Welcome to the website of Susan M. Coles, Artist & Arts, Creativity & Educational Consultant.

Posted in Good News Bits

It’s always important to remember the positive moments and encounters when we seem to be surrounded by the doom and gloom that is pre election, post Brexit, and crippling austerity measures. So I’m not going to talk about the doom and gloom, I’m going to talk about being inspired by hearts and souls and by art.

In 2016, Natalie Walton (Learning and Outreach Manager, Arts Council Collection, National Partners Programme) and Natalie Rudd (Senior Curator Arts Council Collection) asked me that be a part of a Teacher Study Day, which was to celebrate the Arts Council Collection and a special exhibition (“A Night In The Museum) at The Longside Gallery situated in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which had been curated by artist Ryan Gander.

It was a very happy and successful day and there were many positive comments, and then (inevitably) requests for another one! So I was delighted to be asked to be part of the 2017 event, building on some of the work we did in 2016 and extending the programme so that teachers would also get to visit the National Art Education Archive, also based at YSP. We had a great, diverse, group of teachers who signed up for this, all happy to give up a day at the weekend for their own development and enjoyment ,and and we were fully booked up. For me it’s always exciting to meet old friends and (importantly) to make new ones. You get such a buzz from being around people who share your interest and passion about art teaching. It feeds the soul. It allows people to reflect on why they do what they do, in challenging times.

My own introductory talk was centered around the current situation in the U.K. with our education policies being driven by a government ideological agenda. I talked about artful science with the words and work of both Stephen Hawking and Shirley Bryce Heath, and about the need to discover through looking and more importantly through using our hands.

We talked about those valuable experiences that we can have within Art education- using our hands to make, draw, pull, form, sculpt, push, shape, rip, tear, stitch, hold, shape, fold, join, lift, prod, squeeze…..please feel free to suggest other words to add to this.

I talked about people who advocate for the arts and presented evidence and links to these. Everyone was particularly on board when we shared the work of Access Art and their manifesto for making, manifestos being part of the theme in the talk.
Artists have always enjoyed writing their Manifestos, whether it is the Surrealists, or Dada, or Bob and Roberta Smith.

Haptic experiences and stereognostic experiences, were beautifully described by Barbara Hepworth in her autobiography “A Pictorial Autobiography”. “All my early memories are of forms and shapes and textures,” she wrote in her autobiography. Moving through and over the West Riding landscape with my father in his car, the hills were sculptures; the roads defined the form. Above all, there was the sensation of moving physically over the contours of fulnesses and concavities, through hollows and over peaks – feeling, touching, through mind and hand and eye.”

I also referenced the work of the great Alec Clegg, a visionary leader and Director of Education in Wakefield who championed the Arts at the centre of education in schools.
and who left a great legacy, including the creation of Bretton Hall as a teacher training centre, and eventually Peter Murray’s idea for the Sculpture Park.

After this we had a very varied day, working with two people who I admire and love for their unique and creative approaches, primary teacher Mandy Barrett and secondary teacher Anne Louise Quinton in the colourful Kaleidoscope exhibition in the Longside, Gallery, and trying out engaging interactive resources that they have designed for their students and for all of us to use.There were some exciting and memorable moments from both groups, verging on Performance Art! A pleasant break with a lovely lunch, and a chance to network followed.You can download the education pack at this link:

We were privileged to visit the rather wonderful and very special National Art Education Archive, where Tony Chisholm shared some of the incredible books, collections and objects wth us,. There was this powerful smell of libraries and books and “knowledge”, which made me think how much we will miss places like this as technology supersedes them. The NAEA is an Aladdin’s cave of art history.

Teachers also had the opportunity to try out YSP resources with two very engaging artists, Pui Lee, and Sarah Jane Mason. We gathered back together and ended our day in a plenary session, where I asked groups to work together to create political election time Manifestos, for visual art educators with a focus on the non negotiables. We have shared these widely online and with artist Bob and Roberta Smith, and then had our group photo taken next to Bob’s currently installation which has the simple message that “All Schools Should Be Art Schools”. Please look for this hashtag to see the day as it unfolded:#accteachers

It wasn’t the the brightest of days weather wise, but it was in terms of what we did and felt. Bringing a group of like minded people together, on a Saturday, with excellent and detailed organisation, inspiring facilitators, and the location of the YSP, was in itself a work of art. Many thanks to all, Nat and Natalie, Kathryn Welford (Yorkshire Sculpture Park), Anne Louise and Mandy, Pui and Sara Jane, Tony Chisholm, and to all you teachers who made it such a worthwhile and memorable experience.

We were born to make art.
We were born to enjoy Art.
We were born to use our hands.



2561 days ago

Yay! Keep up the good work. Love the YSP for all it offers. Look at those smiley faces too. Happy teachers. Is that rare these days?


2559 days ago

Pummel- you can use your hands to pummel, clay in particular. I like the Batbara Hepworth quote very much.

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