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Posted 15.05.18

Exploring identities in Plymouth, Massachusetts for Mayflower 400

By Kat Peberdy
To prepare for the upcoming Mayflower 400 commemorations, staff from Plymouth College of Art visited schools in Plymouth, Massachusetts, to lead a series of workshops exploring the notion of identity.

2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower, an English ship that famously transported the first English Pilgrims, from Plymouth, UK to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620.

The Mayflower 400 programme will deliver a world-class series of events, public art and wider content to commemorate this voyage, knitting together communities, inspiring creativity and culture, driving economic growth, and promoting understanding and education.

It will also recognise the impact of the Mayflower’s journey on Native American communities and address themes of colonialism and migration, providing an accurate and inclusive account of the Mayflower’s legacy.

Norman and Eleanor worked with students and teachers at the 12 schools in Massachusetts

BA (Hons) Printed Textile Design & Surface Pattern Technical Demonstrators Norman Buchan and Eleanor Thompson worked with children aged from 8 to 15 years old to use art as a means of communicating ideas of identity and exploring what it means to them.

Introducing the children to a range of new techniques, from collage to sublimation printing, Norman and Eleanor were working towards encouraging them to each produce a flag unique to their personalities. Starting with a mind map exploring elements of their appearance, beliefs and hobbies, the creative young students used this exercise to begin developing a visual representation of their identity.

Norman spoke of the highlights from the trip, “Seeing how much enthusiasm was present in the teachers, who were really driving this collaborative project forward with their students, was very encouraging.

“Also having conversations with the children as they respond to new ideas about identity and begin to scrutinise their existing concepts of what makes them unique was fascinating. The experience running the workshops has also allowed me to explore my own practice further, resolving issues and picking up new skills.”

Eleanor also felt the benefits of the trip, she said "The trip was a fantastic experience. The welcome we received from all the teachers and students was incredibly warm and the students were really engaged with the concept of the project, it was interesting to see how the idea of what made our identity changed as we worked with different age groups."

The next step in the project will see the Mayflower 400 committee appoint a dedicated artist to continue working with the 12 schools in the UK and the 12 schools in the US to create a large-scale artwork to be exhibited in 2020.

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