Art on Tour at Heysham Library

The painting spent a day at Heysham Library. We met Heysham Art Group as well as members of the community, there to celebrate work by a local painter. One of the visitors bought two watercolours and recounted episodes from his life with great enthusiasm.

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The library hosts a weekly meeting of Heysham Knit and Natter group, who came along with their own ongoing knitting projects, but willingly spent their time contributing knitted fragments, representing areas of the painting.

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If paintings could speak, it would describe an afternoon of broad ranging conversation, about anything and everything, to the soundtrack of knitting needles clicking busily!

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Art on Tour at Heversham Primary School

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At Heversham Primary School, the whole school spent a day responding to the painting in different ways using drawing, painting, printmaking, felt making and construction techniques. They created a beautiful installation celebrating Morecambe Bay which was proudly shared with parents and members of the local community at the end of their day.

Younger children created a huge map of the bay with ink, suggesting a coastline using footprints and handprints dipped into clay. They used wellington boots as the basis for sculptures celebrating the natural landscape which were then placed at the edge of the bay.

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An umbrella became the structure for the sky above the bay over which flies a whole range of bird life, drawn in wonderful detail by older children who also each created a felt peice with a needle felted bird motif applied on top. Tracings of their drawings applied to the tissued structure of the umbrella created a beautiful transparent sense of the sky. And below the sky hung all the felt pieces with needle felted birds – a lovely response to the painting.

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The day ended with an assembly to which parents, members of the local community and school governers attended, where we all reflected on how the installation had been inspired by Keith Grant’s painting.

Art On Tour on Walney Island, Barrow

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The engagement on Walney Island began with high school students at Walney Island High. They constructed larger than life birds, inspired by the birds on Walney, the colours used by the artist and ideas about survival. Keith Grant was very inspired by the poem, ‘A Shropshire Lad’ by AE Houseman, particularly the phrase ‘forest fleece’, and he used this phrase as a title for one of his paintings. This fragment of the poem inspired our use of textiles to explore and respond to the painting in different ways.

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Walney Island St Columba’s Primary School Year 1 children created small felt pieces that were pieced together to create a landscape for their colony of needle felted birds to fly in. They created wonderful poems about what it is like inside the painting – a selection of them are on display in the gallery. They also invented a story about the artist, bringing this to life with fleecy finger puppets in a puppet show which described the day Keith Grant painted ‘Svolvaer Motif’.

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This image shows the backdrop of the children’s felt work with the artist making his painting, his scarf blowing in the gale, standing on our imagined idea of the ‘fiskener’! It has holes in the floor where the artist did his fishing! On the day the painting came to Combe House Nursing Home the young children performed their puppet show to the residents, read out poems and sang.

The residents at Coomb House largely didn’t like the painting at all when it first arrived, but it generated a huge amount of discussion and surprising connections. Holding the lengths of fleece, one of the residents described how the lanolin helped moisturize shepherds hands during shearing. Her husband had been a hill farmer. Their comments gathered together create a thoughtful response to the painting written below.

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It’s gloomy. It’s depressing.

A horrible painting. Dull and dreary.

Cruel to say – it’s a mess. Not to our choice.

But it wouldn’t do if we were all alike.

One man’s meat is another man’s poison.

And we’ve talked of brighter landscapes

Blues and felts,

A beautiful book of Norway,

The Lake District on a grander scale.

And a husband’s hands

As soft as the fleece he’s shorn.

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The students from Walney Island High School brought their birds to Combe House, and then worked with residents using a range of materials to weave into nests for the children’s birds. Birds and nests are now on display in the nursing home garden. Thanks to everyone for a fabulous few days on Walney!

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