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In this week's blog, Start Artist Educator, Joseph Coelho, talks about his most recent session with local school, ARK Little Ridge Primary Academy.

'Art, art, art, I just love art!'

As the students filed out of the studio at Jerwood Gallery in their fire-truck red uniforms they volunteered all manner of statements like the one above through beaming smiles. All the adults were smiling too, the sessions had gone great.

We're into the third year of the Start Project at Jerwood Gallery where artists work with local school children using the gallery as stimulus.

I have loved the work - galleries are such rich environments for stimulating ideas, and in my own work as a writer I often visit galleries to find inspiration from paintings for both poetry and plays.

Our latest session involved using the paintings to inspire pieces of performance based writing. The children looked at, talked about and pondered upon sculptures and paintings, thinking about what the character of the piece had felt, thought and done. Without prompting the children, they started to tell us fantastic and emotional stories of monsters feeling alone, of old ladies that had found peace with the idea of death and of three headed pylon beasts!

The children were hooked and eagerly got into writing their own monologues, duologues and choral pieces that they performed within the gallery within minutes of having created them, and at times in front of an impromptu audience! I was genuinely impressed with the quality and depth of their writing, testament to my deep belief that literacy, getting kids to write, can be child's play if it is approached in a playful manner - and if we remove writing from the shackles of “pen to paper”.

It should be broken down into stimulus, composition, transcription and product. Here's how we broke down the writing into these four segments at the gallery…

Stimulus - Paintings from Jerwood Gallery and performed extracts from my plays, Bye Bye Planet Earth (The Unicorn Theatre) and The Hairdoo That Got Away (Polka Theatre, York Theatre Royal, Theatre Royal Plymouth).

Composition - Talking about the paintings, performing in front of the paintings (note taking on clip boards).

Transcribing - Writing on what and with what? We gave the students A3 pictures and tracing paper and asked them to write out their monologues, duologues or choral pieces onto the tracing paper, whilst following the lines of the picture beneath. They used colouring pencils to do this which resulted in a word art picture.

Product - By the end of the session students had early versions of spoken word pieces and word art pieces to take back to class and develop - all produced in a two hour session.

I have my next session at the gallery with a school in May. I planned the session for them the other day with the class teacher - we strolled around the new exhibition of works from the Fleming Collection and the Edward Burra display on the first floor. The paintings suggested narratives to us, so we're going to run a session where the children get to create their own stories and perform their own spoken word pieces using a prop of wearable art that they will create on the day. I can't wait to see what they come up with!
24 April, 2015
Written by Joseph Coelho