Interesting And Weird At The Same Time

February 17 – March 26 2017                                                                                                                      at The LAB Gallery

IAWATST is a collaborative exhibition curated by the children of Central Model Senior School and organised by the Office of Public Works, the Department of Finance, and the LAB Gallery, and is part of the VTS [Visual Thinking Strategies] initiative.

We are delighted to have been invited to collaborate on this important exhibition which offers an opportunity to introduce two public collections to new audiences. The OPW and DoF process of collecting has been vital in investing in the work of artists often at early stages of their careers. The possibility of developing an annual exhibition and catalogue provides an opportunity to offer fresh ways of looking at the work and invites new audience responses to contribute to the legacy of the collections.

Over the past two years, the children of Central Model Senior School have been working with Lynn McGrane, a trained VTS facilitator. In their sessions with Lynn, a core value is offering permission to wonder which allows for individual responses to be validated and multiple perspectives to be respected. Listening to each other is key. Their teachers have been telling us (anecdotally) of the children’s noticable increase in respect and tolerance for each other’s opinions though it might be different from their own. In particular, they have stated the importance for the children to learn to articulate and stand up for what they believe in as an important life skill, while at the same time being tolerant of diverse perspectives. There are 17 different nationalities in the classroom in Central Model School. Irish art history or even western art history is not their history. Together we are learning from each other. Visual Thinking Strategies has been the scaffolding which has allowed us to support the children’s perspectives to emerge, rather than us offering (or imposing) our views and our version of our history and art history. In the course of our work together, the children’s fresh perspectives on the art has sometimes tentatively expeanded their gentle call for their right to feel safe and have a ‘good life’ in their neighbourhood. We are in awe of their inner strength and our journey to Belfast reminded us how much we are learning from the children. This impacts how we, as arts and cultural organisations,teachers, schools, youth service workers, early childcare providers, artists and local government, make decisions.

In the making of this exhibition, our curators, children from the central model Senior School, chose from a shortlist of over one hundred works through a process of looking, personal responses and collective discussion led by Lynn McGrane. We would like to thank the OPW and DoF for creating this opportunity and the children and teachers of the Central Model Senior School for taking on the challenge. We hope you will take the time, inspired by our young curators, to take a closer look at these works and give yourself permission to wonder.

The ethos of Project 20/20 requires time and space for reflection and levels of risk taking. It requires us, as adults, to be open to learning and receiving critical feedback. It requiresartistic ambition. We are brave enough to try… and to fail… and to try again. In the true spirit of enquiry-led practice, the space of the LAB leads us to new discoveries as we test practical strategies for bridging the world of our children’s imaginings to build for a future that we, as adults, cannot imagine.

Sheena Barratt and Liz Coman.

The LAB Gallery.