shape was static or moved, if it was slow or fast, if it moved up/down, in/out etc. They then drew out their movement scores on a new sheet of paper, giving the shapes an order across the page and writing the words in and around the shapes as they travelled across the page.”- Kate Wilson “The children had expressed an interest in the layering of images, both from an aesthetic point of view and in terms of the actual process. We discussed the possibility of layering the portraits we had made to combine them into one, detailed portrait of ourselves. I was both interested and familiar with this process in a digital sense, but in the studio I began to think of more traditional forms of printed layering and started to explore a combined process. I took the layered images, both digitally manufactured and more hand printed to the children and asked what they thought. They expressed the wish to make all versions! We began the process of preparing the images, and possibl text we would need.”- Yvonne Cullivan
Puppet Portal Project Artists: Helene Hugel, Anna Rosenfelder, Siobhan Clancy, Emma Fisher Project dates: Mar - Dec 09, 20 weeks Location: Urban, Counties Dublin, Limerick and Sligo Age range of participants: Infants and parents 0-3, 3-18 The Puppet Portal Project is an arts in health and technology project. It is engaging 4 artists in 4 hospitals to establish an active and creative hub within each hospital community, facilitating a performing arts exchange between the hospitals. Contemporary puppetry techniques, storytelling and technology are being used to create interactive, puppetry performances via the hospital web portal, Ait Eile, the online community for children in hospital (www. aiteile.ie). See centrefold spread for images.
St Patrick’s School for childen with special needs
Artist: Mairead Holohan Project dates: Sept 08 - Sept 09 Location: Urban, Kilkenny, Age range of participants: 5-7, 8-11, 12-14, 15-18 This is an ongoing residency in this school for
Work by Ciara with artsit Mairead Holohan
children with special needs. The range is severe to profound. The largest class is 8 in number and most classes have only 4 or 5 children. Most classes have a teacher and 3 Special Needs Assistants (SNAs). Some of these children are tactile defensive. Most will engage on a one to one level for short periods of time. Some absolutely love to create and really engage with a range of processes. The brief is very simple. The school chooses a curriculum strand each term. I take 4 classes for one hour each for about 8 weeks at a time. A lot of this work is what is called hand over hand, which means it is done by the teacher or SNAs or me guiding the child’s hand. Our hope is that if all the people involved come out of the artroom feeling they have had an experience that is positive, confidence has been fostered in their own ability to do artwork and the wellbeing of the class as a whole has been raised. We also hope to impart some skills to the students and staff that will enhance their art making approach on a day to day basis. We did have an exhibition of some of the work in Loughboy library in Kilkenny last year and we hope to do so annually. Our aim for the exhibition is to raise awareness of the work that is being done with these children and to make people more familiar with people with special needs.
The Sodacakeville Artist: Julie Forrester Project dates: Oct - Jan 09, 16 weeks Location: Sub-urban, County Limerick Age range of participants: 8-11, 12-14 An after school project for 10-13 year old girls from two Killeely schools at the Northside Digihub, Limerick. During the research phase children worked with a variety of media to explore ideas about their environment and created stories about their relationship with the place where they live. Phase two seeks to build on the relationship between artist and children, to develop ideas researched during the research phase. “What I love about working with young people is the lightness of touch, any nuance 9
Sculpture in Context at the Harold
can become the ground for exploration, what captures the imagination is real. “I had been wondering how to introduce my research about father Munchin and the sodacakes to the group. In the mean time I had laid down a vocal track on their test of last week, me tunelessly singing a bar or two. Of course the girls wanted a go, and their tune became the Wedding March...eureka...today’s work would be a wedding scene and cue brother Munchin ....we had to have a priest...and so the plot thickens. “- Julie Forrester “There will be an increase in numbers in the group. I may have 10 next week. This may work out ok because our five group is working well and can continue on their story while I begin the newbies...but I am divided. I know for my hosts that numbers help justify projects and persuade sponsors, but quantities will show in quality of output....I am also quite excited about new members bringing new stories and adding more to the pot, this is a familiar situation.....My hosts are extremely understanding and are doing all to make the project as perfect as possible, (our compromise was to balance more numbers with more equipment to allow groups to work independently, while continuing with my dedicated helper will also make things smoother).” - Julie Forrester
Sugar & Spice, Water & Ice Artist: Mike Bass Project Dates: Sep - Nov 2008, 8 days Location: Rural Antrim Age range of participants: 8-11 This project took place in Mount St. Michael’s Primary School, Randalstown, over an 8 week period in Mr. Devenny’s P6 class. 29 pupils had the task of creating a film to place in a local shop window as part of the local community’s Christmas lights switch-on. The project’s mandate was to involve the community at large, the class curriculum and the festive season, though not necessarily the Christian holiday. The P6’s were studying the cycle of water on our planet and a tie-in to water cycles across the globe was a logical staring point. Points of interesting
Walkabout with Zipperman from The Sodacakeville, by students working with Julie Forrester
Artist: Jackie Ball Project dates: Oct 08 - Mar 09, 24 days Location: Suburban, Dublin Age range of participants: 8-11
Slushie, Salty and Icey the main water/snow drops characters on their fluffy cloud. Created by children from Mount St. Michael’s Primary School, Randalstown with Mike Bass. Sugar & Spice, Water & Ice project.
locations, peoples and climates were listed on a flip chart. It was decided that our story had three main characters, all being droplets of water on a cloud. Each cloud got heavy and fell down to a country where its indigenous peoples were celebrating a festival. At the end they would evaporate back up to their cloud and shout Merry Christmas. Participants drew a storyboard to assist in the design of our film’s artwork. For the designs of the other characters, research was done on the internet to view what the differing lands and cultures looked like. A script was written and performed by the participants that were voted the favoured speakers in the class. The class was then divided into 5 groups. Each group got a sequence of the film. While the artwork was being created, the script was recorded. Filming began on the sequences that had been completed first.We recorded extra sound effects for splashes and windy weather. The editing process was explained and demonstrated. Enthusiasm of the teacher and his students remained high and our film was completed on time. Everyone was delighted at the results displayed in the window of a local electronics shop. I have since been invited back this week for a special school assembly to say a few words about the process and premiere our film. For that, I have prepared a Power Point slide show with images taken from the film and of the class in action. Happy Holiday to all!
On set for the portal scene from The Sodacakeville, by students working with Julie Forrester
For this year’s residency with the two 4th classes we are creating our own ‘Sculpture in Context at the Harold’. Sculpture in Context ran for the seventh year in the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin. The sculptures are displayed throughout the gardens and glasshouses. All the artwork is ‘site specific’ -the artist has chosen where exactly in the gardens their sculpture will be placed. A lot of the pieces will have been created especially for this exhibition in the Botanics. This is a chance for the two classes to see a diverse range of sculptures both large and small created by Irish and International artists and set in a very beautiful Dublin garden. After visiting the exhibition the children will go back to school and look at their own ‘landscape’ in a different way and then design and create something unique to enhance their own surroundings. They will recycle, use tools and experiment with a variety of mediums. They will work in groups to design and create permanent sculptures for the grounds of their school.
Teens Graffiti Artist: Edel Bartley Project dates: May - Jun 09, 5 weeks Location: Urban, Dublin Age range of participants: 12-14, 15-18 The aim of this project is to introduce art by permission to the teens. There are two stages of this project. 1. Individual pieces, 2. Collaborative piece. We will discuss Graffiti works from other artists. They will come up with ideas for their piece. They will be incorporating digital photography through Photoshop. They will learn the techniques of stencilling. Then transfer their images to canvas. At the final stage of
From The Sodacakeville, students working with Julie Forrester
the project they will create a large scale piece, using the techniques learnt. They come up with their own ideas using spray cans and paint. At the moment we have been given permission to cover a large wall with their work. So we will see how it develops!! Finally the teens will exhibit their individual pieces. And if the project goes to plan they will have created the mural on the wall. Creative Classrooms, Artist Caroline Lynch with children..
Creative Classrooms Artist: Caroline Lynch Project Dates: Nov 2008 - Jun 2009, 8 months Location: Suburban, Dublin, Age range of participants: 3-5
Water - Kozo Art Club Artist: Tunde Toth Project dates: Jan - Apr 09, 12 weeks Location: Rural, County Kilkenny Age range of participants: 5-7, 8-11 Kozo Art Club participants have been exploring the theme of “Water” through a number of mediums and concepts. A two hour workshop was held each week at The Watergarden Gallery in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny from January - April. Children were introduced to various techniques of painting, drawing, hand papermaking, silk papermaking, collage building, sculptural processes, monoprinting, fibre and textile arts. “This project was designed to encourage communication, learning of a new vocabulary and to offer a friendly, non-competitive and creative environment where individual ideas and their expression is the primarily focus. The children have also participated in the selection of their own art works - curating and installing their own exhibition entitled “Water”. The exhibition showed selected works by all participants as well as collaborative, large scale installation pieces.” - Tunde Toth
Creative Classrooms is an Artists-in-schools project by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, which places artists of all disciplines in different schools over the period of a few months. Central to the project are a strong collaboration with the teacher and a process -led approach (outcomes are secondary), furthered by artists panel meetings that provide for specific training and arists´exchange. The programme works from the premise that creativity is not separate from academia but an essential characteristic. ““I worked with a junior infant class, their teacher & classroom assistant from February to May, with 8 days of contact in the school and an additional visit at teacher´s exchange day where we shared our experiences with the other teachers.”- Caroline Lynch
To read more about these projects and others visit: www.practice.ie/project Across the Border/ Bridging the Gap, Artist Ruby Wallis with children from Rathcabbin N.S. North Tipperary.
Drawings with artsit Christine Mackey, Nature of Sligo
Artist profiles Each month Practice.ie has featured an in-depth exploration into an artist’s practice, as a way to share learning and provide insight into various artists’ experiences. Yvonne Cullivan has travelled around the country, from Rathlin Island to West Cork, interviewing artists chosen for their experience working with children and young people or the innovation and inspiration of a project
they are working on. In conversation with Yvonne, artists have discussed the development of their practice, their approaches and the learning involved. The following are excerpts from each interview to date. To read the interviews in full visit: www.practice.ie/features
Read more at >> practice.ie/about/nov-08-gareth-kennedy Children working with Gareth Kennedy. Photos by Yvonne Cullivan
Gareth Kennedy: One plus one equals three Gareth Kennedy is a Leitrim-based artist. His practice is invested in the potential of dialogue and experiment to develop work which balances environmental, social, aesthetic and economic concerns. In this interview he discusses two projects involving young people. The Future of Ice, through Leitrim Sculpture Centre’s ‘New Sites, New Fields’, looked at the distintive, U-shaped, glaciated Glenade valley, Co. Leitrim. ‘MacneanScapes’, funded by Sligo/Leitrim VEC and Cavan County Council, was an innovative, artseducation and research-based project with St. Clare’s Comprehensive, Co. Leitrim. The students researched the environment, history, culture and geography of the Lough Macnean area using audio, photography and GPS drawing. Excerpts from an interview with Gareth: What motivates you to work with young people? I’m quite interested in outreach, or mechanisms for connection within the area. Also, how my skills or knowledge or interests can be made communicable, 12
or accessible or can give a little. The young people have a different energy and a different focus. I find it fulfilling to adapt things to fit their interest. I do try to create projects that are something other than the curriculum; something more holistic or that create a more joined-up thinking. I also try to put forward workshops that are tools, or are functional, or propose an arts practice that isn’t just an escape or therapeutic; that offers skills or mechanisms for engaging with or learning about the world or issues. How do you define collaboration? The main thing that I want to give in the workshops is a sense of ownership over the process, over the project, and a sense of transparency with the agenda, or the mission, or the outcome. A sense of pride hopefully and for that to push from the workshop stage out into a public presentation or some sort of event. With the MacNeanScapes project I deliberately had that wide open and presented it as a user-led project, but I had to keep feeding them technical and conceptual skills. Certain people took
the ball and ran with it, but others wouldn’t have so much and that’s the way of it. I think collaboration is a tricky word. Working with young people, I think it would take a lot of time to build up. No collaboration happens in one day or in three workshops. What I go away with is just my own put-together PDF, which describes the project, which is my outcome. I hope the students go away with a shift in perception - if it’s not a material object, you know, something they put on their mantlepiece or whatever - with new ideas, with skills, with an idea of possibility, with an idea of value when it comes to exploring ideas through material, having formed new friendships, having new relations in their area, the social capital.....My workshops are generally less about material outcomes. Usually it’s about the collective experience and the energy generated and the territory covered and the story of that journey. That has to be well done, well orchestrated for it to matter.
Sharon Kelly: Trusting your instincts
Read more at >> practice.ie/features/june-09-sharon-kelly
Work in progress by student from Strathearn Grammar School in Belfast, working with Sharon Kelly as part of The Handbag Project, a Paragon Studios Outreach project 2008 / 9. Photo by Sharon Kelly Based in Paragon Studios, Belfast, Sharon Kelly has a long-standing practice strongly based in drawing and, for the last number of years, incorporating video. She has also been teaching, collaborating on and leading projects with groups of varying ages since the mid-nineties, including with Kids’ Own and with Nicola Curry, director of Maiden Voyage dance company. While her studio work is separate to her work with groups, Sharon sees the overall process as cyclical and mutually beneficial. In this interview Sharon speaks about embarking on the unknown and trusting your instincts. Extracts from the Interview with Sharon: On her approach: It would be unwise to plan totally the outcome of what you do. The thing I’ve found best, is to go in with a little bit of an open mind, which really the children come with, especially the younger ones. You can respond to that and maybe change direction, you know, try different things. For me as an artist who’s worked primarily with drawing and some video work, it’s been a great way to try other things in terms of impact on my own practice. Of course it’s you, the children and it’s also the teacher involved. There is a sort of relationship that has to be forged between everyone. By and large you are usually welcomed openly with the children, but it can take a while for trust to build up. One of the things I’d hope for is, I’m trying to think of the word— sensitivity— I think you have to come to the projects with a lot of sensitivity and maybe a wee bit of hard skin if you can! Tell us more about the values that underlie your work with children. Sensitivity is a very important thing and trusting your instincts. But you could say that’s about being a human being as well. It doesn’t just apply to going into schools and doing projects or working
with young people. But of course it helps... I hope it doesn’t sound like a cliché, but perhaps if you have the sense that a child isn’t maybe progressing wonderfully academically, but they come to these art projects and things open up for them and it really does boost their confidence... There’s a certain sensitivity you have to have to those circumstances... Try to see the teacher’s point of view— and what you represent by coming into the classroom. I think you have to keep open, a sort of open mind. I hope I’ve done that in the past. At the same time, the thing about trusting your instincts and trusting yourself— that’s important because I think you have to try not to let go of things that you feel are important and they are not necessarily ‘lovely outcomes’. Do you feel you have responsibilities when you’re working in that environment? When I think of responsibility, I’m kind of thinking about the inner integrity of the project. To value things that are created or processes that you’ve gone through and to try to hold those up and say ‘this is valuable’, although it didn’t maybe lead anywhere but it had value to it. You can firmly believe something as an artist but then to try to persuade another party can be difficult... It all becomes part of the history of what you’re doing. It has repercussions inevitably down the line somewhere. So it is important. Would you share your own work with groups? On certain projects, huge things happen in your own practice as well. It’s all part of trusting and expanding as an artist. There is a sense that, by doing those things, you also challenge yourself for your own future practice. You realise, over the years, that what you’re doing as you are engaged in other projects is all part of the process of being an artist and has been really important to me in keeping going. So it’s been a sort of a circular thing. You know, if I got involved in a collaborative project, well it’s still all part of my practice.
When has your studio process been influenced greatly by your residencies? I remember particularly with the Multimedia Maps residency in Kilcurry, wanting to create something that had a sense of the pace and, sort of, run of the school day - the kind of business and then the lull, and the children populating everywhere and then a silence and an emptiness. Recording the process of a drawing evolving - came out of those thoughts. That fed into later work that I presented in the Ormeau Baths Gallery in 2004. That was sometime after but nevertheless all those ideas kind of germinated from certain processes. I do think there was a strong link between those and in a sense it brought drawing and video elements of my own practice together very organically, which was lovely. How do you measure the success of a project for yourself? All projects, in a way, are successful. I suppose [we should] not write off things that haven’t been so successful. You learn a lot from those, both about your own work and also about yourself - what you are prepared to do or how you conduct yourself, all those things are important. What’s necessary in order for a project to be successful? There has to be a series of meetings, to gently introduce who you are and what you do and what you hope to be involved in, in the project. Planning has been really important. Just to mention as well one of the very significant factors in the Kids’ Own project was the importance with artists processing material or the contact time that took place with the children, just to nurture their own responses and I think that reaps benefits and I suppose that is very hard to give a value to but certainly I feel very strongly about that. I mean that’s something, that if you believe in you should kind of stand up for. It is important because it values the process and it values the artist.
Ann Henderson: It’s not a linear thing Ann Henderson is an artist based on Rathlin Island, off County Antrim. Her work is concerned with engaging a response to the natural environment, focusing on the evidential passage of time. To Ann, the actual process of work is as important as the production of any artefact, reflecting the enduring, procreative mechanisms of nature. She finds essential value in working and collaborating with others. “Further Afield” is funded through Kids’ Own, SELB, CYP and C2K and facilitates collaborative exploration, through the creative use of Marratech remote communications software, between the artist, teacher Judith White and P2 pupils at Ballydown Primary School. Excerpt from an interview with Ann: What motivates you to work with children and young people? I think because I had such a strong, positive primary education, I can now come back to that and see how important it has been as a foundation to my whole way of thinking. As an artist coming into a school and working with individual children, if I can provide avenues for even one of those children to think in a way that suits them more, to think more clearly, or find a way of working or doing things that are more
positive for them. So it’s really about avenues for the individual and finding those within a classroom situation and education and being able to filter that out into the world beyond. If I can just provide ways, or equip them with something, even if it’s something very small, to follow through with their own thoughts and to exist as an individual and to value the fact that we are individuals. I think that’s what I aspire towards. On the importance on artists’ studio/process time: I think if you were a teacher or if you were a facilitator, then that time wouldn’t be necessary, but you are an artist and without the time to feed your practice and to feed your thought processes, then how can you move along through the project? I don’t understand how it would happen otherwise. It’s absolutely fundamental. I can’t see how the contact time with the children could ever be as valuable without the time to process work and work through that and have the time to make your own response. Can you talk about the development of ideas on a project? The teachers and I have got together and they’ve outlined areas that they find of interest in relation to the curriculum, areas that they have to cover anyway and we’ve had a chat and I’ve got back to them about ideas or places within those areas that I’m interested in and we go from there. So we’ve got a common ground to work within. So we’re both starting from a point of interest that we’ve singled out together. We’re both coming at it from very different angles and that’s been a real hub for this project; that we’re both interested in the same idea and want to follow it through together. So we get the central
starting point and then it evolves. I introduce ideas and ask the kids to respond and, in part, respond to them. Some of it’s specific to my own work and then the ideas from it feed back in and so it’s like a network of things all working together ... I’d like to think it’s quite an organic process, it’s hard to define, but it’s not a linear thing. On support structures: If you’re working with other arts bodies or arts organisations, very quickly you can suss out what their level of understanding of what an artist and their practice is. I try to avoid now, investing my time and my energy in partnerships with people for whom their understanding is very limited, because there’s just so much out there that I want to do. If I can work with like-minded people, then we can go so much further! I think at the centre of things is the working partnership with, I was going to say first and foremost with the teachers themselves, but equally so if it’s through an arts body. I do really thrive off that relationship as well. I’ve worked on projects where there hasn’t been a vision of an artist or understanding of what an artist is or has to offer. That’s central to it as well. Not that these two strands are more necessary than the channel back and forwards with the kids, but if these two aren’t working properly ... then it doesn’t happen in the same way. Can you tell me about the communication between you and the children? There’s a lot of dialogue. If I was to portion out the time percentage-wise ... I’m sure at least half of our day will be spent just talking. It takes that discussion to make the work purposeful. You could carry out
Read more at >> practice.ie/features/oct-08-ann-henderson
these tasks, but without understanding why or without us all being involved, then what would be the point? The dialogue with the teachers; some of those conversations are really exciting, we get really excited in our planning. So that’s another thing that I get out of working with young people; the opportunity to work with other people in other spheres, who also get a kick out of working with young people, with young minds.
hone it down to the development of the concept. If I had developed the concept, if it was defined completely by me, then that made it my work. But then as to how much the children inform the directions of the concepts of the works we do together, I don’t know. They certainly inform practical aspects of it. Sometimes they inform, I mean, ideally they would be informing all parts of it.
On ownership of work:
Asking ‘Why?’ is a part of my ongoing practice as an artist. In more practical ways; leaving time aside at the end to ask the kids their opinions on things, what worked for them, in very simple ways like taking votes on things. Putting time aside for their evaluation of things and for the teacher’s evaluation of things. And putting the three together; ‘Did it work
I’ve been trying to sort out recently, the nature of collaboration and where it begins and ends. Why I have work in a folder here [in my studio] and I specifically think that’s my own work and then there’s lots of work going on that’s not my own work. I tried to work out what is the difference. I thought I could
for us all?’ or ‘Were there parts of the day that fell apart? ’ The parts of the day, even though they are difficult to address, that fell apart, probably inform the next time together more so than the bits that went more positively. On documentation: I don’t see the documentation as being separate to the process, you know, the photographs that happen or for example, the discussions that we have and the whiteboards that we put up using the remote software, are part and parcel of our communication process. They are snapshots of certain periods of time. They do document the communication that has gone on. So it’s part and parcel of the process itself.
15 Work created by children at Ballydown Primary School with artist Ann Henderson
Andy Parsons: No smoke or mirrors
Installation photos by Linda Hayden from ‘Wolf on Arm’ a project of the Young Model Programme at The Model, Home of the Niland Collection
Andy Parsons has been working with The Young Model Programme since moving to Sligo from the UK in 2004. With a background in teaching and a parallel studio practice, Andy’s work encompasses painting, sculpture and film. In his latest venture with the Young Model Programme, Andy converted the Wolfetone pharmacy in Sligo into the Wolf on Arm studio - a venue for workshops, for his own studio practice, for exhibitions, screenings and gigs. In this space Andy explored themes and media in his own work and with Young Model Programme participants. In this interview he talks about the ideas behind the work and the media explored, ownership of the work and organic collaboration.
work, and the two are kind of indivisible. I’ll make an armature, and then they’ll flesh it out. It’s a collaborative process that is unusual in this context. How did you put that in place? I haven’t analysed it too greatly. I don’t want to over analyse it and make it something that is formulaic. What I figured was, if I had a vague idea of what would be good to do at the start, like building a mountain, making films that were about nature, then we could develop something collaboratively. The way they came out wasn’t what I had anticipated. You can set parameters, and set a context and things will develop within that. It’s not completely improvised. There’s something about the speed with which people work, and want to achieve their results. I’ll go back and revise, rub out, and have a chin scratch. That doesn’t happen: it’s like bish bash bosh, and I think that’s a good thing.
Do you share that with them, the way you normally work? I think the way that I work isn’t actually that positive. I’ll worry a painting to death over the course of four or fives years then throw it away at the end, so you know, I wouldn’t want anyone to do that. It’s a complete waste of time. But seriously, the best bits of work that I make are things that I do immediately, where the distance between the concept and it’s execution is the least. And that’s the way they work. If you have gone through art education you kind of think ‘Oh, that’s a wicked idea’, then you sit down and think of a hundred reasons why you shouldn’t do it, so heh. That’s quite refreshing then, the immediacy that they [the children] bring? Yes, definitely.
Excerpts from the Interview with Andy: What values underpin this work? What they planned [with the Young Model] from the start is that there would be no compromise in terms of content; there would be no ‘dumbing-down’. So the artists that they got in would be contemporary, with cutting-edge work. I think the idea of creating a context for young people is about excellence. There is a sense of seriousness, of purpose about the whole thing. Some people who started this project that I’ve been involved on would have attended previous ones. They would be steeped in the spirit of the whole endeavour. They realise it’s kind of fun, but it’s kind of serious as well. The way that this project has been structured is that I’ve been making work, and they’ve been making 16
Read more at >>practice.ie/features//july-09-andy-parsons
Photos by Maria Vesselko Read more at >>practice.ie/features/dec-08-helene-hugel
Helene Hugel: Infant imaginings Helene Hugel is a puppeteer, clown doctor and arts and health practitioner with a qualification in hospital play. She has been working in this area for six years, in order to nurture and honour children’s creativity as a natural resource for their well-being. Helene is presently establishing her own company; Helium is a multi-disciplinary art and health company for children, which will operate nationwide in 2009. As a researcher, developer and innovator of state-of-the-art performing arts in children’s hospitals and other healthcare settings, Helium will strive to break new ground on both an artistic and a clinical level.
I would perform in more traditional ways, where the audience is not central, or as involved.
Excerpts from the interview with Helene:
How would you describe what you do?
Has your process changed / developed over time? Can you describe how? Very much so: my audience has now become central to my performance work. I now perform for very small audiences in intimate and interactive, engaging environments (like the bed the children sit in for The Bedmaker, or the parasol the parent and babies sit under in Infant Imaginings). I would always consult and engage with my audience in the development of the piece. Whereas before entering the field of art and health, and working as a puppeteer,
How do you define collaboration? I am still figuring this out, but I see it here in the way I work, as a dialogue, an exchange, or collectively creating. It is about understanding the 100 languages of children. This involves listening very closely to the child, their language, and importantly allowing space for them to respond in their own way and time. This may involve creating gaps or silence, or waiting quietly which may seem strange for an adult. It means tuning in to the child’s world.
I provide a safe and vibrant space for creativity and imagination to flourish, and through this to nurture artistic creation. I see a safe space as one that is not impeded by too much formal structure, which allows for moments of free play, spontaneity, improvisation and, if possible, stimulates all the senses. In the case of The Bedmaker, which is a performance that travels from bed to bed in the hospital, I play the character, and we transform the immediate environment. The Bedmaker encourages children to recreate their bed space into an imaginative landscape using
puppetry, storytelling and simple clowning. In the case of the very young children we have been working with in Infant Imaginings, creating a safe space for the child means creating a space, which includes the parent, is highly interactive and multi-sensory. How do you consider your role as an artist and the role of the arts in a Health context? My role as an artist in the health settings I work in is multi-layered. It is about audience building and connecting with my audience on a meaningful level. I am often engaging with people who have had little or no quality experience with the arts. It is very much about bringing the artistic experience to those people, bringing it to those who need it most. My role (and the role of the arts in health) is also about improving the healthcare environment and the experience of healthcare, for clients, parents/family, and staff. It is about assisting to promote a holistic view of health, one that includes the arts, and recognises that the arts make a valuable contribution to well-being. See images of Helium’s Puppet Portal Project.
Photos of Helene Hugel by Maria Vesselko
Read more at >> practice.ie/features/march-09-fiona-whelan ‘What’s the Story’ collective weekly meeting, Dec ‘08
Fiona Whelan: Understanding difference Fiona Whelan trained as a painter, subsequently completed the H.Dip. in Community Arts Practice and has just finished her M.A. in Public Art. She began working with the Rialto Youth Project on a nine month residency in Studio 468 . The area held so much interest and challenge that she spent a further five years developing a contextual collective practice there. In this interview, she discusses her collaborative practice and her relationship with the youth workers and the young people of the area, which has ignited a strong collective practice based on dialogue. Excerpts from the interview with Fiona: How did you get into this work? I had a practice as a painter and I had been teaching young people, kind of two hours you know; you come in and you deliver and you leave. Over time I gradually started to think how much more interesting it could be to work with young people without that kind of position of authority or expectation by an employer to deliver something very specific. Studio 468 was being advertised and it seemed to me to provide an opportunity to be an artist, but to be in a place that was interesting and that had lots of activity with groups and with young people. Starting that studio was really the beginning of possibility around being an artist with people. Out of that grew what is now a five year dialogical or collaborative practice based in this area. What draws you to working in this particular way? I started in that kind of more teaching role where it’s 18
very clear what you’re there to do. But I just found myself becoming interested by young people’s lives, experiences, what they talked about, how they behave and the energy that they have. I mean, as an artist, you often get asked ‘why marginalised young people?’ or ‘why certain types of young people and why not others?’ and all those kind of things. Over time I suppose I ask myself those questions and I think in this particular field people have a lot at stake, I think that’s probably it. It is important. It’s interesting. It’s somewhat, slightly political at times. But for me, it’s an energy. It was only supposed to be a nine-month residency and, I suppose, five years later I’m still getting challenged and trying to take it further and further and further. Tell us about the development of your career from your painting background through to this point. I graduated in 1999 with a degree in painting. I knew fairly quickly that that wasn’t going to sustain me as a career. When I did get the urge to paint again and got a studio and set up and started working on painting, I became very dissatisfied by the kind of isolated approach and I really began to question ‘who for?’ and ‘what is this for?’ and all those kind of difficult questions. It wasn’t quite working for me. At the same time, I was teaching young people. That was definitely one pivotal moment; knowing that these two things are of interest to me and if there is a way that they can merge. That took years to figure out. If I’m going to maintain a contextual practice that’s collaborative and developing in that way as a valid
arts practice, then I need to be really clear about my own motivation and I need to really think this through and think of opportunities. I need to come up with my own idea around a project that I can see as a three year project. It was probably another pivotal moment when I thought ‘Ok, I’m going to devise a project and present it back to the youth project and see if they will become partners in this.’ It’s come from my listening and my own personal motivation and idea around stories. [It was] less of the kind of workshop-based approach, to actually take an idea now and ‘let’s see where it goes’. Are there particular values that underlie this work? For me the principle of collaboration, I suppose. As a word it’s so vague and it means so many different things, but since I got to Rialto I said ‘I want to collaborate’. What that has meant over the five years has changed and shifted. But for me the most important thing would be at the end of any project or any period of time, that anyone who has been part of it can walk away from it and talk about it, describe it in their own language to their own peers in a way that makes perfect sense to them. That I’ve always held as a kind of ambition and it’s not to say that we’ve achieved that on any of the works, but I think we’ve nearly got there on some of them. I think that it has to be as much about me as about the young people and the youth workers... It’s a little less workshop-based and more based on difference and we are really beginning to thrash out what it means to be who we are – artist, young people and youth worker.
How did people react to that different kind of opportunity you were beginning to offer (What’s the Story)? I think once the relationship is there and young people are able to say, ‘this isn’t working for me’ or they often just don’t come because it’s boring... you pretty quickly know it’s not working for everybody, so you pull it back. For some young people the form will hold them. So if you set up an interest-based group in painting, the painting will hold them. For a lot of young people it’s the subject matter that will hold them; if they are personally invested in it. That’s one thing we realised on this project. We were talking about power as a general theme for months. As a theme it was interesting and people were excited by it, but it wasn’t personally holding anyone. Until the day that we actually started to share personal experiences of all those power structures. Once we actually got those personal stories, we really bonded as a collective. In terms of concentration, there’s just no issue. Once people are invested in something, they’re there, they’re in it. It’s just about finding that thing that can actually get someone’s soul attached to it. In terms of working with youth workers how do those fields cross over? Do the roles get confused? By me being around full-time, what it allowed was for those conversations to be a priority. We talked about it a lot; What does the artist bring? What do you value as a youth worker? What is absolutely non-negotiable in your process? Over time we started to really understand what it is each other wanted from the process. Those things are absolutely crucial if you’re going to try to collaborate. You need to understand each other’s perspective. And likewise with young people. Our agendas don’t always meet (artist and youth worker), in a sense that sometimes I have had to convince them of why I think something is worthwhile. And we have the debate, because we’re different and we come from a different place. I think it’s
healthy as long as you are willing to have the debate. We don’t have to agree, but at least we are willing to discuss it and we come thorugh the other side whichever way. We’ve come through it having made the process or decision somehow transparent and then people have a better understanding, I suppose. How do you actually plan with people? It evolved naturally with everybody kind of being committed and keeping themselves tuned into it. But there’s no doubt that that was possible because I’m around full time and I’m trying to build a full-time practice in the area and in this particuar context. If you were in and out a few hours each week it would just take a lot longer and it would be a lot more difficult to reach the level of debate and the level of relationship that we have. The relationship is strong enough now for me to say ‘that’ s not working for me’ and the same with the youth worker and we can have the debate. Its definitely to do with longterm, durational practice and quality relationships I think; good communication. I think people have got their head around the fact that this is a different process from the normal way of working; that we’re trying something here. It’s a bit of an experiment and it’s a collective, so we’ll see what it ends up with. Why do you do public talks? This type of work is always so misrepresented outside of the local and misunderstood within the mainstream artworld. So for me its crucial to talk beyond the local and to talk within an art context. I do think it has a place in art discourse and community discourse and youth work discourse. I have an agenda to push the work out to be talked about or to be seen. We’ve really prioritised in the last two talks that the youth worker, myself as an artist, a young person and the director of the project have all presented our perspective on the work. We all get to talk about it and it becomes a sum of all the parts. The failure of so much of the history of what would
have been called ‘community arts’, is that it’s not distributed well and so it doesn’t have a public face. How do you evaluate what you described earlier as being a successful project? You always try to evaluate along the way at different moments. Sometimes it’s more adhoc; like when we’re giving a public talk, some of us would sit down, and we end up evaluating and self-evaluating. As an artist it’s part of practice to continuously evaluate yourself and your work. Sometimes the formal evaluation just doesn’t get the real stuff out. I do think there’s a value in them, but I think we have to catch the learning along the way and keep talking about it. This week a few of the young people have decided that it’s boring if we’re just going to discuss the year, so they’re going to run the evaluation session. I have absolutely no idea what it’s going to be, but that’s the interesting thing about that! What are the elements for a collaborative project to run successfully? Time, lots of time. Relationships are absolutely central. Communication is crucial. Listening to each other and to ourselves, to what is actually being said and what we are feeling. Negotiation is the big word, everything is negotiated. It has to stay true to what each person wants. It’s about understanding difference and different motivations. What I have managed to make work has been out of my own personal need, it was all a journey. Each phase has been a response to some issue with the previous phase. The most important thing is that it doesn’t get stale or institutionalised or turned into some kind of model. Those kind of words terrify me! Its unusual, its grown, but its shifting and being challenged all along the way and as long as its doing that, it’s a valid arts practice. To me it just comes down to your own personal motivation and making it work.
19 Anonymous reading, ‘Narrative and memory’, a live participatory reading event, Nov ‘08
images from Emma Fisher, Anna Rosenfelder, Siobhan Clancy and Helene Hugel, Puppet Portal Project.
Puppet Portal Project A project by Helium in partnership with the cCntre for Health and Informatics, TCD and in collaboration with Kids’ Own. Artists: Helene Hugel, Siobhan Clancy, Emma Fisher, Anna Rosenfelder. Artists, Helene, Siobhan, Emma and Anna have kept a blog on Practice.ie since starting the Pupet Portal Project back in March 09. The role of the blog is to provide a space which enables artists to reflect on their practice and develop perspectives on their work. The artists’ blogs on Practice.ie are a valuable resource for any artist undertaking or planning to undertake a residency within this context, providing information about the very specific nature of the healthcare setting. They also enable other artists to engage with the process, follow the projects’ development and enter into dialogue, debate and critque of the project with the artists who are involved. Follow the artists on Practice.ie as they start back in September 09 for another 10 weeks. “I had lovely comments by a boy who had been very quiet and with quite low-energised (as many of the kids due to their condition of health), but who had been smiling about little discoveries throughout the workshop :Have you learned any new skills?-“Yes, I learned how to work with people I didn´t know before” He also said the puppetry was “…quite fun, making little puppets out of paper and sticks. Who would know small things can make you so happy” Artist, Anna Rossenfelder http://practice.ie/blogs/anna-rosenfelder/puppet-portalhospital-d-day-1
“How much I have learned myself in the last seven weeks about what support really means and what a difference it really makes and why not give it to everyone in every instance whenever you can.” Artist, Siobhan Clancy
Jole Bortoli: Trust, time and flexibility Jole Bortoli is an artist and facilitator working with children through art in community and formal education settings. She is the founder and director of Art To Heart, an organisation that works with both children and adults who work with children through the arts. Art to Heart believes in the capacity of the arts to creatively enhance every child’s learning potential and development. Jole is based dually in Counties Clare and Dublin. During her interview she references long-term projects with ArkLink (The Ark’s outreach programme) and the Learning Through Arts programme at Larkin Community College (the Department of Education & Science Junior Cycle programme) Excerpts from the interview with Jole: What is your practice? I paint a lot, but I have no interest in selling or exhibiting. My paintings are what helps me to develop things. It’s very much a way of communicating. The way I work with the children is by bringing in my paintings, because a moment comes when they ask what do you do, can we see?’ So I bring what I do and then we talk about it and they respond in their own way with their artwork and then I might bring back my artwork in another form. So very often when I decide on a theme, I produce it myself first, I do the painting myself. So it’s a conversation; a conversation that is not just with words, but is mainly with images.
Are there key elements that distinguish the more positive workshops? If you want the three words I have: they are trust, time and flexibility. To which I am adding more and more as I go! Trust is the biggest; trust in the children, trust in the process, trust in myself and being open. Being open I think, is the really big one. Maybe becoming more detached, but not in a negative connotation. I prepare as much as I can [with] research. I go to the workshop and I know what I’m looking for in general. But then I detach, in that I present what I want to do and then let it happen. Are there particular values that underlie your work? What I really love is watching people creating. My philosophy is to allow as much as possible and to unblock as much as possible and at the same time learning- all the different problems that you come across. When I started it was all about giving myself a series of steps or rules just to discover that really what you need to know is to be open. You realise that perhaps the best days are when something unexpected happens. You come across, now and then, children, and adults, that you just can’t work with. Sometimes it’s for a day, sometimes you just don’t get along. Especially in school where the children don’t choose to be there, they have to be there. I never force them. I say; ‘Fine, if you are tired put your head
down on the table, or do something else, but don’t disturb the class.’ They take time off and naturally they come back on their own and then they’re bored so they start working and most of the time they do the best work. The course that I did in Steiner really helped a lot in facilitating to a different angle, because I think that what you have in mind is your own experience as a student in school... so you are used to a particular way of doing things which is perhaps too intellectualised for children. To talk to children at their level all the time and being really aware of the stages of development. You say; ‘well they are children, I know naturally what to do’, but you don’t actually. What about responsibility? You go into a class or a group and you have to make choices all the time. The children know I’m an artist in residence. They know I’m not a teacher. Therefore they relate to you in a completely different way; they would tell you more about themselves, also about personal things. You have a responsibility there in what to answer and toward the school and other colleagues. But to be also aware that you are forming the children, although I take a lot from them too obviously. You’re giving them certain values and that’s a huge responsibility.
‘Seeds and spices mandala’ made with Jole Bortoli and children during a Summer workshop in Rockforest, Tubber, Co. Clare in August 2008. Photo by Irene Sutton.
Read more at >> practice.ie/features/april-09-interview-artist-jole-bortoli 22
Read more at >> practice.ie/features/feb-09-ruby-wallis
Ruby Wallis: Learning to slow down Ruby Wallis is a Galway-based photographer working with portraiture in an intimate way, often focusing on close domestic relationships. She has also worked as a community artist and facilitator since 2000. In her interview she references a recent residency in Rathcabbin National School, in which her own practice and her work with the children became increasingly linked. ‘Across the Border/Bridging the Gap’, a residency in association with Kids’ Own and North Tipperary and Galway County Councils, ran over two eight-week periods. During this time Ruby, teacher and children explored familial histories and genealogy using drawing, photography, video and sculpture. Excerpts from an interview with Ruby: On getting started: I would have a big emphasis on bringing the group together. It’s a thing that I really like to do. I would always bring everybody into a circle in the group and we might spend time sitting down talking. We do a lot of warm up exercises as well, to bring the energy
into the body, before even attempting to create anything. Listening to everybody’s opinion. Just trying to be really present and to give a kind of calmness to what’s going on and a quietness where people’s voices are valued. The listening is really important and the expression. Do you consider that you have a responsibility? The delicacy of young people , the sensitivity of them, every single comment can affect someone very deeply. I would try to be as self-aware as possible about verbal comments, for instance. You try to work out ways that are self-esteem promoting as much as possible. Each human being is this magnificent subtle world of existence in itself. You just have to be very, very respectful. I think of each child’s creative process. I use my intuition a lot, but I wouldn’t assume that I know how to deal with all these things. Obviously you are going to be challenged as well, to be assertive and to be strong and to keep the group dynamic together, which can be very chaotic if you haven’t got tools and ways to bring it together. You need new
skills to work with that energy. I’m always looking for new ways to investigate that. What is your interpretation of a successful project? When a project takes off and you’re not just pushing it along. That everybody is getting really engaged and involved in it. So you’ve started something, you’ve initiated something, but the energy is completely taking on its own path. You can almost step back and you see this has got a life of its own. People are getting excited about it and they’re bringing things in and they’re thinking about it outside of the workshop or they’re talking about it at home. It’s not all about you anymore, it’s about everybody. I suppose it’s down to initially starting something in a good way; having a good strong idea and motivation, allowing things to happen slowly, allowing people to find their own way within it. That inspiration is the first spark. You have to wait for that to happen. You can’t force it, you can’t push it. So it’s maybe a bit of patience as well.
Images from ‘Family histories' Made with Ruby Wallis and the children from Rathcabbin NS, Tipperary, during the Across the Border/ Bridging the Gap residency with Kids’ Own 2008/09. Photos by Ruby Wallis.
Liz McMahon: A way of learning Dublin-based ceramic artist Liz McMahon has been working in the area of arts and education for over 20 years. Her experience includes, in the capacity of both artist and adviser, projects with IMMA and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council. Liz is currently giving a series of workshops with Fiona Coffey at Monkstown Educate Together National School, under the Percent for Art Scheme. In this interview she charts her career from the beginning, almost 25 years ago, considering the different approaches employed, the values and responsibilities underpinning her work and the relationship between artist and teacher when working in an educational setting. Excerpts from an interview with Liz: What led you to work with children and young people in the first place? Did you have training? We’re talking about 25 years ago, so I’m the Granny of this kind of work! There was nothing then, it didn’t really exist and for years and years people were asking: “When you are going to do your own work?” But this is my work, I don’t work in a studio, I work with children on things all the time. Training was very much on the ground. You learn an awful lot on the ground, I think people can shortcut it now by looking at projects, or mentoring, or various ways that weren’t there when I started off. I suppose my biggest training was with good teachers. I was lucky enough to be in lots of different classes with lots of different teachers and you saw ‘what not to do’ but you also saw ‘what to do’ and I picked up a huge amount of skills from really good teachers. Do you have a particular role that sets you aside from a teacher? Absolutely! I would say it’s very important that there’s a partnership. You know, now when I choose a project, I am very careful in what I am choosing. I would always say that I’d work as a partner to a teacher and I see that their role is as the teacher Preparation drawings by 3rd class, who chose the subtheme Sport for the tile mural”Play’ Monkstown Educate Together, National School. Co. Dublin. Artists Fiona Coffey and Liz Mc Mahon, photo Yvonne Cullivan
still. They often do research with the children. They do a lot of work that would be on the curriculum anyway that feeds into the project. I would expect them to do that. Things like discipline. I now have all those skills, but I still think the kids need to see their teacher there, who knows them, so they don’t think: “Oh great! We can do anything we like!” By discipline I mean just engaging them, I don’t mean ‘being put out’. It never happens anyway when you’re doing something interesting. But you do need someone who knows all their names and who knows if somebody needs to be more engaged than somebody else, those things that you don’t know when you walk into a school. Now I would see, very much, that I am doing the art end and the teacher is there as the teacher. I would always insist on meetings, as well, with the teacher, without the children, so we know where we’re going and we divide our roles, then we solve problems. Is there a certain amount of convincing involved if people don’t know exactly what you do? Not anymore because I’ve also documented my work a lot. I have an awful lot of DVDs made and packages that I can hand to people and say; “look this is how I work, this is what happens.” What values inform what you do? Projects are very different. The project I am doing at the moment, in this school, is a Percent for Art Scheme that has a finished product and is different to, say, Creativity in the Classroom, which is really about the children and their development and them being in school and being engaged. So I would work differently. I would put myself into it differently. I feel, in a Percent for Art Scheme, I’m there as an artist as well, so my work can be seen in that. Whereas with the other work, I’m way behind, I’m hoping that I’m hardly seen, if you know what I mean; I’m getting it all out of the children, I’m challenging them,
Junior Infants preparation drawing for tile mural “Play’ M.E.T.N.S. Artists Fiona Coffey and Liz Mc Mahon. Photo Yvonne Cullivan
I’m putting things in front of them, I’m asking them to try things. What about your responsibilities towards the children? I suppose your aim is that every child finds something, something that grips them, that excites them. It might be a different aspect. For some children it might a technical thing, for other children it might be a creative thing. My responsibility is to see that every child goes away with something from it, big things sometimes. Learning and taking risks for you as well. That makes it all the more exciting…. I suppose this is why I do those introductory sessions. Because if you just come in straight off and I say: “What would you like to do?” [children] are limited by what they know exists and teachers are the same. You do have to bring them on journeys first, of all the possibilities, and let them see things and visit things and so they have a wide choice, so they’re not limiting themselves. You’re never going to walk in and find, oh, with every child we’re really making this journey and it’s all easy. There are kids that you just know, right to the end, you haven’t really engaged. I mean I find, sometimes, there’s a child and I just know that this made absolutely no difference to him or her, but that’s life, really, you can’t. I suppose everybody in a field like that is grappling all the time to the best of all your skills and that’s what you do. I just think there’s a huge amount of children who don’t learn in the way where you are sitting reading books and writing it out. I really do see it as not just the arts. I do think it is a way of learning. To me that’s how I find things out and I think an awful lot of children do. You can see them click. I just think a huge amount of problems can be solved through the arts.
5th class casting press molds for tile mural M.E.T.N.S. Artists Fiona Coffey and Liz Mc Mahon. Photo Yvonne Cullivan.
Read more at >> practice.ie/features/may-09-liz-mcmahon
Cathal Roche: Improvisation at the core Cathal Roche is a Sligo-based composer and performer of music and sound installations. He is interested in quarter-tonal harmony, speech transcription, tape editing, free improvisation, composing and practicing group sound structures with others. With partner Kate Wilson from Tulips and Oysters CrossArts, Cathal worked collaboratively with St. Edward’s National School on ‘Lines Crossing’, part of Kid’s Own ‘Nature of Sligo’ Residency Programme. The work looked at forgotten and familiar railways in County Sligo. Cathal facilitated an exploration of speech, instrumental and environmental sound, building up a network of crossing lines generated by participants through a class survey of local railways. Excerpts from an interview with Cathal: The direction of the work was free to change, even though there was a lot of preparation involved. My work was mostly to do with building a structure that we could work within, some sort of structure that we could then explore in different ways, but depending on what the children wanted to do. The value I’m trying to highlight is the notion of freedom of improvisation rather than steering a very strict course through a session. I spent my time creating a puzzle, which would then need to be solved and could be solved in any way, creating an obstacle; something which was in the way of the children knowing exactly what to do and falling into their habit of going about it. As a group we would really need to work together to get through it, but there being many ways of getting over that obstacle. The teacher was central because she had a strong relationship with every child in the classroom and she had an awareness of how successful the children were in understanding anything that I was presenting to them. She had an understanding of whether the children were with me or not, based on whether they were with her. So it was very much a two-way symbiotic relationship, where really if we weren’t in tune with each other we wouldn’t have gotten very far. She was always in the classroom. We would have met every Wednesday. I was expecting the teacher to say ‘right I have to be off somewhere’, but it was great. Rather than plan what it was we were going to do next, we we often talked about how we both thought the children had responded. Also it was an opportunity for me to learn about individual students in the class. I wouldn’t have known if a stu-
dent came out of themselves that day. She was very informative as to the children themselves and how they were getting on. Learning about the structure within the school was very helpful in understanding how I would be able to do my work better, knowing that support was there, that interest was there, that we would have that time.
that I was wrestling with for a week!”
I think by opening up my practice, the specifics, all the hard work, the drudgery sometimes of the actual labor-intensive hours of plotting, building and constructing, by sharing that work with the students themselves, the more I did that, the more they trusted me and the more access I had to their personality and their particular talents and skills. Right up to the very end I was learning about how my collaborators were communicating towards me and how I could learn from that and take it into consideration when responding. It takes time to learn all the potential for decision-making and for action within a group that size. On the day before the installation, I shared this particular question with the class as to what we were going to do. How were we going to adapt this to fit within this very complicated structure of corridors etc? One of the children suggested “its like trains going from one classroom to the other around the corridors”. This was how she perceived it herself. It was honest and it was based on her experience of walking up and down the corridors. I wasn’t looking at the building in that way - I was not really thinking about the function of the building. There’s an example of me taking a lesson from a student, who is more experienced at that time. That’s the environment she is in. So she was able to inform my practice like that. There was no question that it was a good idea or not, it was simply a solution to a problem.
Read more at >> practice.ie/features/jan-09-cathal-roche
Excerpts from essays Practice.ie has been commissioning and publishing brief essays by invited artists, educators, academics and researchers, to provide their unique perspective on areas of artists’ practice working with children and young people. These essays are intended to provide insight and inspiration and to prompt discussion amongst the community.
We would like to acknowledge the generous contributions of the authors to date. Due to considerations of space, we have included three full essays and excerpts from four others in the following pages. We invite you to visit the site to read them in full: www.practice.ie/essays
Terms of collaboration by Yvonne Cullivan Yvonne Cullivan reflects on her findings gathered through Practice.ie research in relation to collaboration, referencing her interviews with artists and participants on the Practice.ie professional development programme, while also offering thoughts on the term in relation to her own experiences working with children and young people. About the author Yvonne Cullivan is a visual artist who has been working with children and young people for eight years. Her practice involves the observation and documentation of change in personal and social contexts and employs a diversity of media. She is currently Research Coordinator for Practice.ie and is based in Engage Studios in Galway. “I have been using the term ‘collaboration’ with relative ease when interviewing artists for Practice. ie about their work with children and young people. The more artists I interview, however, the clearer it becomes that collaboration cannot be used as a blanket term to describe this engagement. There are simply too many forms of communication within each exchange and not every artist is comfortable using this word to describe how they work. Perhaps collaboration is not a sufficient term to denote what is, in fact, a very complex and many-layered system of approaches on an individual level, and within that again, influenced by others involved or by circumstances.” Full text available at www.practice.ie/essays/march09-yvonne-cullivan-terms-collaboration
Place of Wonder’ Made with: Yvonne Cullivan and Children from St. Andrews Resource Centre in Dublin during The Ark, A Cultural Centre for Children Artist-in-Residence, 2007, photo by Denis Mortell.
Is the internet good for art? by Reuben Knutson We asked Reuben Knutson of Axis (www.axisweb. org) online resource for contemporary art, to reflect on the potential significance of an internet community to arts practitioners in this essay. Considering the development of the Axis website, Reuben looks at how the web facilitates differing sides of the debate around ‘best practice’ and whether it has helped to advance opportunities for contemporary art by reinforcing reliable value-judgments by artists, critics, gallerists, commissioners and other arts professionals. About the author Reuben Knutson manages the Dialogue section of the Axis website. He organises Café Artistique discussion events in partnership with arts organisations around the country. He has also developed the Work in Progress area of the website which elaborates on
projects that Axis artists and curators are involved in. Axis is one of the ‘best online resources’ for information about contemporary art in the UK. The website features profiles of professional artists and curators, interviews, discussions, art news and debates, and showcases contemporary artists to watch. “Within the art world the area of value judgement is a source of great contention. It is also a point that can significantly affect the success of a website. Who is best qualified to make value-judgements about art: the public, public bodies, academics, critics or artists? Who makes decisions about quality, which translate into presentation of ‘best practice’, on the web and elsewhere? Who makes decisions upon even the kind of art produced, which ultimately translate into a healthy and dependable visual arts economy?” Full text available at www.practice.ie/about/oct-08reuben-knutson-internet-good-art
Drawings by chidren with artist Christine Mackey, Sooey NS, Sligo
Commissioning art in the publics sphere by Helen Carey Helen Carey reflects on the changing nature of public art, considering the processes of commissioning and developing work from the point of view of the commissioner, the artist and the publics. About the author Helen Carey is an independent curator and project manager. Formerly Public Art Project Manager at for At-Bristol (www.at-bristol.org.uk), Director of Galway Arts Centre, and inaugural Director of the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, Helen currently works on Irish and international projects. Her specific interests are national cultural identity and the public sphere. “Referring to Publics rather than Public because of the complexity of the audience which will be elaborated later on, Art in the Publics Sphere arrives at the end of a journey and is at once the beginning of many others. The first journey is complex, hidden and often contentious – confusingly an art work is expected to be contentious yet with none of the untidiness that attends contention. Even after installation, there is often reflection that the process should have taken a different form, arrived at a different conclusion. It is also true that the life of the art work continues to be governed by the process by which it arrived - the commissioners and selected artist may enjoy the reflection of the process, continuing to grow and be enriched; alternatively, it can return to haunt the life of the work and overshadow future projects. It is therefore clearly important that the process undertaken is given time to be clarified, be based on conviction and be one that will deliver the commission’s objectives. The key participants in this complex meeting place are the commissioners, the artist and the publics”. Full text available at www.practice.ie/essays/jan-09helen-carey-commissioning-art-publics-sphere
Garda vetting and the arts by Arthur Duignan Arthur Duignan provides an overview of the Garda vetting process as it applies to the arts in Ireland. About the author Arthur Duignan is Assistant Director and Authorised Signatory of Create, the national development agency for collaborative arts. Arthur has been involved in many innovative arts and cultural initiatives since publishing the groundbreaking Bull, The Magazine in the 1980s. He later worked at Project Arts Centre and was active in Temple Bar Development Council. Arthur has lectured on the BA in Arts Management (IADT) and is a board member of Alternative Entertainments, Axis Arts + Community Resource Centre, and the Dublin Food Co-Op. He is also managing editor of Create’s Irish Fundraising Handbook. “There are good reasons why artists should understand the ‘criminal record disclosure certification process’, more commonly known as ‘Garda vetting’. In any context where an artists’ work is expected to involve significant contact with children, young people or vulnerable adults, they will be asked by
the employer / host organisation to apply for Garda vetting. This will apply regardless of whether or not the artist is working full time, part time and/or in a voluntary or student placement capacity. As a key element in the state’s provision for the protection and welfare of potentially vulnerable persons, the increasing availability of Garda vetting is a welcome development.” “There are no guidelines on how to determine whether an arts initiative, or an artist, is an organisation or employer. This is a grey area for freelance professionals engaged on temporary, selfdetermined or independent projects and situations... Registration as an employer with the Revenue Commissioners will yield an employers number - a clear indication of intent - but separate legal status is not provided by simply being ‘self-employed’, or even by registering a business name.” Full text available at www.practice.ie/essays/nov08-arthur-duignan-garda-vetting-and-arts
Work by students with artist Ester Kiely, Clargalway Educate Together project
Arts and the 21st century curriculum by Arnold Aprill
What are "Big Ideas"?
The international celebrations following Barack Obama’s election as the next President of the United States hopefully signal a new appreciation of our interconnectedness as a species. We need to think beyond local and national interests and recognise that though the planet is not going anywhere, if we don’t change our ways, WE are going somewhere. As the late great comedian George Carlin said, we are going AWAY. A major implication of this fact is that all our education systems need to teach our students to become global thinkers developing a broad range of capacities that our current approaches to teaching and learning simply don’t support. A recent report in the U.S., created by the National Center on Education and the Economy, urgently calls for more creative and critical thinking in our schools. The report is titled “Tough Choices, Tough Times”, and our times and our choices have become significantly tougher since 2007, when the report was first released.
What are Big Ideas? We haven’t been very good at explaining what we mean by the concept, though like the 1964 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on obscenity, we think we know it when we see it.
The document recommends pedagogy that scaffolds: “...comfort with ideas and abstractions, analysis and synthesis, creativity, innovation, self-discipline, organization, flexibility, ability to work on a team (p. xxv)” As that report states, meaningful 21st Century education depends “…on a deep vein of creativity that is constantly renewing itself, and on a myriad of people who can imagine how people can use things that have never been available before…” So how DO we scaffold comfort with ideas and abstractions? One way for arts educators to do that is to recognise that the arts are not only about virtuosity and skill acquisition, but are also a mode of thought. The arts produce emotional responses, but the arts are also cognitive. The organisation I work for, the Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE) www. capeweb.org, organises its arts education partnerships (collaborations between teachers and artists in which the arts and other academic subjects reinforce each other rather than compete with each other) around Big Ideas. 28
But that is not good enough. Many of us who are working to understand the role of contemporary arts in contemporary education are putting a lot of thought into how we best describe and document what we know to be powerful in practice (and to be weak in scaling up and in pleading its case at the education policy level). Here are some first attempts at a description: Big ideas usually reflect upon processes, typically have both metaphoric and concrete elements, and as American arts education activist Eric Booth points out, usually have the quality of verbs rather than nouns. Of something happening, or something transformed or transforming, encountered or encountering. Relational. They contain a bit of poetry and mystery, but are not so abstract that they can’t be investigated. Not every idea is a Big Idea. Little Ideas are just that. Little ideas. Big Ideas are intriguing. They invite questions and multiple answers. They create a spirit of inquiry. CAPE classrooms have investigated such Big Ideas as... • Structure (“How are such different things as governments, bodies, buildings, and dances structured?”), • Harmony (“How do different elements work with each other in satisfying ways?”), • Scale (“When is something big and when is something little? Compared to what?”) • Shape (“What are the shapes in our world, and how do they fit together?”), • Mapping (“How do we make symbols of how our world is arranged?”), • Stewardship of the earth (“How can we take better care of the planet?”), • Captivity/Freedom(“How did Japanese Americans maintain hope in WWII internment camps?”), etc.
A laundry list of types of ancient Native American dwellings is not a Big Idea, but an investigation of what made each of those houses homes is. Naming the names of dinosaurs is not a Big Idea. Developing theories of dinosaur extinction is. Big Ideas like these have activated enthusiastic teachers and learners and produced extraordinary art in CAPE classrooms. But our partners have tended to either love the idea of Big Ideas, or else found the whole concept to be impenetrable. What we lacked was a workable definition. And that’s where our colleague Catherine Main, Director of the Early Childhood Program in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago (and a CAPE parent) has come to our rescue, sharing a definition of Big Ideas that may save us from our tongue-tied enthusiasm: “A big idea is an overarching idea that unifies, inspires, and resonates with children, an idea that is rich with possibilities and permits teachers and children to work together in many ways.” - Chaille, C. (2008). Constructivism across the Curriculum in Early Childhood Classrooms: Big Ideas as Inspiration. Unifies. Inspires. Resonates with children. Rich with possibilities. Permits collaborative work. Simple, elegant, accurate, and USEFUL. Just what a definition should be.
The value of a "Big Idea" approach So now that we can describe it, what is the value of using this Big Idea and Inquiry approach? “…when curriculum is organised around concepts, there is room for multiple inquiry questions, multiple approaches to teaching, and multiple products in terms of student work in various disciplines and media. A concept is a mental construct that is timeless, universal, and abstract. Concepts are on a higher level of abstraction than topics or facts. Teachers are not asked to think conceptually when they plan curriculum. They are typically asked to organise around topics, ‘themes’, or activities, rather than concepts that translate…Standards that teachers rely on to guide their curriculum are often narrow and too numerous to teach well…There are often so many standards that the unit loses focus. Inquiry allows teachers to cluster those standards in a meaningful way in order to integrate content and build on each other’s work.” - Gail Burnaford, Building Curriculum, Community, and Leadership in Elementary Schools: A Study of Professional Development for Arts Teachers (2008) in
press, referencing the work of H.L. Erickson This allows teachers to connect teaching across the curriculum (interdisciplinary thinking) and across grades (a “spiral curriculum”, in which Big Ideas are visited and revisited in increasing depth across a student’s school career). What this more conceptual approach to curriculum does is suggest a whole new set of content standards. The province of Queensland in Australia is entirely rethinking instructional content around New Basics Curriculum Organisers. Each New Basics cluster (each one is a Big Idea) is designed to help students answer a critical question: • Life pathways and social futures: Who am I and where am I going? • Multiliteracies and communications media: How do I make sense of and communicate with the world? • Active citizenship: What are my rights and responsibilities in communities, cultures, and economies? • Environments and technologies: How do I describe, analyse, and shape the world around me? This appears to be a very promising pathway, and teaching artists have an important role to play in assuring that breakthroughs in curriculum design such as the New Basics experiment become concrete, innovative, and expressive. And as we move into more contemporary teaching and learning, how are we going to remain rigorous about our work, and how will we assist educators in transitioning into a broader sense of curriculum? Our good colleagues at CapeUK (www.capeuk.com) introduced us to a set of criteria (developed by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the body that oversees British curriculum development) for looking at student creativity in the classroom in a more fine-grained manner, a set of criteria that we are finding very useful.
We are now documenting evidence of students: • Questioning and challenging • Making connections and seeing relationships • Envisaging what might be • Exploring ideas, keeping options open • Reflecting critically on ideas, actions, and outcomes This is not only changing our thinking as an arts partnership organisation, but is also assisting our partner teachers and artists in moving into a more contemporary approach to both art and education.
What will this new approach look like? New intercultural global communications systems are creating whole new “languages” (young people are adept, unlike their elders, at multi-tasking and at composing and “reading” multi-media messages), and our young people are growing up in a world full of massive shifts in world populations. Old identities are morphing, the U.S. is rapidly become a bilingual nation, and all the clichés about moving from an industrial economy to an information economy will require a “whole new mind”, to use business writer Daniel Pink’s phrase. Access to information on the internet and students’ access to new tools for composing, producing, and distributing films, texts, images, music, blogs, podcasts, websites, etc. will shift all education toward increasingly student centred learning, more project based learning, greater need for “soft” 21st century learning skills (“comfort with ideas and abstractions, analysis and synthesis, creativity, innovation, selfdiscipline, organisation, flexibility, ability to work on a team”), more cross-disciplinary learning, more differentiated instruction, more inter-age work, more connections between life inside and outside schools, more attention to early childhood and to young adult education, and more “real world” tasks. Rapidly changing technologies will call for “just– in-time” learning and flexibility in dealing with technologies that become obsolete before they are perfected.
the performing arts – moving beyond performing into composing, directing, choreographing, and playwriting. Another change in the terrain of arts education will be the on-going creation of new classics and new canons. Popular and “outsider” arts are now considered legitimate subjects for arts learning. Students study quilting. There is a classic Jazz program at Lincoln Center in New York City. Film study has become a regular subject in many high schools. Middle-schoolers study computer game design. Most of this was unimaginable twenty years ago. So let us welcome ourselves into the 21st century! For a navigation map of this brave new world, check out the Knowledge Works Foundation Map of Future Forces Affecting Education www.kwfdn.org/map/ About the author Arnold Aprill is Founding and Creative Director of Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE), a network of artists and arts organisations, educators and schools, that are dedicated to school improvement through arts education partnerships. He comes from a background in professional theatre as an award-winning director, producer and playwright. He consults nationally and internationally on the role of the arts in effective school improvement. Contact via www.capeweb.org
Photos from a residency with artist Christine Mackey, resulting in an animation ‘What they leave behind’
All this argues for an increasingly integrated curriculum – not just between the arts and other subjects, but between all other content areas as well. New technologies will also support more comprehensive curriculum in 29
The arts’ intrinsic and instrumental values - two sides, same coin by Nick Rabkin
Over the last two decades here in the States, as we’ve struggled to stake a secure claim to a place for the arts in education, we’ve devoted considerable energy to a nasty dispute about the nature of the benefits the arts bring to learning. Devotees of the arts’ “instrumental” benefits have pointed triumphantly to findings that link student achievement and higher test scores to arts learning. But critics argue that the only valid and strategically sound arguments for the arts in education are those for their “intrinsic” value. In some senses this debate recapitulates older conflicts about the value of art – about “art for art’s sake” – and newer ones about the division of our rational, logical selves and our physical, emotional, and instinctual selves, the classic Platonic and Cartesian model of human consciousness.
Social and cultural impact
development, for example. These “instrumental” arguments were designed to change the subject from morals, patriotism, or elitism of artists and the arts. Theatres draw people to commercial areas at night, and crime drops when there are more people on the street. People go out to eat at restaurants before the show, so theatre stimulates economic activity. By the 1990s the arts began to be linked to higher levels of student achievement as well. These instrumental arguments are still very much in use here. Just a short time ago, the leading national arts advocacy organisation placed an advertisement supporting the inclusion of funds to support the arts in the national stimulus/recovery package that was being debated by Congress. Its headline: “The Arts = JOBS!”
The arts in education
During the 1980s and 90s the arts were a lightning rod in what we called the “culture wars.” American conservatives stigmatised the arts as a representation of “liberal,”“immoral,”“permissive,” or “irresponsible” culture that threatened the traditions and values of the nation. Enflamed controversies stirred around the appropriation of funds to public agencies that supported the arts, and grants to arts organisations and artists that challenged political, religious, or moral conventions. Conservatives unearthed and aggravated a deep layer of populist resentment of the arts as a marker of status, wealth, and privilege. In effect, argued the right, artists and arts organisations had a license to behave as they did because they had class privileges that most Americans lacked. This devastating combination – moralism and populism - effectively smashed conventional arguments for the arts as public goods.
As the culture wars raged, a closely related battle was waged over American public education. In 1983, a government report called A Nation at Risk that claimed that US students were falling badly behind those in other countries shook the foundations of public schooling here. It described “a rising tide of mediocrity” in our schools that required prompt attention. The price of failure would be the loss of a workforce that had made the US the dominant economic power. A Nation at Risk made education a matter of national security, and it became the foundational document of the contemporary movement for the school reform movement. It recommended longer school days, more homework, higher standards for teachers and students, and a curriculum of “new basics” - which were actually “old basics” plus the emerging technology associated with computing. (This was 1983, remember.) The report barely mentioned the arts.
In response arts advocates (in both education and in general) began developing new kinds of arguments that characterised the arts as vehicles for achieving non-controversial public goods – for fighting crime and truancy, advancing economic or community
The report’s prescription climaxed with a passage of legislation called No Child Left Behind early in the Bush presidency. No Child dramatically narrowed curriculum (squeezing and eroding the place of the arts in schools even more) by elevating high stakes
standardised testing of just two subjects - math and reading. And it imposed penalties on schools that failed to improve student test scores. In practice this punitive strategy fell disproportionally on schools serving low-income and minority students – precisely the schools that needed the most help. That is the context in which advocates must make the case for the arts in US schools. (Is it appreciably different in Ireland, the UK or the EU? Sir Ken Robinson’s report to the UK, All Our Futures, seems a sophisticated version of the instrumental case for arts education, arguing that the 21st century will demand higher order thinking skills, including creativity, and that the arts are a pathway to those skills.) So it seems quite natural that folks would start to look into the possibility of advancing the arts in schools through instrumental arguments that link arts learning to higher student academic performance in general, and better test scores in particular.
Teaching artists It also seems quite natural that some arts educators would start a focused exploration of how the arts could contribute purposefully to raising student academic performance. New arts education programs in several cities, including my home town, Chicago, began to develop distinctive curricular and pedagogical strategies to contribute to efforts to improve schools in some of the toughest districts. They intentionally “integrated” the arts across the curriculum through sustained partnerships between artists (they are now most frequently called “teaching artists”) and classroom teachers. In addition to breaking down the barriers between schools and the community, these programs also broke down the boundaries between subjects by organising curriculum around meaningful questions. They made learning far more “hands on” and deliberately brought students’ own experiences, ideas, and perspectives into the classroom. And they linked art making processes with “parallel processes” in other subjects. (See Renaissance in the Classroom: Arts Integration and Meaningful Learning by Gail Burnaford, Arnold Aprill, and Cynthia Weiss and AIMprint: New Relationships in the Arts and Learning by Cynthia Weiss and Amanda Lichtenstein). Early evaluation studies of these programs in Chicago and Minneapolis showed significant results, including significant correlations to rising test scores. These efforts were viewed with scepticism, though, by some in arts education research. They argued that the correlations did not constitute proof that the arts caused student performance to rise. And
expressing and communicating through a medium. Of course, that is also a perfectly good definition of education itself, isn’t it? It should not come as a surprise that students of the arts make cognitive gains. And it is perfectly reasonable to assume that those gains might express themselves sometimes in the results of standardised tests and many other ways. Intrinsic and instrumental are, like the subjects in the curriculum, ways of categorising the world that can be helpful. But they can also blind us to the complexity of the world, and they have in this debate about the benefits of the arts in education. they were deeply disturbed by the possibility that education policy makers would reduce the arts to the status of “handmaidens” to the academic curriculum. For these critics, the reasons to teach the arts were intrinsic: we should teach the arts for art’s sake.(i)
For ‘arts’ sake’? But what, after all is said and done, are the “intrinsic” values of the arts? What is “art’s sake”? A few years ago a team of researchers from the RAND Corporation, a large US policy and research institution, concluded that intrinsic benefits could be divided into three broad categories – personal (captivation and pleasure), social (expanded capacity for empathy and cognitive growth), and public (development of social bonds and expression of communal meanings)(ii). What’s most interesting about this formulation is that it moves the focus from the work of art itself – the play, painting, or poem – to the artist’s acts of engagement, imagination, empathy, cognition, reflection, and creation, or those acts of engagement, imagination, cognition, reflection, and empathy that lead an audience or a student into the world evoked by a work of art. It dispenses with “art’s” sake and recognizes that the value of the arts lies in their value to people, to students. Eric Booth, a leader in
US arts education for the last thirty years, insightfully argues that the intrinsic benefits of the arts are related more to its “verbs” than its “nouns.” It also implicitly recognises as false the classical division between thought and feeling, which lies behind the conventional association of the arts with affect and emotion, but not cognition and thought. The subordinate place of the arts in the academic hierarchy is deeply rooted in the Platonic and Cartesian model of the mind – a hierarchy that privileges rational thought and devalues emotion and instinct. That model has, in effect, doomed arts advocates in education. But modern cognitive and neuroscience is now showing that it is utterly wrong. The mind’s rational, logical, and analytic functions are actually fully integrated with and dependent on emotional and instinctual mental operations. Making and engaging art is a superb illustration of the principle discovery of contemporary cognitive and neuroscience: that our cognitive and emotional lives are not separate domains.
In conclusion Looked at from this perspective, the distinction between the arts’ intrinsic and instrumental benefits also begin to evaporate. The arts are ways of engaging, exploring, and finding pleasure in the world, making sense and meaning from it, and thinking,
It is not clear yet how far the new Obama administration will go in reframing the principles and strategies for improving our educational system, but there are meaningful indications that there will be more interest in arts education than there has been. Those who advocate arts education here need to move beyond their internal disputes over its value so they can take advantage of new opportunities as they develop. One of the remarkable things the arts teach is that there are multiple perspectives and multiple answers to complex questions. It is not either intrinsic or instrumental, but both. About the author Nick Rabkin is currently a researcher with the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, leading the first national research project on teaching artists, the Teaching Artist Research Project. He has formerly been a theatre producer, public arts manager, program manager for a major philanthropy, and director of an arts policy centre. He is co-author/editor of Putting the Arts in the Picture: Reframing Education in the 21st Century, and a contributor to Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning. Footnotes: (i)Winner, E., Hetland, L., “Mute those claims: no evidence (yet) for a causal link between arts study and academic achievement”, Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 34, No. 3-4, Fall/Winter, 11 – 75, 2000. (ii)McCarthy, K., Ondaatje, E., Zakaras, L., and Brooks, A., Gifts of the Muse: Reframing the Debate About the Benefits of the Arts RAND Corporation, 2004.
All images from The Puppet Portal Project, work done with artist Emma Fisher
Diving into the child’s world... by Imelda Graham
On the Ning Nang Nong Where the Cows go Bong! And the monkeys all say BOO! There’s a Nong Nang Ning Where the trees go Ping! And the tree tops jibber jabber joo On the Nong Ning Nang All the mice go Clang And you just can’t catch ‘em when they do! So its Ning Nang Nong The cows go Bong! Nong Nang Ning the trees go Ping! Nong Ning Nang
to explore further in this area so that you and the children with whom you work and play in the future will have experiences that will be forever imprinted on your hearts and minds. The age group covered is mainly primary school age, however each child’s development will vary considerably, so we usually refer to stages of development and keep the age ranges quite broad. An example of the type of experience that I mean is the use of the poem quoted above, ‘On the Ning Nang Nong’ by Spike Milligan. Reading this with a group of four to five year olds for the first time is fantastic; when I have done this in the past, I often can hardly help laughing just from the rhythm of the words, while a child who is mastering their language development and beginning to play with words is often fascinated by the sounds, the made-up words, the whole lilting fun and the sight of the adult obviously enjoying it too. Language is one important aspect of a child’s development. Typically, the main areas of development are broken down into SPICE: this is:
the mice go Clang!
What a noisy place to belong
Is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong! by Spike Milligan
Why dive? Understanding the stages of development of a child helps to open a two-way door between our world as adults and the child’s world. We often say that communication is important and yet it is only when communication has to be thought about and considered carefully that we realise the opportunities and challenges presented to us, especially when communicating and working with constantly morphing children as they grow. Understanding the developmental stages through which children pass facilitates better communication, whether expressed through words, art, music, poetry or any medium. In this article, I will highlight some of the key changes that are happening for the children that artists in residence, and other artists, often are working with on projects. By providing this small level of insight, I will hopefully encourage you 32
• Intellectual / Cognitive • Emotional with some of these naturally grouping together in practice. No one area can be totally separated from the others, however a rough guide can be given, along with the typical ways in which activities can be linked to these areas.
Physical development Some of the physical changes that children experience at this stage are growth spurts; motor skill development; self sufficiency in personal care; puberty. Growth spurts happen periodically, the obvious one for example is in infancy. However, as a child moves to the middle years of childhood they often experience more of these, with arms and legs shooting out of clothes at an alarming rate often in a short space of time. For example, a ten year old boy may go on summer holidays one shape, and return afterwards
with a new shape. The impact of this can be first and foremost clumsiness as the boy adjusts to the new demands of this body. Self consciousness also will affect him, perhaps he now towers above his mates and wants to shrink down and be more like them. Adults working with children going through such a phase can support them, for example, by unobtrusively being aware and making it easier if they are temporarily clumsy, making sure there is enough space between tables, that jars of water or paint are not likely to be knocked over thus adding to the child’s self-consciousness. Motor skill development is still proceeding in these middle years, with gross motor skills still developing up to and including adolescence. Motor skills are the control over their bodily movements, broken down into fine and gross – fine being the detailed movements of fingers, hands, and gross being the large body movements used in walking, jumping, running and games such as tennis. Often a child will have developed a good sense of their body, and be displaying early proficiency with their large movements only to have a temporary setback when a growth spurt occurs.
Self sufficiency, especially in personal care is a core part of these middle years with children able and crucially keen to now bathe, shower, dress and otherwise look after their bodily needs. This helps to foster a sense of independence and children are generally keen to move along this path. Puberty also happens in these years, and as with growth spurts, can render children self-conscious. For example, for some young girls who mature early, perhaps as young as eight, this can be a time that not only brings the obvious physical changes but it also impacts on their emotions. Adults will be mindful of these possibilities. Respect for the growing need for privacy and the provision of facilities as for self-sufficiency will make life easier for children. Experimenting with art that engages a lot of or the whole body will give children the opportunity to become used to their changing shapes, and can help them to practice control over their movements.
Cognitive development • Development is ongoing – in and out of school • Cognitive development is rapid particularly in the middle school years
active participatory learning is of enormous benefit. Children’s needs at this stage are for realistic expectations of what they can and cannot do: often a listening ear; stimulation and variety with many opportunities for learning; space to try out ideas and thoughts; encouragement, especially specific encouragement such as ‘I notice you’ve really mastered that metalwork shape you’ve been working on’; an adult to answer questions or help with finding answers; freedom to explore, become an independent learner with a safe place to try out new ideas.
Social In the earlier years, children focus on their close family group. Older children begin to look outwards, and start to recognise shared interests with some other children; this begins to lead to friendships based on interests rather than just living near each other for example. Some features of this stage are: •
Rules are accepted and developed in play, often being very important to the child. • Sense of right and wrong develops • Empathy gets stronger
• Logic and understanding improving
• Moral reasoning emerges
• Reading, writing and calculating skills emerging
• Problem solving ability developing (linked with their cognitive development)
• Reasoning skills take their time
• Sense of individuality becoming stronger
Sometimes people will box in cognitive development as something that happens during school time, an academic exercise, whereas in reality children are rapidly joining the dots up as they begin to make sense of the wider world, and connect all aspects of their learning. Often at this stage children will begin to pay attention to the news for example, and start to reason about cause and effect of things going on around them, although the speed of this process varies considerably from child to child, and with the style of teaching and learning presented to them –
Emotional Emotional development encompasses and is affected by all the other areas. For middle years children, their self awareness is developing rapidly, and an increasing consciousness of their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, this is often the stage at which a child will say ‘I can’t do art’ and at which a sensitive supportive adult will encourage the child by explaining that is a natural feeling and that now is the time for technique to begin to be worked on.
Children will have a desire to become more independent, but often value the fact that they can call on an adult when needed. Their self-esteem will be enhanced by the gradual building of confidence with support and encouragement, and they are gaining increasing emotional self-control. Adults can help them to feel loved and valued, they can provide security and offer respect and above all can accept the child for who they are as an individual. When the child may regress for whatever reason, the adult can be patient and help the child to express their feelings in words, and learn to manage their emotions appropriately. In conclusion, I trust that this small glimpse into a child’s developing world will help to open that two-way door, and will stimulate interest among artists working with children to find out more and be encouraged that their work is itself such a valuable medium for affording children opportunities for true self expression and development. About the author Imelda Graham has worked in the field of childcare, training, research and lecturing for nearly 25 years. Imelda currently works with a leading children’s charity, Barnardos (www.barnardos.ie). She has concentrated her work in the area of disadvantage, and has worked extensively with both children and adults in many community settings around Ireland. Her current role involves liaising with and developing training programmes for different organisations in the childcare sector, both in the areas of direct work with children and in staff support and development. She completed an M.Phil in the area of the development of non-profit professional associations, and is committed to supporting ongoing continual professional development as an essential element of quality work with children. The views expressed in this essay are those of the author.
33 Works in progress by children from Coolbock National School, Riverstown, with Sinead Aldridge as part of the ‘Nature of Sligo’ residency with Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership
How practice.ie supports you Since its inception, Practice.ie has been supporting artistsâ€™ practice working with children and young people in a number of ways. By making the research collaborative in nature, meeting with artists around the country and inviting them to contribute, Kidsâ€™ Own has built an understanding of what artists working in this area need at the moment and this has been at the core of developing support mechanisms to enhance practice. A main aim of the project has been the establishment of the first all-Ireland professional network for artistsâ€™ practice working with children and young people and building an online resource to facilitate this development. Many artists are working in isolation, often having to travel to the nearest city to avail of training or events that inform their practice. Through www.practice.ie, artists have an online space dedicated to this field, which can assist them in both the development and the promotion of their work. When registering with Practice.ie, artists have the opportunity to add a personal profile, contact details and information about themselves and their practice. This growing database makes artists more visible as practitioners in this area, easily found and approached by a wide audience at home and abroad. Adding further information in the projects section of Practice.ie provides artists with a space to showcase their work and not only serves as a visible document and archive of their practice, but creates a shared space for learning among the community. As
practice.ie has attracted practitioners at all stages of their career and from a wide range of disciplines, this insight is of great benefit as a research and learning resource to those starting their practice working with children and young people. It is also an inspiration and mutual support mechanism for those working longterm in this area. With this information visible and contact forms provided, artists have the opportunity to form and maintain networks - discipline, approach or location-specific, and to potentially collaborate on future projects. Relatively early in the development of the research, a number of those working with children and young people in other countries became keen to join the conversation. A visible link has since been established internationally, showcasing the work of Irish and Northern Irish artists working with children and young people to an international audience and at the same time sharing some of the great work being carried out in other countries from which we can learn and be inspired. To enhance this sharing further, one artist has been chosen each month to date for an online feature. Artists have been chosen based on their extensive practice working with children and young people or the challenging or inspirational contemporary projects they have been involved in. The features are a way to give this work and the artists a raised visibility to the community and to celebrate their work in this area, but also to share a wealth of experience and learning and
a diversity of processes and approaches. Alongside this shared practical insight from artists working in the area, we have also commissioned a number of essays for online publication, which address areas of practice and provide stimulating and relevant information for artists who work with children and young people. We seek out individuals from research, coordination, management, education, consultation and other areas of specialisation to share their expertise and opinion on specific areas of interest. Often the essays we commission are in response to issues that Practice.ie members or participants on the professional development programme days have raised. A forum on the website and comment boxes throughout the site allow artists to respond to the essays, features, projects and the overall research and to spark discussions and raise questions around these and other topics of interest to them. While the practice.ie research programme is a growing database and ongoing resource for artists working with children and young people online, we recognise the equal importance of gathering artists together on a local and national level for face to face meeting and exchange. Practice.ie professional development programme has grown from recognising that not all artists are comfortable communicating and researching online and that there is value in real encounters to ignite or to enhance both on-the-ground and online communication. Originally intended as Practice.ie information sessions, Local Authority Arts Services and arts organisations expressed an interest in supporting days in their respective areas and the programme quickly grew into a series of day-long events. The first gathering took place in Armagh in June 2008 as a means to share practice and to begin discussion on the shape and direction of the research. Visual Artists Ireland subsequently incorporated a day-long session, entitled ‘Working with Children and Young People’, into their National Training Programme 2008/09 with another planned for 2009/10. Since then we have held six sessions in various locations
throughout the country with plans for three more this year and hopefully many more in 2010. The sessions provide an opportunity for artists to gather together to share, discuss and critique practice. Artists from many disciplines and at various stages in their career, whose practice involves engaging with children and young people, have attended. The content of each session is developed in response to feedback from those who attended previous sessions or the specific needs of an area or a group and therefore the sessions remain relevant and are never repeated. The days include artists’ presentations, artist-led activities and mentoring, networking and specific training sessions. The programme is ongoing and we always welcome support in providing this opportunity to more artists and in further locations.
The Practice.ie newsletter highlights the most recent activity on the website and assists subscribers to find information of interest to them by directing them immediately to the most recently added projects, new features, developments in the professional development programme and more. In 2010 we hope to continue to enhance, validate and support artists’ practice working with children and young people and look forward to the continued contribution of current members and of welcoming contributions from new members to assist us in this endeavour. Yvonne Cullivan
Members’ profiles For our first publication, we wish to acknowledge the members of Practice.ie, who throughout the first year have shared their valuable insights.
in their careers. Members comprise newly graduated artists as well as employees of established organisations. At the time of writing there are 220 members of Practice. ie.
The profiles of the members reflect a range of backgrounds from theatre or storytelling, to visual arts or practice.ie/members writing. Some people are engaged in working with young people full time and for others it is an aspect of their work. It is also interesting to see people at different stages
Ireland Carlow Nicola Brown www.clasheen.wordpresscom Mairead Holohan Cavan Harriet Browne Orla Galligan www.orlagalligan.com Kevin O’ Connor Clare Ana Colomer Sarah Fuller www.dogandstring.com Cork Julie Forrester www.mixadacat.com Avril O’ Brien Emer O’Neill Alison Trim Donegal Lisa Bond Joe Brennan Kate Brown
Artist working in Sligo
Sally Murphy www.donegalculture.com
adults in collaborative contexts from inner-city Dublin. Arts offer an accessible means to re-imagine the way in which we organise ourselves as a healthy, conscientious society. Her work endeavours to actively engage audiences in the exploration of their own potential by inviting opportunities for collaboration.
Dublin Jackie Ball Olive Barrett Stephen Blayds Jole Bortoli www.arttoheart.ie Owen Boss Erin Casey Siobhan Clancy Fiona Clarke www.cityartsquad.com Cathriona Cleary Elizabeth Collins Laura de Burca Ciara Dowd Ashleigh Downey Arthur Duignan www.create-ireland.ie Jane Enticknap Mia van Evelingen Brian Fay Monica Flynn Niamh Geoghegan Paula Hicks Áine Ivers Natalie Katona
I have a BA(Hons) in fine art from IT Sligo and I am currently working from home as a visual artist. I dabble in a variety of media; painting, drawing, digital photography, film and sculpture. I have worked as a special needs assistant and also as an art teacher in a primary school.
Working in community contexts in Dublin
Siobhan has worked on participatory and community art projects with children, young people and John Kavanagh Anne Kelly Philip Kennedy www.philipkennedy.net Mark Maguire www.imma.ie Jennie McGinn beingyoung.wordpress.com Eithne McAdam Eilis McDonald www.eilismcdonald.com Fiona McHardy Joe McKenna www.songschool.ie Olive Merry Paola Mezzaroma Ida Mitrani Declan Mulligan declanmulligan-artdesign.blogspot. com En Mur
As a background to present contextual projects, Siobhan is working on ‘Experiments in Encounter and Escape’ which investigates varying modes of perception and the experiences that influence and inform sensory awareness.
Sharon Murphy www.cloreleadership.org Seoidín O’Sullivan Aisling Ryan aislingcryan.wordpress.com Turlough Rynne www.turloughrynne.com LeeAnn Sheehy www.imaginosity.ie Elizabeth Smith Anne Walsh Fiona Whelan Julia Yakub Galway Edel Bartley www.edelbartley.com Lucinda Bartley Catherine Corcoran Yvonne Cullivan www.yvonnecullivan.com
Amantine Dahan Isabelle Gaborit Berina Kelly berinakelly.com Ester Kiely www.esterkiely.com Triona Mac Giolla Ri Shona MacGillivray Urs Murry Anja Sammon Catherine Simon Suzannah Vaughan Ruby Wallis www.rubywallis.com Kerry Orla Breslin stitchlily.blogspot.com Kate Palmer Kildare Aoife Bambury Ambra Bergamasco www.salaespace.it Susan Boyle Brenda Brady www.kildare.ie/arts Jennifer Caffrey Colleen Lambe Corla Mansfield Ben Pateman www.redbubble.com Kilkenny Paul Curley Tunde Toth www.kozogallery.com Jimmy Trigger www.itfROCK.com
Laois Patricia Bennett Paul John Brennan Alan Kehoe Leitrim Jo Holmwood Jo Lewis Christine Mackey www.AFTER.ie Maura Williamson Limerick Daragh Bradshaw Clare Butler Lisa Cahill Emma Fisher emmacfisher.blogspot.com Anna Hanna Bettine Hermanson Marilyn Lennon www.marilynlennon.com Jennifer MoroneyWard www.learninghub.ie Grace O’Neill Louth Susan Farrelly Paula Guzzanti Declan Kelly
Artist and Arts Facilitator in Dublin
I am an artist and arts facilitator. I enjoy workshops with children and
Arts Access Officer Linenhall Arts Centre in Castlebar, Mayo
1) programming international, national and local arts events, 2) providing opportunities for all to explore their own creativity and, 3) supporting artists who live and work in our region.
Membership Be part of the Practice community! To become a member of Practice.ie, simply go to the website www.practice.ie and register with a username and password. Once you have registered youc can add information about your projects upload images and make your work visible. Don’t forget to put up your picture!!
Mayo Margaret Elkins Lisa Fahy www.studioCworkshop.com Orla Henihan www.thelinenhall.com Lucy Hill Terry McDonagh www.terry-mcdonagh.com
young people in a variety of media. I have experience working with various groups around Dublin City. I work in a variety of media from painting, drawing, sculpture and craft. I’m interested in developing my skills in facilitating and inspiring creativity. John Kavanagh
At the Linenhall Arts Centre we provide an arts service for all in the community by
My aim is to facilitate the individual to create. I believe that the creative process can be nurtured and that by expressing the many levels of the self we can learn about ourselves and from each other.
Artists left to right, Avril O’Brien, Caroline Lynch, Ester Kiely, Ruby Wallis, Jimmy Doran, Ana Colomer, Roisin Markham, Joe McKenna, Ailbhe Kenny.
Delphine Coudray oulala.weebly.com Fiona Kerbey Emma Martin Alun Smyth
Tracy Kavanagh Mary Claire Kehoe Roisin Markham ballygarrettartstudio.blogspot.com Andi McGarry Liz Weir
Artist on Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim
... I believe that there is essential
value not only in solitary artistic endeavour but in working and collaborating with others. When working collaboratively one of my central aims, in an ever more passive, conformist and consumption-centric society, is to provide an energised space for individual response, experimentation and development.
Caroline Lynch Julie-Rose Mccormick www.mccormickpuppets.com Charlotte Murray Anna Rosenfelder www.theaterpapilio.com
Sligo Sinead Aldridge www.sineadaldridge.com Lisa Cannon Helene Hugel www.helium.ie Heather James nearlythere.com Orla Kenny kidsown.ie Vanya Lambrecht Ward vanyalambrechtward.com Niamh O’Connor Anette Raftery Annemarie Reitberger Cathal Roche myspace.com/cathalroche Denise Rushe modelart.ie Kate Wilson Tipperary Triona Ryan www.catrionaryan.com Waterford Kate McCarthy Westmeath Finn Mac Ginty www.crumaccompress/2016 Phyl Staunton www.wam.ie
Northern Ireland/UK Antrim Ann Henderson Michael Bass letspixelate.blogspot.com Ali FitzGibbon www.youngatart.co.uk Angela Ginn Stephen Hall Pauline Matthew Stacy Pottinger Nick Rabkin Lisa Maren Thompson www.tcis.or.kr/thearts.html Liz Weir www.lizweir.net
millenniumforum.co.uk Down Evelyn Ellison www.storyfinders.co.uk Pat Griffin Clive Lyttle Kathy Marsh Graeme Mc Allister Mearns Pollock Fermanagh Diane Henshaw www.fermanagh.gov.uk England Josef Davies-Coates uniteddiversity.com Carolyn Mendelsohn www.carolynmendelsohn.com Tyrone Norma Burrowes vividlogic-art.blogspot.com Clive McFarland ancreagan.wordpress.com Valerie Whitworth
Australia Victoria Ryle
Armagh Emma Hirsk Belfast Sharon Kelly Zhenia Mahdi-Nau zmncreativestudio.co.uk Brenda Kent vaireland.org Natasha Wilton Derry Shauna McNeilly
Storyteller and Writer in Antrim www.lizweir.net
Museum educator in the US www.addisongallery.org
I have been working as a storyteller for 30 years, telling stories and holding workshops for young people of all ages and adults. I am on the Writers in Schools scheme administered by Poetry Ireland and am a mentor on that scheme. I organise events at Ballyeamon Barn, a hostel and arts centre in the Glens of Antrim.
United States Becca Barniskis Julie Bernson www.addisongallery.org Steve Busa www.redeyetheater.org Christopher Kennedy artiscycle.net Joanne Toft aaa.mpls.k12.mn.us
Location not indicated Mandi Baker Ruth Barker Hilary Good Caroline Gorman Jojo Hynes Dan Jauca Alex Kaka Roisin Maguire Anthony Martin Louise Mathews Michael Mcloughlin Niamh Ni Mhaoilir Cliodhna Noonan Frances O’Connor Alison O’Grady Michelle Phelan Amy Walsh Caroline Walshe I am a museum educator in the US working primarily with the visual arts. We offer school programs with all grade level classes, professional development for teachers, and an artist in residence program that brings artists, teachers, and students together to expose students to the thinking and processes of art, to explore art, artist-based educational approaches, and to collaborate on extended projects.
Thank you for supporting Practice.ie How to support Practice.ie:
Practice.ie steering group
Host a meeting
Thank you to the following people who are members of the practice.ie steering group which is guiding the recent and future development of practice.ie. Mark Maguire, Jole Bortoli and Mary Carthy.
Practice.ie holds regular meetings throughout the island of Ireland, gathering together artists who work with children and young people, to create and promote an active and diverse community of practice on a local and national level. These Practice.ie professional development sessions provide a platform for artists to present recent innovative projects or approaches to their contemporaries and to invite key speakers to give insight into relevant areas of, or developments in, current practice. The sessions also provide an opportunity for artists to share skills and to collaboratively determine the key elements and supports necessary for the continuation of best practice in this area.
Thank you to supporting organisations Organisations that have supported Practice.ie through professional development sessions: • Artlinks • Arts Council of Ireland • Carlow Local Authorities Arts Office
Practice.ie welcomes offers of support for the delivery of these professional development sessions. If you are an arts service provider, arts organisation or collective, or relevant institution and can offer a venue and financial support please contact us.
• County Clare Arts Services
• Kilkenny County Council Arts Office
Practice.ie is funded under the umbrella of Kids’ Own. It has been in development since October 2008. There are many changes necessary to the Practice.ie website, generated from members’ responses and requests, which could improve this online community and dynamic resource. If you would like to make a donation toward the online development of Practice.ie please contact us.
• Louth Local Authorities Arts Service.
• County Waterford Arts Office • Glór Theatre and Arts Centre • Kildare County Council Arts Service
• Meath County Council Arts Office • Open... for ideas Research and Consultation at the Riverbank Arts Centre • Roscommon Arts Office • Solstice Arts Centre • Temple Bar Gallery and Studios • The AmmA Centre • The Riverbank Arts Centre • The Southern Education and Library Board • Visual Artists Ireland • Wexford County Council Arts Department • Wicklow County Council Arts Office
Colour palettes from artist Ann Donnelly and children on Further Afield project
Invitation to artists:
Make professional connections See new ways of working Get practical advice Be inspired
Practice.ie professional development days Held each month, one full day, including artists’ talks, hands-on demonstrations and discussions. Contact us at Practice.ie to come to your local area. Check the website for details of upcoming events.
From previous participants: “It really was great to have this workshop… It is necessary to meet and exchange ideas and discuss problems with working artists and facilitators. Thank you!” “Networking helps prevent a sense of isolation and bring credibility to the work of working with children through art.”