This summer we worked with colleagues from the University of Leeds to develop a ground-breaking residential course for art teachers to engage with art history. The Plan + Prepare + Provide art teachers residential at the School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies was the first of a new strand of projects looking to extend our connection with other school subjects; in over 25 years I don’t think I have ever seen such positive feedback on a programme. The success of our first residential is due in no small part to the amazing work of Head of School Abigail Harrison Moore and the residential project coordinator Sarah Richardson, as well as our presenters from the art and art history sector including teachers Sarah Phillips, Anne-Louise Quinton and arts & educational activist Susan Coles.
‘Blown away’, ‘inspiring’, ‘energised’ and ‘awesome’ were just some of the phrases the evaluation presented. ‘Really want to deliver the Art History A Level now’ is one respondent’s remark that stays with us months after the event, along with an active network of artist-educators inspired and engaged with our subject just as the new A level starts being taught across the country.
The residential represented a unique opportunity to reflect upon and develop both academic and practical art lessons, and also reaffirmed our ambitions to bring art history to new audiences in schools, colleges and beyond. Alongside sessions focused around advice and insight on how to integrate art history into a practical art lesson, and ideas about planning and delivering the written element of art & design coursework, the 3 day residential also looked at Bourdieu, resilience, exhibitions and artist-led workshops.
Over the time we spent with teachers at the residential we realised that the 25 or so attendees had a reach in excess of 4,500 pupils. As reports from across the educational and policy arenas point to a downturn in the take-up of creative subjects, we as an organisation are looking at ways in which we can work with sister organisations in the creative sector to ensure that young people can continue to engage with thinking about art while making.
Our 2018 programme for policy, advocacy and campaigning is still in development, but collaboration and collective action to ensure the future of our subject within the arts and humanities features prominently. We’ll talk more about this and our future plans around education and engagement at the launch of the programme back in Leeds on the 26th October where our partnership has resulted in the first Annual Lecture for the Association for Art History, delivered this year by Professor Griselda Pollock.
Coming back to the residential briefly I’d like to highlight Susan Coles’ reflections on the residential – you can see the full post on her blog – where she muses on a question she was asked regarding why she continued to fight for education and the arts. She responded, ‘It’s worth it isn’t it? There we all were, at the end of a long school year, yet surrounded by people who care about art, who thrive on it, who can’t get enough of it and who rally on through two and a half days of vital, exciting, creative learning and challenges’.
Which is why we’ll be back in Leeds next year.
Trevor Horsewood, Campaigns Manager at the Association for Art History