Monday, 25 November 2013


Saturday 23rd November saw a very exciting time for the arts. Prolific campaign artist Bob and Roberta Smith organised a great day for artists to come and celebrate being creative as well as supporting arts educators across the country.

The first ever Art Party Conference was held at Scarborough Spa, a venue known for party political broadcasts. The entire venue was filled with performance, music, discussions, activity, opportunity and ART!

20-21 Visual Arts Centre were really excited to have the opportunity to host a stall of our own, advertising the great work we do with our exciting exhibition programme and education menus.

Our Education Officer and Exhibitions Officer, Hayley McPhun and Dominic Mason took a selection of our touring exhibition brochures and some samples of Helen Snell's Burnt Out work.

The venue overlooked one of Scarborough's greatest views, along which artists were invited to promenade their artworks and celebratory placards responding to changes to the arts curriculum and increase in university fees. Hayley and Dominic stood at the top of the steps watching all the events unfold on the beach. They were joined by Fox Cam from Scarborough Museums Trust!

The central masterpiece was this raised platform, from which artists and speakers delivered their responses to changes in the arts over the coming years. Many of these speeches were greatly inspirational and empowered arts educators like ourselves. After the beach promenade, this masterpiece was added to, with all the brightly coloured artworks created by artists, venues, societies, galleries, politicians and creators; some of whom were well famed artists such as David Shrigley (nominated for this year's Turner Prize). What a spectacle it became!

Jessica Voorsanger MC'd the day's events between speakers and activities. She took the opportunity to dress as various great artists, here she was Salvador Dali. It was great fun watching Voorsanger change into these different personalities.

Cape UK introduced two young people to deliver their experiences of learning art and being positively encouraged into arts professions by art educators.

Panel talks included some high flying names in the arts world. Jeremy Deller and Cornelia Parker, along with Stephen Deuchar and Pavel Buchler, were invited to answer "What first turned you onto art?"

The panel was asked by an audience member whether artists should run for politics, where after some collective giggles it was decided that however fun it may be, the country may end up in rather a shambles.

Now onto the nitty gritty: Head of NSEAD, Lesley Butterworth was joined by a panel including artist Richard Wentworth and Axis Director Sheila McGregor, to have the conversation "How should art be taught in school?"

Panel member Mark Hudson opened with an interesting quote from what Hudson referred to as the "Scarborough Philosophy" developed by Victor Pasmore on opening the Scarborough Foundation course in Art and Design in 1953/54; Pasmore said of his work "It is determined not by the end, but by the beginning. It is determined not by the answer but by the questions."

Sheila McGregor then went on to speak about how art education should definitely include and celebrate the transferable skills of art:
  • problem solving
  • idea development
  • exposure to materials
For McGregor, children should:
  • leave school with vast portfolios of artwork
  • visit work by living artists in galleries
  • be taught by teachers who take part in regular teacher training
Sam Cairns of the Cultural Learning Alliance said that the question should not be How we teach art in schools, but Why we teach art in schools, and posed the following:
We should teach art in schools because:
  • there is a legal obligation to do so
  • art improves children's lives
  • art improves our futures - children's problem solving skills improve, meaning our future's will improve as a result of this
Cairns quoted some interesting statistics, one of which being that children and young people who are exposed to and engage in the arts are 20% more likely to vote, which has a big knock on effect for our economy.

Richard Wentworth was the final person to speak on the panel.

"Richard Wentworth has played a leading role in New British Sculpture since the end of the 1970s. His work, encircling the notion of objects and their use as part of our day-to-day experiences, has altered the traditional definition of sculpture as well as photography." - from this link.

Wenworth expressed his interest in arts to be taught with a slant of professionalisation. In a world where everything is attached to status and titles, art should be taught as a ladder that one can climb and learn from. Children should be encouraged to answer "I wonder what would happen if..."
Wentworth strongly believes that there needs to be a shift in the atmosphere to which schools approach teaching; there should be the opportunity to go outside and be shown how to light fires. Humanity exists on basic skills, and Wentworth believes that these basic skills aren't being taught in schools early enough. "There is nothing like witnessing. Most learning by children is SEEN and DONE."

Wentworth believes that we need to give time to each other, time is cultivated space and that children need both of these to learn and exist.

Whatever we choose to believe about art and however we choose take it into our lives, it is important to remain positive about teaching art in schools. We need to remain positive in using art as a tool of expression, as well as a means to educate on the many wonders of a child's world; history, science, geography, literacy and ART all centre around what makes us human, what makes us individual and what makes us make decisions. These subjects should all be celebrated equally and teachers should be empowered by art and empowered to teach it well with curiosity, excitement and intrigue at the core of delivery.

Hayley, our Education Officer with one of her heroes, Bob and Roberta Smith, who engineered the entire day.