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Rosie O’Donovan, Learning and Engagement Officer, Kettle’s Yard and Kaitlin Ferguson, Project Artist
In June 2016, Kettle’s Yard partnered with the University of Cambridge Primary School for a week of art activity based on the artworks of Alfred Wallis. Kettle’s Yard installed three Wallis paintings in the school, and Year 1 and 2 worked with artist Kaitlin Ferguson on a range of creative responses, ranging from play-based learning, Philosophy for Kids and hands-on workshops. As Kaitlin explains:
“Alfred Wallis is one of my favourite painters and one of the things I love most about his work is how accessible it is for children; creating triggers which let their imaginations run.
I wanted to frame the project in a way which allowed the children to experience these paintings on as many levels as possible; through visual exploration of the real paintings in their school, sensory play and art making. The aim was to develop personal connections with these paintings, which would inspire exciting creative outcomes.
The University of Cambridge Primary School’s ethos of play inspired the structure of workshops as it was important that the children began each session by playing with materials which engaged and unlocked their creativity. This sensory exploration was of materials which represented textures which might be found within Wallis’s coastal landscapes; whether this was touching a wooden boat panel, feeling ocean spray or drawing fishing netting with our eyes closed, we used sensory play to trigger our ideas which we then developed throughout the sessions.
Following on from this we produced a wide range of artistic outcomes for an exhibition at the school’s Festival of Sky, a celebration of their first year of opening. This included Alfred Wallis inspired wallpaper, made with relief printing techniques which framed the paintings, as well as sculptures of boats, waves and a lighthouse. Teaching the children a wide range of artistic techniques in a range of materials allowed them to experiment with different outcomes for their ideas.
Alongside these workshops the children also had philosophical debates about the emotions Wallis might of been feeling while he was painting the works; thinking about his life as a fisherman and whether he experienced loneliness. From this the students wrote poems which were inscribed onto sailboats which sat alongside their other artworks in the display.
The project was a joy to be a part of because it brought together works which are truly important to me, in a special setting with children who were completely inspired by them.”
This project is part of Kettle’s Yard’s celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of becoming part of the University of Cambridge.