Artist: Helen Barry
Teacher: Bríd McGovern
Class: Junior Infants (4&5yrs)
School: Our Lady Of Mercy School Convent
Art equips us with the skills to deal with life. Art is not what we make or do with our hands or our bodies: art provides us with the freedom to think for ourselves. Helen Barry 2017
It is particularly apt that our first session looks at Dexterity as it coincides with a publication from Creative Ireland that details my outlook and approach to working with children from 0 to 18 years. I strongly believe that the arts support personal and social growth on many different levels. When I embark on a new collaboration it is essential to plan with the teacher and the children. Every class/group offers its own dynamic and each school presents a new context. I also learn as we build a journey together. Before we embark I need to observe and listen. (A full statement can be read on page 31 through the link below)
Prior to our first session I had popped into the school to say hello to the children and take at look at the school building. The architecture of the schools reminds me a little of walking through a dolls house. It is spacious without being overwhelming. I know for the first few sessions together I will bring ideas into the classroom and use previously tested projects. This will enable me to get to know the children and the teacher and for them to get to know me. As each class has their own dynamic so too will each group present different levels of dexterity. I invited the children to draw, cut, push through and follow a series of instructions. The activity also asked the children to work with another child, take turns, observe, describe things and invent something. Initially I need to understand the skill set of the children and their ability to take an abstract concept and develop it in their imagination. I find children in the lower stream of primary school grab an abstract concept far more eagerly than older children. I also need to pace my own language to one that best suits the particular group.
I brought with me lots of different coloured and textured paper including handmade made papers, card and tissue paper. The children drew around their hand and cut it out. They needed to ask the assistance of the child sitting next to them to draw around the other hand. I decided to jump straight into building an installation that would alter the look of the classroom and show the children something less traditional in art terms. Each child threaded their paper hands onto a very long piece of fishing gut, separating them with pastel coloured straws. During the lunch break I installed a fishing gut grid system from the ceiling that we shall use over the coming weeks. The first pieces attached are the pieces made in our first session together.
In the week prior to the first session with the children I had set the children a task to observe birds, how they fly, how they move, how they walk etc. I reminded the children as they went out on lunch break. On their return we took some time to describe and show some of the movements they had observed. We spoke about how birds move together in flocks. In the distance their detail cannot be seen but we recognize their V like shape moving in the sky. To further explore this image I gave the children small pieces of coloured sticky contact paper. The children cut 3 or 4 V shapes that the teacher and I stuck directly onto the window to create a flock of birds. Whilst we did this the children watched two short films, one on ‘murmuration’ and the other a excerpt from ‘Swan Lake’ showing the dancers bird-like movements.