ACT Artists-in-Schools Program 2014
In terms 3 and 4 of 2014, four local artists worked in ACT Primary Schools.
The schools that hosted artists were Lyneham Primary School (textile artist, Meredith Hughes); Macquarie Primary School (visual artist and sculptor, Mary Kayser); Gilmore Primary School (street artist, Dan Maginnity); and Arawang Primary School (Glass artist, Lisa Cahill).
Lisa Cahill at Arawang Primary School
Lisa Cahill works across a variety of glassmaking techniques, with a practice ranging from large public artworks in government and commercial buildings to small intimate wearable art.
Lisa demonstrated how she works as an artist in the medium of glass, and worked with students and teachers to explore portraiture to make fused glass tile portraits using coloured sheet glass and powders. Lisa worked with all of the students from kindergarten to year 6, to give them an insight into her practice as a glass artist and an opportunity to work with the medium of glass themselves.
During the project Lisa accompanied year 5 and 6 students on an excursion to the Canberra Glassworks and the National Portrait Gallery. At the Glassworks students saw live glassblowing, had a tour of the facilities and made a glass tile that was fired in the kilns. During a tour of the Portrait Gallery students learnt about many of the different techniques and styles of portraiture.
In the artist's words:
"I decided on the theme of portraiture as it is very personal and I believed the students could relate to it. It was really exciting to see how interested the students were in both the artistic side of the glass but also the science of glass and the technical processes that I used to shape and mold it.
The final artwork has protraits of both students and staff and is a lasting memory of the project. There are 380 student portraits and every one of them is unique. As it was the 25th anniversary of Arawang Primary School, I mounted all the portraits together on a board that became a permanent installation in the school reception area."
Below is the finished project installed in the Arawang Primary reception area.
Mary Kayser at Macquarie Primary School
Mary Kayser is a visual artist and sculptor with work in a number of significant collections across Canberra including the ACT Public Art Collection, Commonwealth Park and the Australian National University.
Mary says "Making sculpture and the process of creating is like an adventure for me. It’s exciting; it opens new pathways of thinking, new connections as well as discovering surprises that demand solutions. I am inspired by our natural environment, its contrasts and how living things are intricately connected. The materials I use have a story and I work with them to compose forms to poetically describe concepts, themes and my observations."
Mary worked across the school, from preschool to year 6, exploring a variety of materials and processes including printing into clay and then casting in plaster to produce a sculpture relief, and exploring sculptural form using a variety of recycled materials including wood, metals, wires and cardboard.
The project was based on Mary’s art practice as a sculptor and involved developing and implementing hands on sculpture workshops.
“Each child created their own art work, and there were great benefits to students from having time to play, research, experiment, create, and explore their own ideas.
Students were excited with learning through practical hands-on experiences, led by an expert and about specialized tools and new materials. Teachers noted that students who were not engaged in the school curriculum were fully engaged in the sculpture workshops.”
Below is a photo of student artwork from Mary's time at Macquarie Primary.
Dan Maginnity at Gilmore Primary School
Dan Maginnity is a painter and sculptor, with a practice that covers street graffiti, murals and a more academic sculptural practice. Dan has works held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia and the Canberra Museum and Gallery. He has produced commissioned work for clients including the National Portrait Gallery, the Hindmarsh group, and the City of Sydney.
Dan demonstrated how he works as a muralist, involving the entire student body in the design and production of 7 murals (varying in size from 3m x 2m to 8m x 3m). The students were divided into groups, with a mix of children from kindergarten through year 6 working together. Each student group was then taken through the process of designing a mural to a brief, and the steps of production.
In the artist's words:
“With each school building being named for an Australian author, we designed a series of murals to reflect some aspect of their oeuvre. Pamella Allen had a journey wall; May Gibbs two Gumnut baby walls; Jeanie Baker a town/country wall; Andy Griffiths a multi-storied treehouse wall; Mem Fox a possum magic wall; and Robyn Klein a ‘Hating Alison Ashley’ wall.
The students were enthusiastic and all took a lot of pride in the project, showing each other around during lunch and their parents after school.”
Below is a photo of Dan Maginnity's Robyn Klein wall mural in progress at Gilmore Primary.
Meredith Hughes at Lyneham Primary School
Meredith Hughes is a textile artist whose work often explores sustainability using recycling and pre-loved materials. Meredith has an artistic practice that includes installation work with characteristics such as repetition, unconventional material combinations, a sculptural aspect and an illusory quality that disrupts expectation.
Meredith taught a weaving project, resulting in a large group installation, as well as an artist installation in the stairwell at the schools entrance.
In the artist’s words:
“I introduced the project to each class and a group of parents, and using images of well-known installations I discussed installation practice covering scale, materiality, attending differently to 'space', the viewers’ role and other creative devices. This informed the weaving I taught and installation I created because throughout the project students revisited common themes.
Over 350 students attended workshops making a basic woven structure by cutting a plastic bottle into a 'wheel with spokes' shape that they then wove with different materials, making a flower form. We discussed design choices, technique and themes important to the group installation.
On the final day students brought their work to the courtyard outside the art workshop, and a professional photographer documented each child placing their 'flower' in the existing garden in a way they found interesting. At the end of the day students brought their parents along to showcase the installation."
Meredith also installed an artwork of her own in the school's art space when I wasn't teaching.
"This installation was based on a complex, floral repeat textile. I used floral fabrics that I and members of the school community contributed, and the work meandered throughout the stairwell space. Students, teachers and parents witnessed the work 'grow' during the project. There was so much interest from students that I invited teachers to book in classes for formal artist talks. Students also brought their own artwork to me for discussion and exchange of ideas.”
Below is a photo of students’ weaving installed in a garden space at Lyneham Primary.
George Rose at Bimberi Youth Justice Centre
George Rose has an arts practice that includes murals, paste-ups and sign writing.
Over the 2013/14 school holidays George held a five week holiday program with small groups of boys and youth workers at the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre, focusing on street art.
George’s goal for the teens was to experience the creation of a street art piece from conception through to implementation while also showing the value of art and the possibilities it can offer.
The workshops concluded with the production of one wall mural and several ply panels. The ply panels were later shown at a pop-up exhibition as well as a longer showing as part of Canberra’s You Are Here Festival in March.
Below is a photo of a mural by George Rose and students at Bimberi, January 2014.
George Rose returned to the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre, working with students across the 2014 July and October school holidays.
During these periods, participants responded to a theme with the creation of a shield or character design. These were then painted on MDF and the shapes cut out to prepare for display. Finished works were publicly exhibited at The Chop Shop in Braddon.
In the artist's words:
“I was really pleased with the participation of the students in these activities. As expected some of the boys were more interested than others.
Something I noticed is that towards completion of their works most boys would lose incentive and would require more support and energy on my behalf to help them complete their works. I thought it curious that as they approached something which would be an achievement, they would lose drive and motivation. But once they had completed their works the boys were proud and happy with their efforts.
This program and working with the boys at Bimberi has really changed the way that I think about my own practice. I am thinking about how to set up a longer term program for kids re-adjusting back into society as well as issues surrounding youth incarceration. These topics weren't on my radar before I participated in this program and I’m really thankful I’ve been afforded the chance to work with these kids.
I hope that my participation in this program has some longer term positive outcomes for the boys. It’s hard to gauge how much of an impact you can have on people when they find themselves in a situation like these kids are in, but I guess only time can tell.”
Below is a photo of works from Bimberi on display at The Chop Shop, December 2014.