Working with artist and textile designer Hazel Hewitt, we developed and delivered a teacher's 'toolbox' training event as part of the 'Catalyst' teacher training programme for the Prince's Foundation for Children and the Arts. The training day took place at the Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester and was specifically aimed at encouraging Key Stage 2 teachers to try out different Visual Arts and Drama activities in the classroom. It also aimed to demonstrate ways in which teachers could work with contemporary art in galleries and visit spaces like the Chinese Arts Centre, as an additional site of learning.
For the first part of our session, Hazel and I asked the teachers to spend time in the current Chen Man contemporary photography exhibition. We initiated various activities to get teachers looking at the artwork and engaging with it, such as word games, drawing games, etc. We also demonstrated ways the teachers could use the work of Chen Man as the starting point for discussion and generating ideas, before carrying out practical work.
Hazel and I both initially found Chen Man's work quite challenging to respond to. However, as we and also the teachers realised, the more time we spent looking at her photographs, the more intriguing and multi-layered they revealed themselves to be. Contrasting themes began to emerge as we spent more time viewing the work from different perspectives and discussing this with different people. By the end of this part of the session, the teachers felt more prepared to begin the practical activities, in which we challenged them to create paper costumes for each other, and also asked them to explore a variety of layering techniques.
The main focus of the workshop had been to allow teachers the opportunity to explore different materials and processes and, also, think about how they could incorporate some of these techniques or ideas, either in their own practice or in the classroom. This was complemented by a drama workshop delivered by Sarah Clough from Griffin Theatre Arts in the afternoon.
We asked the teachers to play a surrealist story game with each other as a way of interpreting Chen Man's work (below). They had to think about who was in each artwork, the landscape and the mood or personality of the model in the photo, passing their paper on to somebody else each time. Please also scroll down to read their feedback in relation to the workshop.
'Consequence' Game Responses to Chen Man's work:
"Jade - Scottish Highlands - Peaceful and Confident"
"A teenage girl called Clementine - In the Mountains in a faraway land - Happy, Free"
"Jewel, the Ice Princess - Ice Palace of Snow Queen - Powerful"
"Mi ice - Iceland, Mountains, ice, water, quiet, deserted - Bitter and in need of revenge"
"Sparkle - Beneath the surface of a frozen lake - Lost and yearning! Soulful"
"Hena: Western Girl - Stepping through a round window of a traditional house in the mountains - Determined, powerful, controlling, ready to take over"
"A psychic, omnipotent goddess - Mini sci-fi world - Feeling? Empowered"
Teacher's comments and feedback about the workshop:
"Inspirational, challenging, thought-provoking"
"The traffic light system for generating ideas and conversation related to art"
"The northern twist"
"Good to have got to do different activities. Very calming."
"More about digital art"
"Reminded to 'see' rather than just 'look'"
"I learned and gained more understanding of layering"
I was surprised that...
"I both liked and disliked the images - but the exercises made me look again"
"I was surprised that the Chinese Arts Centre had so much contemporary art"
"My picture became so sentimental"
'I could see so much in Chen Man's work'
"How calming it was"
I would change / do differently..
"Incorporate art through projection / OHP etc."
"Rely less on language. Use more visual skills."
"I will take more risks"
I most enjoyed...
"Calm - loved doing creative activities and being in an art space"
"Creating a piece in response to the gallery"
"Exploring the images in the gallery"
"I enjoyed the hands-on activities"
"I enjoyed the visual impact of the exhibition"
N.B. Keep an eye out for video clip uploads soon!