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

Posted in Hope for the Future

Like many of you, I am involved, absorbed, and hugely inspired by the current swell of enthusiasm to promote advocacy for Art, Craft and Design education (and the Arts in general) against the tide of the Coalition proposed changes to the curriculum content that we offer young people. You might be cynical enough to believe that I do this to ensure my own future employment or that I am another typical arty farty agitator But, it isn’t about that, it’s about the quality of life. Remember that we had “art” as the earliest form of communication before language existed, we had “art” as a focus for artisans and for the pure aesthetic values of a picture on a wall or a vase held in the hands, or a record of a historical event. Or, often, as a representation of how we felt we needed to show our understanding of God and the Bible. Narratives, illustrations, muses…that was the Fine Arts. But since the 20th century, we have seen art be at the centre of reflection on the socio, political and historical influences that have moulded our life and our times. It continues to do just that.

I started this week with a visit to an artist studio and a lengthy conversation about why we make art. This was with Karen Davies, an artist and educator that I have known for quite a few years now. Karen has an enviably focussed approach to her work, it drains her time and resources which have to be replenished through working in art education, (which of course she believes in) and gives 100% to. But, what she achieves in the “day” job and in her studio work is enough to make me positively in awe of the balance she achieves. We keep in touch through social media, Facebook, Twitter etc and I follow her work through her blog Karen Davies and invite you to join me with that.

Karen and I were both at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art ( Gateshead) on Saturday, as part of a day for the M.A. Fine Art and Education students. Jude Thomas,who runs the Education side of the course, had invited me to come in and talk about my artist/teacher philosophy. A can of worms ? Ah yes, but worms can be healthy as well as destructive, just think how they areate the soil for us. In the days that passed between Karen and I talking in her studio and then me arriving to talk to the students, I had a significant “thinking” week which was all about who I was. I still don’t have the answer, but frankly don’t care ! Thought is free. Sharing thoughts with these artists teachers who have given up a chunk of their life and time to follow an intense part time Master’s course was a pleasure. They all need the time to “sharpen the saw” and , in the long term, the benefits are to themselves, but more significantly, to the students that they teach.Find out about the course

Can you ever answer that question of who you are ? Hopefully not. But, I do recall dragging myself (unwillingly) to a school reunion a few years ago where the first question from everyone you met seemd to be “And what have you done then?”, followed by “I am a headmistress at a primary school”, “ I’m a solicitor” and all I really wanted to hear was “ I ride a unicycle in the circus “. So, it got to me and my answer was this “I do Art”….silence…….” ah yes, you were always good at drawing”….silence…and if only they knew !

“I live Art, I love Art, I need Art.” I used these words last week as I led an inset session at Lord Lawson of Beamish School. Why was I there ? I was invited in by a friend and colleague, (and also an ex student of mine), an amazing and inspirational Assistant Headteacher, Denise Taylor. Denise is like the Del Trotter of the art education scene, she seems to do “a bit of this and a bit of that” to get projects going, and suddenly we have funding to do a project on enabling art teachers to use effective questioning and an Art taxonomy (thank you Benjamin Bloom) which are designed get pupils to engage with concepetual and contemporary art. It was a great mix of talk and chalk (well, IWB) and interactive bits, practice, evaluation, challenge and questions, and agreement on how we need to put this at the centre of what we do in the classroom. So, the plan was to get a lesson up and running after half term, in all three schools (Framwellgate, Whickham and Lord Lawson), using the activities….well, by half way through the next day I was soon getting texts and emails saying they had done this already and that the results were BRILLIANT.

These were teachers who care, who understand the importance of Art and Design education, who are never willing to say that they know it all, and the week after half term, they will all involve their own students in their learning so that we can visit and video their responses. That may be how we justify the funding, but we know different. We know we have made a difference.

Parallell to all of this we have had the involvement of Lucy Smith, Baltic’s Schools and Colleges Programmer. We often work with Baltic and with Lucy, and we hope this project will develop into us being able to create resources which will encourage teachers and their students to visit Baltic in 2011 and 2012 when it hosts the fabulous TURNER PRIZE. Baltic gets the Turner prize

I left this session and then hotfooted it over to Roseberry Sports College (in Pelton) where the subject leader for Art, Allison Cargill, was enthusiastically hosting another of our North East Art Teacher Network inset sessions, this time on felt making. We don’t have a penny of funding for this, so the very fact that practitioners are willing to offer time, space and materials for a informative and creative CPD session underlines, once again, what art and craft and design are all about. At 7p.m. at night, to see teachers rolling up their sleeves and creating multi coloured and multi textured rolls of felt was more than satisfying and a great end to a day. In that room was the recognition of what creativity brings to our lives, the enjoyment of collaborative learning, the need to find out and to share, the sheer love of being part of the Arts experience.
Felt making workshop

I called this blog “Eat your heart out Michael Gove” because no matter what the coalition decide in terms of what they consider to be the “correct” curriculum, you will never keep these spirited and creative people down.

It’s Saturday night, I feel tired and a little “spent” but, bloody hell, what a brilliant life. Thank you to everyone I have met with and worked with this week.


There are currently no comments

Leave a Comment

To post a comment please enter a name and a message then press the preview button before submitting your comment.