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Questioning and detailed looking are themes facilitated during Sunday’s family workshop by two props selected from the props box. The blindfoldmask and questions discs, each with one score, are given to families to explore the exhibition at Kettle’s Yard on the paintings of Alfred Wallis. In the gallery, half it’s usual size due to construction work, the props provoke an intimate level of looking between the 19 participants. This is built on through reading and sharing questions between the whole group.
The questions remain on the walls as we move into the education room and introduce a making session – giving information about Wallis’s working methods: his use of shaped cards, his colour palette as well as his work inspired by his experience as a sailor and fisherman… The activities are diverse and wonderful and we conclude by asking the children to tell us about their pieces.
Later on as we walk through the gallery, we encounter fascinated members of the public. They tell us how useful they think the questions are and even that they should stay on the wall as it helps them to understand the work.
Child-led tours, more questions and playing in the field.
The second family workshop is completely different to the first. The weather is glorious and the whole of Wysing is transformed into a vast research area for exploring contemporary art. Questions, popular in all the workshops, are proposed again using question discs alongside maps with provocations in the margins. Children lead the way and adults follow adding to the maps/leaving questions as they go.
The map provokes detailed observations and collaborative exploration. Questions include ‘why has amphis changed’ ‘what’s the metal thing in the field,’ and ‘why is this art?’
The shed/pod is ready and immediately taken over by a burst of creative energy. Names for this new space include ‘The Wooden Room, ‘A Place to do Art and Think’ and ‘Messy Messy.’ It becomes our base for the afternoon, from which families come and go, using the props, large red balls, reels and laminated scores to explore the site.
The phono cups are ever popular, with one family saying “the sound tube led us to look at more of the art areas.” The balls and reels are described as ‘fun,’ ‘bouncy’ and suitable to the scale of Wysing’s outdoor spaces, being ‘large things to roll around the space’.
Invented games/scores include using the phono-cups to “communicate to the universe” and “Become part of the exhibition by standing in front of the projector so your shadow is doing creative things. Someone can take a picture of your ‘artwork.’”
Again a sense of exploration and astonishment is conveyed through the feedback of one dad who says: “Normally I would just drive past … I just didn’t expect this to be here.” All want to come back for more.
The first family workshop take place on an extremely wet Sunday. Despite the inclement weather families from the Vine school and beyond arrive at Wysing. The gallery is not open but we play games in other indoor areas. The outdoor spaces at Wysing seem to really invite families to explore- despite the weather. In terms of indoor spaces Amphis reigns again as everyone’s favourite exciting everyone’s imaginations. We start with the Questions Game (which we have played before during the first school session), have lunch in the window room and then play more games, with props this time. We also receive more invented games, that the children write with great clarity.
The feedback is very rewarding- we like the fact that the whole session is referred to as one big game- as one of the dads says: ‘I liked the first part of the game which was about writing questions and later answering it.’
Also pleased to have managed to engage some of the adults unfamiliar with contemporary art (and somewhat perplexed by it too) as another dad says:
‘the experience was very new to myself. I have never interacted with or been interested in contemporary art before… Overall – an enjoyable sunday afternoon and I hope one to be repeated.’
The challenge of participants’ recurring expectations to make their own artworks, nevertheless remains, as another parent tells us the children ‘…liked the number game …and wanted to make their own artwork, possibly making a collage or jigsaw.’
The children do draw maps of Wysing as they’ve experienced it during the afternoon and we are surprised at their ability to spatially navigate themselves and recall a place not only vast but in many cases quite new to them. The session concludes as we all jump to the window following Ruth’s cry from the kitchen: ‘ Look – a fox!’. The tiny clump of trees in front of us instantly gets relabelled by Sam on his map and becomes ‘Fox Island’ – a new outdoor area at Wysing.
Here are some more images.
We have been busy, getting the art shed, which is made out of recycled wood- ready for the families workshops on the forthcoming Sundays – the 29th April and 13th May- Come and join us if you can and if you can’t make it- watch this space and the next post…
At the Vine school we listened to what the children told us about their experiences of Wysing Arts Centre so far as they were creating their own thinking places. Their words and the images offer rich reflections on art and its making.
We begin our third session of the workshops in the central school hall with a large map of Wysing where the children place their most memorable Wysing places they have drawn since we last saw them. We are surprised to find drawings of studios as well as Amphis’s (haunted houses) and the globe (boulder stage).
A line from artist CJ Mahony, who describes her structure at Amphis as ‘a place for thoughts’; making space for thinking in a different space, provides inspiration for the next session: making studio spaces. Problems of structure are encountered and mess is made: transforming the hall into an enormous studio, thinking about spaces for making art.
For some it’s a large drawing board that can be made as big as the artists want it, for others there’s a place for the artist in the centre. There is a boat, with an outside and a covered place to sit when it rains. There are many open structures for observing the sky, and a glass floor, so even the ground can be observed. There are garden spaces, with trees and smaller spaces for shelter, and places you have to peek into. There are beehive structures and Amphis provides inspiration with arches and big open doors. Interestingly, there are several spaces up high including a rocket space and a space reached only by a spiral staircase from which the artist can see the world.
The day ends outside with a celebration of memorable Wysing spaces for Parents, displayed between a V of the Vines School roof structure.