At the end of January 2020 the Galleries Learning and Engagement Team delivered its first set of pilot schools workshops at The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery to test our latest offer for primary schools following a consultation period with local schools. Claire Evans our Learning Coordinator tells us more.

We love our books at the Galleries and have a wonderful collection of sketchbooks, notebooks and artists’ books here in the Universities Special Collections. We also found though our consultation that school children are increasingly being encouraged to use sketchbooks, so we decided to bring the two together and design a ‘Creative Books’ workshop!

Two schools came over three days, bringing 120 children to learn all about creative books. Each child started the day by exploring our collection of sketchbooks donated by painter and art historian Stephen Chaplin before going on to learn how to make their very own sketchbooks out of a single sheet of paper.

With their new sketchbooks in hand our merry band of sketchbook makers then spent time learning about some of our artworks on display. This included sketching, and learning how to write about artworks such as Stanley Spencer’s, ‘The Art Class’ (1929)and Alan Davie’s ‘Opus 149 Figure Mask no.2’ (1956).

Each day offered a different afternoon option for the class. One group learnt about, and how to make, artists’ books. Here, the children were set the difficult challenge of using protractors and rulers to measure and fold paper to create a flowerfold book. Teachers were delighted to see the children not only enthusiastically taking on the challenge but also supporting each other to achieve it.  Another class developed their drawing skills through a series of fun drawing exercises, including a huge whole class group drawing. Finally, on the third day, the children enjoyed a tour of the Public Art on Campus. Each session built on what they had learnt in the morning.

The workshops were hugely successful, especially the artists’ book option, where nearly a month later the children are reportedly still bringing artists’ books that they have made at home into school.

When asked what the children planned to tell people about their visit they said:

 ‘It was an amazing place where we saw some awesome paintings, it was real! Best day.’

I will tell people that they should 100% come here. Looking at all of the paintings really made me inspired!

Some of the things they said they learnt in addition to making books were: ‘… to just feel free with my drawings’ and ‘That [the] university is giant’.

We have just advertised these workshops to schools for them to book onto in June and November 2020 and look forward to enthusing and inspiring many more children.