Category Archives: Education & Learning

Session Six- ‘Sense of Self’

 

When I work with children one of my ambitions is to create new opportunities for them to develop and explore a sense of self. An objective of Playing with Art and Architecture allowed the children to explore elements of who they are and how they expressed themselves through a visual language. We had many interesting conversations with the children in how symbols, emojis, objects, text, materials and textures say or do not say what and how (they wanted) to communicate to others. As the children’s artworks were nearing completion they became better able to make clearer choices of how best to simplify their ideas or present a suggestion or offer something more ambiguous to the viewer rather than provide all of the answers.

For our final session we revisited The LAB on Foley Street. We were based in one of the very large studio spaces on the top floor. This was a practical hands on session that enabled the children to complete their work whilst being observed by parents, siblings, DCU’s CTY staff, a representative from the Matheson Foundation (who supported the programme) and The LAB’s art’s team. The latter led the observers through the exhibitions in The LAB prior to joining the children who were busy at work in the workshop space upstairs. We used the term observed to allow a more informal manner that would assist casual conversations to develop. I felt it was more beneficial to allow the observers to wander throughout the room and talk to the children as they worked rather than inviting the children to present their work.

In parallel to the completion of their individual artworks I invited the children to create a new artwork together as a group. They had to design and build a structure from specific materials together. This would be a group piece that would challenge what the children had learnt about construction and form whilst responding individually to their experience of the six weeks. As they created the piece the observers were also invited to respond to what they saw in the room by adding to the piece.

I felt proud of what the children had achieved and how they had engaged in the process. At the beginning the process raised a few skeptical comments even if was just in the form of a raised eyebrow from the children. It challenged their ideas of contemporary art and demanded that they had to think through a concept rather than starting with a drawing as they were used too. The children worked diligently through the six weeks and all of their ideas were completely unique to them. I hoped that the children took from the course a sense of their capabilities and enjoyment of their uniqueness as well as a new appreciation of contemporary art. It is also very important to recognize that the level of work could not have been achieved without the ongoing support of Natalie from The LAB and Roisin from DCU. Their practical assistance and ability to communicate with the children was crucial. When the sessions took place in The LAB gallery the Arts Team engaged with the children that in reflection gave the children an understanding of the importance of how The LAB sees and works with children.

Playing With Art and Architecture was set within a programme of specially designed course for children across different subjects at the Centre of Talented Youth in DCU. A few weeks after the course finished the children were invited to receive their certificates from Dr. Colm O’Rielly and Dr. Leo Varadkar TD at CTY’s Celebration Event in DCU along with their parents and almost 300 other children participating on other courses.

 

Session Five – The Everyday In Art

This is Josh

This was our final Playing with Art and Architecture session based in DCU. We had been using a lecture theatre in one of the science buildings on campus. We had all been reading the rather odd signs about the building telling us which lift to use if certain chemicals were present! I wondered whether the students using this facility looked at us doing “odd” things too. The children were completely caught up in the thinking and making of their odd and individual sculptural pieces. In such a short space of time they have honed their ability to develop a concept and take it through a process where it gathers the momentum of making a piece of artwork; the logistical stumbling blocks of the making and experimenting pushing their ideas to the final stages of where and when they instinctively knew when “its done”.

Over the weeks I had placed postcard images of contemporary art works on the tables. I invited the children to look at these as they worked. As with the VTS (Visual Thinking Strategies) approach the questions I asked were open ended “what do you see in the picture?” when the children initiated the question I used the language of their question to allow them to look at why they had asked the question. All of these discussions had taken place on a one-to-one or small group basis. There had not been the opportunity to have a group discussion on contemporary art works but we had discussed the works being made by the different children together as a group using the VTS approach. The children’s ability and confidence to talk about their work increased over the weeks. Their language and vocabulary became more diverse and some of the children were able to draw parallels with others pieces being created by other children in the group. I was surprised to see so many of the boys use experiences of the everyday as the stimulus for their work rather than the girls. My experience to date would have suggested that girls use the everyday and the boys use history and fantasy/super natural as their stimulus.

The detail and precision of what some of the children wanted to achieve was frustrating for some of the children. Tom’s weaving to recreate a prehistoric village was testing his patience, he was tempted to simplify the piece but found this did not depict his idea well enough so he persevered. Dominique completely pulled her piece apart and rebuilt it from scratch. Killian put the car on the pinnacle of his car sale showroom and he was ready to add his text. Tori made her paper-mache piece for her building at home. Natalie who is normally based in The LAB had worked closely with her to ensure that the complicated piece would fit together. Both Natalie and Roisin who is based in DCU had been working extremely well with the children. We have 16 children in the group all with very ambitious ideas and complicated builds. This has demanded a lot of extra adult support to work with the children. Having this adult to child ratio enabled the children to create their ambitious pieces.

The children were very keen to invite their parents and siblings to The LAB where the final session took place. Yvanne from DCU’s Talented Youth Department was instrumental in ensuring that the logistics of getting everyone from A to B and back again took action and organized parents and children for our final session.

The Docklands Skyline

Session Four – Growing An Idea

It is wonderful to see when an idea takes root and grows. At times a child can struggle with understanding of what forming a concept means and how then to transfer their ideas into a visual form. We had spent much time in the previous session teasing out ideas and exploring the potential use of different materials. Each idea was formed around the design of a building. This building could be a representation of an existing building or come from their imagination. I asked the children though not to recreate a building that they had seen in a film or read about as this would influence the narrative that would be contained within their buildings or structures.

The children all worked at different paces. For some they became quite caught up in the idea and others in the construction. For most of the children they had never worked in 3D. Accessing and exploring the range of materials enabled the children to find the right material for their piece and with great precision. As the children developed their builds so too did their ideas, no two pieces were the same. Jack’s piece very quickly mirrored his very simple sketch and indicated his observational skills of Dublin’s architectural landscape. As their characters and narratives developed I began to get to know the children a little better.

There were some very interesting storylines developing. Michael’s piece was called “The Sad Man” his character was extremely thought through, showing an acute observation of reality. Killian’s piece demonstrated a great sense of humor, Tori’s depicted popular culture and Andrea’s celebrated friendship and Dominique’s showed her interest in fantasy fiction.

All of the children work intensively and the one and half hours together went incredibly fast. Some of the children were working on parts of their pieces at home. Their confidence was steadily growing and so too was their vocabulary for describing space, construction, textures, and buildings. The children asked to increase the course to two sessions a week that I took as a good sign that they were enjoying the course. The following session was the last one based in DCU as our final session saw the children return to The LAB. Having met the wider team there on their first visit the children were keen to return to The LAB and have their work seen by the staff of a contemporary art gallery.

Testing the structures

Session Three – Constructing Our Ideas

My approach to exploring contemporary art with children is to identify a core experience or feeling that evokes a response from the child. This may take the form of laughter, mischief, the recollection of a story or event, annoyance but essentially what happens is that they identify something specific and unique to them. I believe that their ability to explore and understand a concept is to ensure that it can be connected to an experience of their own. This also transfers to work they will create themselves. Work created by the child based on their own experiences will delve far deeper delivering a much richer experience for the child that is reflected in the quality of the work they produce.

Session Three was all about making a building in 3D in a world of fantasy or fiction that would host a character and that character needed a narrative. The children were familiar with comics and story boarding in 2D but this task asked them to think about how this would work in 3D. I had brought a variety of materials with me of which many were transparent and suitable to write and draw on. Within the structure of their buildings the walls, floors or windows would provide a canvas for developing or depicting the narrative within their buildings. I wanted the children to understand that contemporary art often incorporates lots of different forms from text, to sound, to pages of the artist’s sketchbook to using found objects; there are no limits to what and how something can be used.

I worked one to one with the children discussing their ideas as the sketched. As the ideas formed we looked at the construction and materials. Lots of attention was given to the technical construction of their pieces, I wanted the children to focus on finding solutions for their constructions whilst learning practical skills. I was also aware that the children would need to see the beginning of their ideas realized in 3D before the end of this session. Each piece was completely different from the next and this demanded a lot of extra support that came from Natalie and Roisin. The buildings started with a polystyrene block that is easy to build up from and quickly the structures rose from the white blocks. I was quite astonished at the speed of which some of the children worked both in their ideas and their constructions. As the children worked I discussed the narrative for their characters with them. I noticed that the boys in particular had begun to delve quite deeply into the personality and scenario of their chosen character. I asked the children to develop this aspect for the next session and I took a long list of materials that the children felt they needed for their work for our next session.

Moving

Session Two- Rethinking

My collaborative work with children is an intrinsic part of my practice. Where possible the children and I set the direction and content of what we would do together as the sessions progress. For Playing with Art and Architecture I had designed the course prior to meeting with the children. Architecture and space would create a focus point and we would work on scale, constructing both on a miniature scale and on a very large scale the latter would demand that the children would work together possibly creating two large pieces of work. Session Two allowed me to pitch my ideas to the children and to figure the logistics of the space we were be working in.

As with all groups of children embarking on a new course the participants may change a few times, Session Two offered a few new faces. We started with a couple of simple drawing exercises, self-portraits on a reflective surface and life size body mark making on a 8metre roll of paper placed on the floor. From here we took the 2D nature of the drawing to 3D. Using tape, string and our bodies we connected together creating forms and shapes. Initially we worked as one group but we divided into three smaller groups. Some of the children seemed to be quite self-conscious as we drew awareness to the body. At this point I asked the children to come out of the pieces and find other anchor points within the room to build their sculpture pieces, shortening this activity. On reflection the concept of this activity was perhaps too abstract and quite challenging for the children to grasp for a second session.

Unfortunately the technology on the day failed us and we were unable to look at the digital images of 3 contemporary art works I had brought with me. Instead we discussed my ideas and their ideas for the course. The children were particularly interested in learning how to build the 3D structures that I had suggested, on their own and not in groups. The children also wanted to expand their knowledge of and skill level in the drawing styles and themes of their choice. I also observed that many of the children were very driven in developing creative projects in their spare time and not in school time. I wanted to be able to integrate their ideas and choices with mine whilst broadening their exposure and understanding of contemporary art. The logistics of the space itself also impacted on my initial ideas hence I had to rethink my approach.

Capturing the character

Session One – Watching the Dynamic

Playing with Art and Architecture was primarily based in DCU itself but the first and last sessions were held DCC Arts Office on Foley Street. I was aware that for many of the children that this would be their first experience of a contemporary art gallery. Session One would be a first on many levels. It would be the first time that the 5th class children would meet each other and the first time that I would meet them.

The session started in The LAB Gallery’s larger exhibition space on the ground floor with the focus on a practical activity within the space. Using the large windows as their canvas I gave the children clear directions as to what they were required to do allowing the exhibition to be stumbled across almost accidently. Leaving the exhibition in the background allowed the children to look at the work in their own time. I hoped its content would evoke the children to ask questions or make comments about the work. So Through The Singing Land He Passed, Sabina Mac Mahon was the exhibition installed in the gallery in April and it was both intriguing yet perplexing and I was unsure of how and what the children would make of it.

As the children drew portraits of each other through the glass panes their laughter echoed throughout the space. Not the giggles and sniggers brought about by the classical nude sculptures of museums but roars of laughter fell about. This was the first time I had attempted this particular approach to portraits. We all learnt a little about looking, perspective and drawing but the most successful elements was the laughter. It was at that moment I noticed how the presence of laughter is to set the group at ease allowing the children to take in what they were surrounded by.

As directed by the VTS approach the children were invited to look at the work and they were encouraged to ask questions if they had any. As the children drew they explored the work asking many questions and offering comments. These I responded to on a one-to-one or smaller group basis. One of the children wondered whether one of the pieces of work was finished and whether it was or wasn’t why do galleries only show finished work? She had a point I have been wondering on this question since?

We looked briefly at John Beattie, curated by Sheena Barrett and Donal Maguire the second exhibition in The LAB Gallery. The dynamic of the group was eager and open and here again the children looked and asked many questions. This show used slide projectors of the old fashioned type rather than digital technology. An element of what the children saw was an artist’s use of small sketchbooks to record the artist’s daily observations. It was these two particular elements that we worked with, integrating these ideas onto the portraits we took upstairs with us. They worked quickly and eagerly as I observed their dynamic and listened to their chat until it was time for the children to go back into the rain with new sketchbooks in hand and enthusiasm and intrigue in their minds.

The children’s drawing skills were at a strong level and many were interested in drawing emojis, cartoons and fantasy. My plan was to introduce thinking and building in 3D, using ourselves and the buildings in DCU as our starting point. Based on the strength of questions asked by the children throughout this session I felt confident that the children would be able for and enjoy this task.

 

Investigating the space

Introduction- Playing with Art and Architecture

 

Playing with Art and Architecture was a new six-week contemporary visual art course for children within Project 20/20. This was a new partnership with the Centre of Talented Youth in Dublin City University. The course focused on offering a practical hands-on approach to exploring contemporary art but it also aimed to build-on the children’s visual literacy skills and to increase their confidence in talking about and discussing contemporary art. The 16 children, all in 5th class were nominated from 8 DEIS schools in the Dublin1 area.

Prior to facilitating this course I had just completed Visual Thinking Strategies training with DCC Arts Office and The LAB Gallery. I was eager to integrate this with the making aspect of the sessions. Visual Think Strategies (VTS) is a methodology that invites the viewer, children and adults to explore artworks through a line of questioning that is based on their own experience and understanding; they become much more invested this way than by being given facts, figures, context and history by someone else. It shows children that they have the means and the where-with-all to interpret art themselves thus demystifying the gallery experience. This approach works in sync with my approach to working in collaboration with children an intrinsic part of my own practice.

 

Wild Things

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The children of Little Learners DALC meet ‘Wild Things’!

Written by Anne-Marie Dixon

The children of little learners DALC were introduced to ‘Wild Things’ in our setting on June 29th. The children were first introduced to the lovely Seodin, Liz and Natalie, who greeted the children through song and actions. The children were instantly intrigued. There were nine children present ranging in ages from 2 years 3 months to 4 years and 2 months. Our setting, for the occasion was stripped of furniture to ensure no additional stimulus would take away from the session. Due to Irish weather we were unable to meet at the Lab studio so were very grateful the team could join us!

Seodin, staff and the children gathered in three groups on the floor where they were introduced individually to natural materials for play; media included a generous amount of lentils, kidney beans and chick peas. The children were encouraged to touch, feel, and allow the grains sieve through their fingers. Every child and adult participated in this sensory and explorative play. Large sheets of white paper were provided for the children and adults to create together and individually. We made hand imprints, flowers, people, wind, snow, dinners, rainbows and so much more. The children’s imaginations were ignited which led to them taking the lead in developing and expanding the play. The children ventured from group to group mixing and playing with all three media.

Seodin then introduced the children to clay, she captured their attention by using exaggerated movements when pulling, and teasing the clay apart. Every child was given a piece of clay. This more robust natural material invited more physical play; the children pulled, rolled, squeezed and manipulated the clay.

The adults stepped back and the children were allowed to play uninterrupted for a period of time with no restrictions, no instructions, just the freedom to play and explore with the natural materials.

One major observation in the introduction to ‘Wild Things’ was the surge of language used during the session. The children were keen to show and tell you what they had made, they discussed shapes, planned their play, and used language associated with mathematics such as ‘heavy, light, big, small, etc…

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Some children were involved in deep play until asked questions about what they were making:

Halle was observed to be playing quietly by herself using all three media. When asked what she was making she said it was “fire”. She pointed to the lentils (orangey, red in colour). Rolled pieces of clay were placed carefully on top of her fire which she described as sticks and she talked about how playing with fire was dangerous and her Daddy says she is ” not to touch” (Photo 1). Jerome Bruner, a child psychologist, talks of play as ‘memory in action’ and discusses how ‘children play in order to remember and think about events and experiences in the lives… in order to make sense of them’ (cited in Smidt, 2011:15).

The children participated in dramatic and symbolic play, this promotes abstract thinking. When we saw Leo use rounded clay as a football, and Davin talking on the phone using a large piece of clay they are using symbols. This shows the preliminary stage of learning through symbols, the next stage for some of our children is primary school where the children will use letters, numbers and words as these are real symbols for real objects and quantities.

Sam created his own sculpture where we, being adults, presumed it was a snowman or person. However this was a real lesson for adults not to make presumptions about children’s play, just because he made something doesn’t mean it needed to be something. Sam had no name for it, he pointed to specific parts and named them as a window and a door. (Photo 2) Davin’s masterpiece was also ‘a secret’. (photo 3)

“…[the] process of play is more important than the product”

(Sylva et al, 1976:244)

The session ended when the children came together to discuss what we all created with the materials. The children had a fantastic morning, and enjoyed ‘playing’ with Seodin, Liz and Natalie. We all came together to say goodbye through song again and a promise of playing together again.

Anne-Marie Dixon

 

BRAINBOX

WHO WE ARE

We are Kirsty Marsden, Huan Zhang and Tatjana Trogrlic, the design team of the DIT MA in Professional Design Practice 2016.

IN THE BEGINNING

We were lucky enough to be given this great opportunity to design a creative and informative piece for Project 20/20, to hand to the audience of the MuseumNext event 2016.

During our meetings with Liz Coman, of Project 20/20, at The LAB, Dublin, we discussed various concepts that would represent both a fun and an informative delivery for our solution in order to promote Project 20/20, a project that centres around working with young children, by means of Visual Thinking Strategies, with contemporary art as its focus.

OUR MISSION

To produce a design strategy and physical piece that would be delivered in conjunction with a presentation about the project, at the MuseumNext event, April 2016.

OUR APPROACH

We started with research in order to ascertain if there were similar projects of this nature in and around the Dublin area and, further a field, in order to evaluate how they present themselves visually. Furthermore, we discovered visual literacy appeared in various establishments all around the world, but the biggest discovery was the great benefits it provides to its participants.

After extensive discussions of this topic, the team started to develop several concepts and produced various design solutions, assessing which of them would prove most effective to communicate the message of Project 20/20.

We then developed three ideas, which were as follows:

Engagement, Development and Thinking.

Even though the project encompasses all three, we felt engagement was the strongest of the concepts, as without engagement, nothing can move forward. Visual literacy engages children and teachers alike, and is beneficial in terms of learning, communication, development of critical thinking and, creativity. Development is also suitable, since children can develop a varied range of skills through visual literacy that can prepare them for the future. Visual literacy also inspires us to think divergently and encourages us to consider different solutions for one problem.

We came to the realisation that, having the ability to think in many different and critical ways was truly a gift, and therefore, built up our concepts around this.

OUR MEETING

When we next met with Liz, we presented our three potential concepts, explaining each in turn. After much discussion, the idea of the ‘gift of thought’ was decidedly the strongest solution to develop, and the idea of a gift, that could be produced in an engaging and fun manner, that would represent the essence of Project 20/20, would indeed an exciting challenge to accept.

We had explained that some people in this world are not blessed with freedom to think for themselves and due to the nature of visual literacy and its benefits, as an alternative form of education, it aided such things as; self expression, development of individual thought processes, and, enablement of interpretation. Therefore, the gift of thought seemed like the most viable concept with a sincere message.

However, considering how the gift of thought could be presented and worked into something that could be rolled out across a number of platforms proved a little difficult at first, as thoughts are something that really only exist in our minds and aren’t tangible, so we needed to first decide how the gift of thought could be represented.

Throughout our presentations, we used an infographic of the brain to show which areas were stimulated by art and creativity. This gave us a perfect starting point, as we decided a representation of a brain, in some form, could be utilised to show thought, and for the gift, would be presented in some form of gift packaging.

INDUSTRY SPECIALIST

Gallery owner and designer, Oonagh Young, sat in on some of our design sessions as our industry specialist, to discuss our progress throughout the project. She mentioned one thing that stuck our minds…

“not all art is flat, don’t be afraid of it. It can be whatever you want it to be”.

Bearing this in mind, we started to look at things from another perspective and took a different direction.

NOT ALL ART IS FLAT

We started to think a lot differently about everything as this was the point what seemed to shift things and open up new possibilities to us.

During our research, we had stumbled across a pop up book and even though we were quite drawn to the simplistic and childlike idea of its contents, we hadn’t thought there was any way that a pop up element could be relevant to the promotion of Visual Literacy and our gift concept.

Instead we had still been thinking in the terms of flat and unusual visuals, to create a focal point for the MuseumNext event. We were thinking so hard on how to design something that was aesthetically interesting in a flat and traditional way, we hadn’t thought of designing something where the shape and physical appearance was the interesting part.

A FRAMEWORK TO BUILD UPON

In one of our previous briefs, we had introduced a pattern into the design work which, had opened up many possibilities for the visual side of the design solution.

Thinking back, a pattern had previously given us a grid system and a framework to build upon, so we employed the same train of thought with this brief, as having a framework, gave us massive scope for the visual solution.

There were the recurring questions we asked of ourselves regarding this brief, how could it prove fun and bring joy to the viewer, how would it relate to contemporary art, how do we transport the viewer to a child’s mindset in order to provoke empathy and remember how they felt as a child. How did they see the world, what were their hopes, what did they want to be when they got older, what did they find fun, did anyone listen to their ideas, were they given the freedom to think for themselves?

We needed to feed and satisfy all of these thoughts into a concept and design which would give us adaptability, longevity and aesthetical appeal throughout the life of Project20/20.

There were also, many things we demanded of our work throughout the design stages and by asking such questions, we were able to narrow our solution and focus.

Whatever we produced would need to make the audience feel something, make them look at the information differently and visually, it must appear different to what they view on a regular basis.

We wanted to provoke questioning and spark imagination and make the audience feel something, just as a piece of art would in Visual Thinking Strategies.

DEVELOPMENT

We decided to use a visual of a brain for the initial introduction of the project at the MuseumNext event, because our brain is where all thought begins.

Looking at visuals in the early education area and early learning tools, we came across many images of building blocks, a classic depiction of early education, and something that our research had shown repeatedly.

This sparked off another train of thought with regards to our framework and the visual concept. Children enjoy playing games, which related to the fun aspect we wanted to promote, they are also are exposed to a lot of technology, computer games, online games, apps, etc, and we live in an age where technology is improving constantly. However, when we were younger, games and technology were not as developed as they are now, and in relation, this is how we all start our lives, developing as we grow and absorbing information.

Taking into consideration all of our thoughts and research findings, we developed the gift concept further and produced a gift envelope, with a pattern made of coloured blocks.

The coloured blocks making up the pattern have a few meanings.

They represent early learning, (ABC blocks), early technology (8-bit games), they are brightly coloured as are most childrens toys, and, they also represent the child.

All of the different colours represent the different children participating in VTS within the area and the different colours represent the different ways in which they think. They also represent the (building) blocks of the community, as a focus of Project 2020 is to engage and connect the local community with contemporary art. The different cultures of the children involved in the project are also represented by the different coloured blocks and finally, the colouring also represents our brain activity when it is exposed to creativity and art, as the colours represent the different and alternate possibilities we are encouraged to engage with when exposed to art throughout the VTS process.

To emphasise the thought part of the concept, we incorporated a pop up of a brain infographic, (which employs the squares and is also reminiscent of early technology, before extensive programming). Therefore, the pop up represents the undeveloped brain of a child, before it has been programmed with knowledge, and uses the pop up to represent childrens books/ childlike aspect, and this pop up reveals itself when we open the envelope.

The pop up gives the gift another dimension and movement, which makes it more engaging and this also relates to the VTS, as an alternative method of education with another dimension to it. Rather than learning through the word alone, children learn visually and explore, both on their own and in a group. By creating interest, the viewer is engaged and intrigued by difference of the piece, looking at it in a different way and curiosity is sparked. Therefore, the features and benefits of the VTS process are resonated in the physical make up of the piece itself.

There is also the aspect of the ‘prominent’ piece, (the pop up detail), as this relates to the exposure of the process itself, as it is becoming more prominent as time goes on and, showing evidence to support improved academia in relation to the process.

Therefore, we felt the visuals and the concept fitted the brief and the process quite well, as this piece, in its design and aesthetics, can be open to interpretation by the viewer, just as contemporary art can be and the visual material used throughout the VTS process.

CONCLUSION

There are a great many choices of how the ‘visual brain’ could potentially be developed in order to represent our thought processes and brain activity in relation to VTS. There could be animations for digital use, installations and sculpture to occupy the gallery space and this concept, could not only be used to represent VTS and skill development, which help in other subjects, but artworks, sculptures and the visual application of this concept could also be used to facilitate teaching other subjects.

The team feel extremely privileged to have been asked to not only work on this project, but to also provide artwork for the MuseumNext event and, write this blog. It has given us great creative freedom, enabled us to experiment massively and given us the chance to use our existing skills and knowledge, as well as developing so much more throughout the research and development stages. Above all else, Brainbox has been one of the most enjoyable experiences we have had and have loved every minute of it, and we wish Project 20/20 great success over the next few years.

Thank you

Kirsty, Huan and Tanja.

2002-2016 ‘Seen but not heard’

The attached article ‘Fostering Adult Literacy in Art Museums‘ was published in 2004 in the Journal of Visual Literacy for the International Visual Literacy Association. It offers a synopsis of my Masters in Museum Studies Thesis at John F. Kennedy University, Berkeley, California. Reading the article afresh today, I am, once again, struck by how loaded words like ‘literacy’ and ‘visual literacy’ are.

How varied their interpretation can be depending on the context. Overclaiming the benefits and/or transformative impact of visual art, by pointing out the interconnection between language development and visual literacy, can be precarious. Rather, articulating nuanced perspectives by what we mean in visual arts practice about our understanding of visual literacy and how we are experiencing it happening ‘live’ in Project 20/20 best exercised as reflective practice.

It seems timely to post the article here today and to remember the early stages of this research. We are about to embark on a new phase of work for Project 20/20 with a Visual Thinking Strategies Beginners Practicum Training and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. Reflecting and remembering as we continue to move and progress offers us space for more realistic expectations to emerge.

Journal of Visual Literacy – Fostering Adult Literacy in Art Museums by Liz Coman