Four locations, three days, one question - how is learning made?
From the 23-25 January we transformed the fifth floor of Tate Modern’s Switch House, into an interdisciplinary and intergenerational Pop-up School & Symposium.
Interrogating what a creative education could look like in 2017, last week students and staff from our creative continuum travelled to London’s Tate Exchange; an annual programme of international artists and collectives, working together to illuminate the value of art to society.
Deconstructing their creative practice under the public’s gaze, artists and curators as young as four through to Masters level study participated in collaborative making and discussion, exploring the gallery environment's effect on their chosen medium and meaning.
Day one’s Pop-up School focussed on process. Beginning with a blank canvas learning space, students and staff were encouraged to ‘Make, deconstruct, and make again’.
Over stunning views of the Thames skyline, the day’s first provocation came from Professor Andrew Brewerton – “Where is your learning horizon?”
After an inspiring roam through Tate’s permanent collections, students were given complete freedom to take control of their own creative learning. Building mark-making tools, paper installations and a graffiti wall, crammed with curious thoughts on the future of arts education.
Meanwhile, Symposium guests listened to Co-Founder of Civic Studio and Director at Strange Telemetry Maisie Bowes, discussing how community-led design and open research can build social change in her presentation ‘Jack(s) of all trades, master(s) of none’.
Irini Papadimitriou, Digital Programmes Manager at the V&A and Head of New Media Arts Development at Watermans, also spoke on the subject of “Re-making the art centre”. In the first afternoon, students crossed over into the symposium space with Plymouth School of Creative Art’s very own soapbox, debating our personal role in making learning and how adult intervention affects youth experience.
“This school has helped me so much. The learning experience is different, we’re taught to have an open mind about everything. In my old school, everything always had to be right but here we’re encouraged to make mistakes so that we can learn from them. Learning this way means that I have more of a voice.” - Rookie, Year 9, Plymouth School of Creative Arts
Continuing into Day two, our Pop-up School & Symposium broadcast live from Tate Modern to all three campuses in our creative continuum; Plymouth College of Art, Palace Court Pre-Degree Campus and Plymouth School of Creative Arts. Encouraging contributors from all over to digitally interrupt the physical with provocations sent via webcam and the hashtag #MakingLearning. Bring something, say something.
Provocateur Jo Hunter, Co-Founder of ‘64 Million Artists’, brought her campaign, to unlock the creative potential in every human in Britain, to life with the simplest of materials - play dough. Challenging the child in all of us, Jo’s focus on play and embracing vulnerability saw a room spanning generations create miniature sculptures together, discovering empowerment through ‘trying’.
Also joining us was Henry Ward, Head of Education at the Freelands Foundation, whose provocation ‘Not Teaching Art’ explored the transformational potential of creative learning and the future of arts education.
This was followed by ‘Making Possibility’, an aspirational talk by the Headmaster of Plymouth School of Creative Arts, Dave Strudwick, and an exclusive preview of a new film by award-winning architectural design firm Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios. This bold short film captures the philosophy and everyday life at The Red House, home to Plymouth School of Creative Arts. Watch in full here.
“The learning here was deep and profound, in such a variety of ways. I’m excited to think about what comes next.” – Dave Strudwick, Headteacher at Plymouth School of Creative Arts
The final day saw students debate and discuss the power of context, selecting work to temporarily reposition amongst the Tate Switch House’s esteemed sculpture rooms.
Extended Diploma Film, Animation & Media Production student Cecily invited guests to draw their memories on a shared mural. Discussing her experience at Tate she said: “I’ve learnt about collaboration and managing different roles. Here we have our own space, our own little creative home, which is really important. It’s empowering when you make, you feel very individual. This isn’t something anyone else has ever done before. It feels very unique.”
At the same time, postgraduate students elevated the mundane into interactive installation pieces, creating upcycled marble runs and 3D rooms.
Whilst building a geometric crawl space from paper, MA Fine Art student Paul Hillon said: "Interaction is so key, the value of a piece of art and the barriers that large institutions put in front of works of art, they don’t allow for human interaction”. On the subject of working outside his usual cohort...
“Once you get over the awe of the Turbine Hall and Switch House, this incredible environment very quickly disappears. The children here are bursting with energy and imagination. It’s made me realise I don’t need to formalise and plan an idea, just make.”
Enjoy photo highlights of our #MakingLearning Pop-up School & Symposium, and look out for future events near you by signing up to our newsletter, as we ask ‘What is your role from now on in making learning?’
Thank you to our kind sponsors Great Western Railway, and The Fine Art Collective for supporting our journey to Tate Exchange.
Join the conversation online and across social using #MakingLearning.
Photos by Sarah Packer & Andy Ford.