Head of Learning Jennie explains how to create inspirational learning events through art…

img_6146At Lakeland Arts we have a team brimming with ideas, enthusiasm who are willing to try new things to engage new visitors. When it comes to developing learning activity for families and schools, we trial ideas, we carry out research to see what other galleries are doing. We even find inspiration on Pinterest!

We want children and young people to engage in creative experiences in galleries. That’s really important to us because we deliver activity that can’t be replicated elsewhere – not in a classroom or soft play centre or IKEA showroom.

The learning team at Lakeland Arts has been involved with developing the George Shaw: My Back to Nature exhibition. Shaw was nominated for the Turner Art Prize in 2011, so we got the idea to stage an art prize for young artists in Cumbria between the ages of 16 – 22. We named it the Romney Art Prize after George Romney, the famous portrait painter who lived in Kendal. We want young artists to get inspired by the themes that George Shaw explores in his paintings and the art in our collection. Entries close on 30 April 2017 and the winner gets their work hung at Abbot Hall. That’s a pretty amazing opportunity for a budding young artist to highlight on an application to art school or college.

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More and more, we incorporate digital and creative media activity in the learning programme. Digital workshops allow visitors to experience art in new ways, to learn new skills and to share their experiences with others on social media. The latter helps us promote our work and reach more people.

We identify trends in new media that put a twist on the artwork. Our Gif Gallery workshops at Abbot Hall (18-25 February) are inspired by video games and social media trends. The characters in our paintings have already mastered the Mannequin Challenge – they are static but they all have a story to tell. We want visitors to get inspired by the paintings and use digital technology to bring the characters to life; dancing or playing air guitar.

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Lights Fantastic! at Blackwell runs alongside the Light Within exhibition (18-25 February Easter holidays and May half-term). The exhibition is a collaboration between a digital sound artist called Paul Miller, who maps digital projections onto delicate glass sculpture by his collaborator, Greit Beyaert. High tech, right? Linked to this stunning exhibition, we have transforming our learning space into a giant magic lantern for families to experiment with light, colour and reflection. Families are invited to be creative and express themselves in ways that will radiate around the space.

As well as delivering activity that is deliberately site specific and encourages creativity, we encourage families to learn together. We create experiences where people feel safe, can express themselves, form memories, and at the end of the day, have fun together.

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Our schools programme is also linked to collections and exhibitions. To make school sessions relevant, we work directly with teachers so that the content is relevant to them and the National Curriculum. This is a new approach for us but we have found it hugely beneficial and liberating to collaborate with schools. It means we develop relationships with teachers and schools and means we are meeting demand from pupil learning needs. In June we are piloting two new initiatives. The first is a week of special events for primary schools exploring portraiture and landscape at Abbot Hall linked to our significant collection of portraiture and the Julian Cooper exhibition. The second is a digital art project at Blackwell where secondary pupils will work directly with Paul Millar and Greit Beyaert to create digital art that will be projected on the façade of Blackwell on 17 June 2017.

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