Prior to session 1 taking place I had met with the class, their teacher Ms Walker and the Principal Mrs J. Quinn. This had given me the opportunity to begin the process of getting to know the school, the creative experience held within the school to date and look at expectations. I have a collaborative approach when working with children hence I like to engage with everyone involved prior to beginning the process. I have found that each school classroom is unique. The dynamic of each group, the approach to and experience of the arts and creative processes within the school will have an impact on how I approach the collaboration and set the pace for how we shall work together. I like to begin a conversation of expectations around process and outcomes prior to starting my residencies.
On my initial visit it was evident that the students have a high level of vocabulary. As I was finding my bearings in a new school layout I caught snippets of girls talking to each other in the corridors and was impressed at their ability in expressing themselves. This was again reinforced by my conversation with the class as we discussed a variety of potential ideas, interests and curriculum opportunities that we could explore together. The imminent election matched with their recent Dáil Éireann visit dominated the conversation and gave me ideas for our first session. The school had also expressed an interest in using the ‘1916 Centenary 2016’ as one of number of different potential themes. The school has a fantastic amount of indoor and outdoor space that could be used to create some work that celebrates the school 50th anniversary in 2017.
Much of my own work is presented through ‘installations’; ‘an artistic genre of three-dimensional works that often are site-specific and designed to transform the perception of a space’. It can also include two dimensional, audio and film pieces. Hence I wished to introduce the girls to exploring the potential for installation art. My aim was to get the students to build a 3D space made from wool that would be the platform for the content to our discussion around politics and elections. The creation of the installation was also going to demand teamwork.
I pre-built the skeleton of a cube within the classroom using the ceiling, walls and tables as tension points. I gave each table group a large sheet of paper for notes taking and a series of questions they needed to discuss. The teacher Ms Walker and I moved around the room supporting their discussions based on the questions below.
What are the skills you need to be a politician?
What kind of person do you need to be a politician?
What questions would you ask if a politician came to your door?
After 20 minutes I invited each table group to take two balls of coloured wool and construct a space within the cube skeleton already in place offering walls, dividers, textures, a cover etc. They were over 26 students working together in a relatively small space proved challenging but not without a purpose. The images show clearly the process and outcome. Once the 3D space had been created the students were asked to return to their rough work sheet and to take one word that they felt was most relevant to them when prioritizing attributes of a politician. Each girl wrote her chosen word on a piece of paper using a calligraphy pen and tied it onto the 3D space for other to view.
We allowed time for everyone to say a little bit about their chosen word and what they had created. Initially they had been a little disappointed at their construction as it was not as uniform and ‘perfect’ as they had imagined it would be and discovered planning and teamwork are essential in delivering a vision, even if that vision is ideals and policies.
The Principal Mrs J. Quinn and others cam to view the piece and their responses clearly had a very positive impact on the girls. So much so that it was decided to tweet our ‘Art of Politics’ to some local politicians and invite them into the conversation. Other areas highlighted in the feedback back time was how government decisions, referendums etc. impact on children and children are not allowed to vote. This I shall use as a basis point for our next session.