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Artists at Priory School

Two day Artist in Residency in Egbaston, Birmingham

Two-day Arts Days in School

I am always buzzing once I have completed an art residency in a school. This was a return visit to Priory Preparatory School in leafy Egbaston in Birmingham. It was also a bonus to be able to work with another artist, Ruth Radcliffe, on the project. It was very interesting to see our own very different interpretations of the work as it progressed.

The brief was to create an art installation that brightened and created interest for a rather overlooked window in a main corridor. Every pupil was to participate and contribute in some way to the final piece of artwork. When not scheduled to work with Ruth and myself, class teachers were leading a whole raft of exciting and stimulating activities in their classrooms and outside in the school grounds.

The over-arching theme was 'Light & Impressionism', which addressed the pupils exploring the work and technique of a particular and distinctive school of art and artists. There were some lovely cross-curricular links to science, maths, geography and literacy.

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Project preparation.

We held a twilight session after school several weeks before the Arts Days, to discuss our initial ideas and explore the teachers' ideas. It was an opportunity to support and guide those teachers feeling less than confident about planning two days of art activities! We shared the painting we had selected as our inspiration for the window artwork, The Garden at Giverny by Claude Monet. When divided into fifteen smaller panels, the pupils would be able to make very close observations of small sections. This encouraged looking at colours used and the loose brush technique.

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Pupils from Reception to Year 6 were timetabled to visit the 'art studio', a.k.a. the hall, and they worked for half an hour, in two groups, each with their own artist. With such a tight timeframe it was felt best to provide short but intense working in smaller groups.

Each year group progressively worked on a series of acetate sheets, either applying areas of coloured tissue or cellophane to match each of the panels - we enlarged each panel to A4 to place under the clear acetate to provide a framework to work on. As we worked up the year groups the work changed to making marks on waxed paper circles with oil pastels, using the quick impressionistic marks similar to those made by Monet. The acetate sheets were overlaid and slotted into PVC pockets that were double-sided taped to the window.

Making their marks.

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The final artwork installed.

The photograph was taken on a very dull February day, but it will come alive as the Spring sunshine grows stronger. There is a plan at the side so that the children can spot which panel they worked on.

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