BLOG: Arts Award Collaboration with The Auckland Project and Beamish Museum

14 February 2020

BLOG: Arts Award collaboration with The Auckland Project and Beamish Museum

By Simon Wooley and Debra Nicol

Last year, learning teams from The Auckland Project and Beamish Museum collaborated on an Arts Award Explore project. It was a fantastic and enlightening experience for both of us, which was inspired by the overlap we saw between our two organisations on the subject of mining, and specifically mining art.

Both of our organisations had previously delivered successful Discover level awards, and it was great working together on a first foray into Explore level – it meant we could support each other and share out the marking prior to moderation!

We worked with six County Durham schools – these were chosen as schools which had not previously engaged with either one or both of our organisations. This gave us the opportunity to maximise the impact of our project in terms of increasing children’s cultural capital. One of the schools told us that some of their Year 5 and 6 students had never had the opportunity to go on a school trip before!

The children, from Years 3 to 6, visited both the Mining Art Gallery and Beamish Museum as part of their award. At the Mining Art Gallery they explored a range of paintings, particularly focusing on the work of Tom McGuinness. For some of them this was their first trip to an art gallery and the children got to experience printing using Tom McGuinness’ own printing press. At Beamish Museum, the children focused on Norman Cornish, completing a sketching workshop and testing out their photography and drama skills in costume.

Back at school, the children did further research on one of our organisations and on one of the artists they had learned about. Each school then had the freedom to take the creation of artwork in their own direction. For Escomb Primary, this involved photography and silk painting, for Cleves Cross it was painting on canvas. At West Cornforth Primary, children produced clay sculptures and at Cockton Hill Juniors, the children worked on mixed-media pieces. Schools also chose to present their work in different ways, from temporary galleries in school, to a showcase for families at Auckland Tower.

The children all completed a log book, which had been pre-prepared, and marking these took a surprising amount of time – we were glad we were able to split this between the two of us! Reading the children’s feedback on the project was a highlight - most of this was really positive, as was the teachers’, and hopefully this will encourage them to engage with our organisations again on long-term projects. Teachers mentioned in their feedback that the children gained ‘an immense sense of pride’ from completing their art works, and said that ‘both the Mining Gallery and Beamish served as great inspiration’.

The moderation process was somewhat nerve-racking but our moderator was really friendly and helpful. We definitely learnt from this process. In future, we’d make sure to encourage teachers to keep everything, even rough work, to include in children’s portfolios – the log books which included attached artwork, photos or sketchbooks received the best feedback and it was clear that a fair bit of evidence is required for Explore level. 

The main benefit of this project for the schools involved was the enhancement it offered to their curricula, through the opportunity to take part in two visits over the course of one half-term. The young people were all really proud of what they produced and the project sparked an interest in taking art further for some of them. For the cultural organisations, we learnt a lot from working together and are keen to do this again in the future; our venues are very different but also complement each other, meaning a more in-depth engagement for the young people we work with.