It was definitely the right thing to do to give up the permanent, albeit part time proper job. But this week I have been reminded why I loved it for ten years. I’ve been doing Easter holiday workshops for the education team at the New Art Gallery Walsall. It’s felt like a proper job, given the travelling time from here up the M5/M6 to get there for 10am… And then travel back at 4pm. I have had that Friday feeling for the first time in a year!
I love working with children. They are a hoot! They are also great at surprising you! I love the conversations that happen between them, their little idiosyncrasies that you know will stay with them into adulthood. One four year old girl, very clear about her work, every time she was “helped” by her carer, very deliberately moved the offending piece of collage, pushed away the helping hand and said “hang on!” She never said “No,” not once, just “hang on” it was hilariously passive aggressive! Another, a boy about seven, refused all the added extras people were offering him for his collage, and he said to me “never do anything you don’t have to”… A watchword that could be adopted by any artist I reckon, including myself.
The most interesting day was Friday, a paid workshop with a beginning and structure, rather than a drop-in affair. We began by looking at the exhibition “FOUND” on the third floor, particularly the work by Julie Cockburn and Ruth Claxton.
We talked about how the photos, and postcards of paintings changed with the addition of embroidery, or the removal of parts of the postcards. These children who were between 6 and 10 years old, talked about how the photos where the faces were obscured could now be anybody… They were better because you could imagine them to be whoever you wanted. Of the women’s faces surrounded by Julie Cockburn’s embroidery, one girl said it was like how the woman was inside her head, but put on the outside. Ruth Claxton’s postcards elicited conversations not just about how we looked at the postcards but how the people in the postcards looked at each other, and at us! These primary aged children were having very intellectual, critical conversations about the work, with more insight than I’ve heard from some groups of 17 year old art students. It begs the question, what is our art education doing to the children’s minds?
I’m glad I’m no longer in the system, not in a position where I have to curtail such interactions for someone else’s ends. But it is great to be back in amongst the children every now and again, just to remind me!