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

Posted in Education Education Education

This summer has given me a huge number of opportunities, from local Conferences to conferences and seminars abroad, from Leeds to London, from primary school to secondary to higher education, and meeting and collaborating with a diverse range of people who all share my passion for, interest in and need for art education.

I have been asked to share some of my talks as well and will start with this one, a brief one, but which I shared with people who came to the opening of the Art Matters schools art show, which featured a marvellous array of art work from schools in Hackney and in East London and is supported by UAL. It isn’t verbatim what I said of course, I’m pulling this from notes on my iPad, which I wrote on the way to the University of the Arts London. It was a warm and sultry day with long shadows dancing about between the buildings of this rather lovely location. It was also a World Cup match evening and we feared that would affect attendance, turns out that it didn’t at all. Proud parents, families, teachers and children came in droves. I spoke after a lovely performance from a children’s school choir and my message to them was ‘dont ever stop singing!’

‘It’s hard to explain exactly what I do, but believe me it’s all about art education and there is a biography in your handout if you need to know more. I shall start with saying that Art….Art gave me my voice. The ability to tell stories. I have such strong memories of growing up and, in particular, loving comics and the drawings which told me stories. I guess we all know that we have been telling stories as humans for over 35,000 years. You see, the human brain has a unique capacity for imagination and we use this to make our visual stories which can be real or imagined. We have left our mark for thousands of years- as you young people have. That’s why we are all here tonight.

The poet W.B Yeats wrote that education should be the lighting of a fire and not the filling of a pail. Education has changed in the past few years, driven by political ideologies, becoming a mega machine conveyor belt of facts, of tests, of exams, and more exams, a test only of of recall. I question whether or not our youth can actually apply that knowledge. Art, as a subject in schools, is becoming unique as a space to be yourself, and therefore more important than ever. Individuality is encouraged, as is the application of skills and knowledge, and the much needed and important permission to take risks. Just think about the whole process, once there was nothing there on a table in front of you or on a blank piece of paper- then you learnt the visual language and how to use the tools, then you had an idea and then you imagined and created….. and then……you make this happen. You have created all this. Look around us at this art, this storytelling, this visual language that wants to be heard and be seen.

Art is an international language- it transcends ages, nations and time- it brings people together….

Engaging with art is not simply a solitary event. The arts and culture represent one of the few areas in our society where people can come together to share an experience even if they see the world in very different ways.

Art is integral in our culture because it provides us with a deeper understanding of emotions, self-awareness, and more. It makes us human and unique- it makes us happy, it makes us cry, it makes us think deeply, and in this 24/7 busy world it’s essential to step off that conveyor belt- to look, to listen and to learn. Visual literacy has NEVER been so important.

I am also on the World Council for the International Society for Education through Art and have witnessed the way that diverse communities can connect through art. This exhibition brings together young people who live in their own communities in East London, in Hackney, but have a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds which inform and enrich their creative work and stories. As part of my work for InSEA I spent several months working with our council members across the world to create a Manifesto for art education- I would like to read it but if there isn’t time then I’ll just read a small part of it. Because I need to share this with you. And I need you to share it with others…..

*‘Education through art inspires knowledge, appreciation and creation of culture.
Culture is a basic human right. Culture promotes social justice and participation in contemporary societies. A strong democracy is an inclusive society. And, an inclusive society is a strong democracy. All learners are entitled to an art education that deeply connects them to their world, to their cultural history. It creates openings and horizons for them to new ways of seeing, thinking, doing and being’*.

Don’t just look and enjoy this art show tonight – talk about it and discuss with each other. There was nothing….. now there is something powerful, and special and unique, and this is also a testament to the work of undervalued and underpaid teachers and to each and every young person who is displaying their work today.

Let me end with a very important quote, from the writer Maya Angelou; ‘Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but bu the number of moments that take our breath away’. Thank you so much Catherine and Ashia and Marlene for inviting me here today.



2140 days ago

Excellent speech. Nailed it on the head. Very good and thank you. My child had work in the exhibition. He was so proud. We were proud. His school makes art important. Very happy school.


2139 days ago

Totally agree- Art is such a great platform for just being yourself. This governments wants clones and not individuals. We must fight for the right to be individuals. Amen

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