In 2007, we started off with a group of nine artists, three to work with each of the three museums (Manchester, Bolton, and Harris in Preston).
It was planned that each of the artists would develop a proposal and one of the three artists’ proposals would be chosen to work with the schools. However, the artists had other ideas and the majority of them decided that they would prefer to collaborate together rather than competing for a project.
This added a very new and interesting dimension to the project in which artists did not just collaborate with teachers and students, curators and museum educators, but also with each other.
In Bolton Adela Jones wrapped pupils from Harper Green School up as hieroglyphed mummies before showing them how to best to conserve their egg sculptures, which had previously fallen victim to an unfortunate egg-smashing incident.
Over at the Harris, Pete Flowers, Patricia Ramsden and Jane Fairhurst gave St. George’s High School from Blackpool a technique with which to recreate Islamic patterns in acidic day-glo colours in their transformed history classroom (thanks Mrs Baldwin!).
Back in Manchester, Marina Rees, Robin Graham and Sue Flowers, brought boys from Littlemoss High School for Boys to the museum to meet curators in our stores before working with them to create a performance piece, costumes and sets which would tell the story of their ‘tribe’. I’ll never forget the boy-sized praying mantis as, clawed-arms outstretched, it stalked across our dimly lit mammals gallery!
Artists Beth Allen and Daksha Patel did not take part in the school project work but their early contributions to discussions to plan our research and evaluation were valued. They tell me they have continued to make use of what they found out on their research visit to Bolton Museum.
Ups and downs
There were ups and downs to working with such an experienced, passionate and creative bunch of people. But, as we all knew, if we had stuck to what we were familiar with then we wouldn’t have found anything out. Like we ask of the pupils, we had to take risks. More on the research process next time…