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Artist Educator, Rosemary Harris, tells us about her time working on the Start project over the past three years in our most recent blog post.  

Three years as one of the team of artists working on the Start project (as local schools send children pouring through the Jerwood Gallery doors) has been a creative joy. Having watched the gallery being built, my pleasure at introducing the beautiful building and its inspirational contents to local schools at times seems only topped by the children's enthusiasm for what they encounter. What can compete with seeing so many hands go up when you ask how many of them are visiting an art gallery for the very first time? Their excitement at discovering that they have a place in that world is matched by the myriad ways in which that world - of art - continues to surprise, challenge and delight.

In my time on the Start project I have worked with literally hundreds of schoolchildren, from Y2s through to secondary. We have made poetry, stories, collages, drawings, swirly ribbon art on the gallery floors, tone poems, mystery trails with Post-its, and so much more besides. Teaching children that their own response to what is in front of them is the most valuable starting point in appreciating and engaging with 'art' is a privilege. Having a creative dialogue with the art they see, using the tools for active responses through making their own work rather than passive viewing, means they have in so many cases broken down the barrier in their own minds between 'artist' and 'viewer'.

A wonderful result of this process was evident when one of the schools I worked with earlier this year wrote to Quentin Blake and sent him some of their work which had been inspired by his exhibition during their first visit. When Quentin Blake wrote back to them saying how much he had enjoyed their work, an invaluable gift had been given to them - of making art and artists not removed from them, from their young lives, but real, present and willing to respond. The children were thrilled, and I was thrilled for them.

11 March, 2015
Written by Rosemary Harris