Rather brilliantly S.Carley the teacher who accompanied the King Edwards group to the Never-Land space at YA wrote this in response and sent it to his head teacher to argue again the role and importance of art and art experiences for students… makes for some good reading
Visual Analysis and Contextual Studies; John Ruskin: Art & Wonder. June 13th 2019.
Never-Land-Sheffield ‘take-over sessions’. June 14th 2019.
Here my idea is to declare that art is the only possibility for evolution, the only possibility to change the situation in the world. But then you have to enlarge the idea of art to include the whole creativity. And if you do that, it follows logically that every living being is an artist - an artist in the sense that he (or she) can develop their own capacity. And therefore it's necessary at first that society cares about the educational system, that equality of opportunity for self-realization is guaranteed. Joseph Beuys.
A small group of Y12 students were recently engaged in two days of challenging, exciting, creative work with external partners. Working with Helen Higgins and Francesca Herrick of the Courtauld Institute Outreach team, and Poly-technic (artists Kate Genever and Steve Pool), students investigated context, theory, history and society in the context of a Sheffield specific framework - Ruskin, The North, Europe / Brexit and the environment.
Approaches ranged from a very analytical research base investigating art and social history via curating and archiving, through to a more observational, experimental and collaborative process based approach using ‘collage’ (in its broadest sense).
Helen and Francesca from the Courtauld looked at visual analysis and contextual studies working with key images and texts linking to the Millennium Galleries exhibition; John Ruskin: Art & Wonder.
The students were challenged intellectually and creatively throughout the day working within undergraduate frameworks of teaching and learning. There was a distinct sense they had been stretched and challenged over the course of the day as we approached the final half hour! It was refreshing and rewarding to see our students engage with our visitors and the exhibition in such a mature and enthused fashion. Most crucially, they were able to make succinct connections to their own creative practise in school, thereby really investing in their Component One coursework for A level Fine Art and Photography. Critical thinking in a creative context is a key skill for students to acquire at A level and beyond.
The Never-Land-Sheffield session took place at Yorkshire Artspace, Persistence Works Gallery, the following day. It was billed as a “takeover session”. Students were encouraged to change the space through collage based process led by artists Steve Pool and Kate Genever.
The artists describe Never-Land-Sheffield as a fictional nowhere, imagined for this project. Its ambition is to ask young people what Europe will be like in 200 years. Steve and Kate from The Poly-Technic worked through discussion, collage and large-scale intervention to start a dynamic large-scale installation aiming to challenge negative scripts around Europe / Brexit. Our students set the project rolling with one of the first group interventions in the month long takeover. Their collage inputs, discussions and comments helped set the scene for other groups and individuals to work with and respond to.
Never-Land-Sheffield is the initial and catalysing part of a 3-stage project with multiple partners from the UK and Europe (including schools and colleges in Leicester and Venice).
One of our Y12 students also was the winner of a writing commission via ‘Making Ways’ Sheffield, to compose a response to Never-Land-Sheffield. Rhianna Lewis-Tottle wrote;
‘In Europe, we’ve lost the narrative of the utopia. This is part practicality; a society can be infinitely imperfect, whereas ‘utopian’ feels impossible- meaning literally ‘nowhere’ or ‘neverland’. To survive over population, we could arrange into self-sufficient and greener communities- where nationalism and globalism could co-exist.
For this harmony of communitarianism and individualism we can look only to art, where cultural ideology both celebrated and challenged.
By definition, a perfect society would have to respect the personal identity of its members and value contemporary culture (with all of its impossibilities) as part of history.
So, Utopias are just as complex and conceivable as any dystopia. What struck me about the exhibit is that it reimagines aspects of the world we know (churches, farmland, rhinos) into the future; where they hold new, deeply layered relationships with the disjointed world around them. Perhaps this is the most fearless act of hope; to dare to imagine what could live on. As Kaveh Akbar wrote ‘in art survives what we survive.’
Therefore, Art is necessary for the heritage (and so perfection) of any utopia. What future should the young artist imagine? ‘What should young people do with their lives? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.’ Kurt Vonnegut.
Working in the context of Yorkshire Artspace was particularly relevant, making very tangible connections with post A level creative landscape. YASS director Rachael Dodd gave the students an insightful guided tour of the studios and workspaces, enabling students to meet and talk to artists and designers.
In times of crisis within creative education, these two days illustrated very clearly the vital and central role that The Arts should be playing in 21st century education. Engaged, informed. Having a valid voice. Having a very clear sense that creative thinking and processes are empowering.
Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.
Kurt Vonnegut; A Man Without a Country.
Y12 students involved over the two days were;
Wiktoria Pilarska, James Elliot-Kemp, Macey Oxley, Holly Keable, Francesca Passmore,
Lydia James-Lowerse, Freya Kowalski, Denya Goss, Ema Shek, Joseph Fletcher,
Rhianna Lewis-Tottle, Amber Harrison, Bradley Rutledge, Dahna Castrignano, Ava Ord,
Ethan Hurding, Oliver Green, William Pinning, Maisey Hunter, Luke Green.
Stephen Carley. June 2019.