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

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Last Thursday, I ran a session called “What is Art?” at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. The group were a mix of secondary and primary art people. The inset was designed to support them in being able to develop confidence in using the Turner Prize nominees as a focus for work in school.

We started with a few minutes of intensity, watching a video and listening to last year’s Turner Prize winner, Susan Philiphsz and her sound installation “Lowlands”

A few years ago I designed a game called “What is Art?”, which is a wonderful starter. It questions perceptions of what art is (and isn’t) and then develops into an illustration of what is accepted as art forms. This then allows the players to go back and re-order their “cards”.

We then looked at effective questioning, especially with using a structure designed with Bloom’s Taxonomy. Karla Black is probably going to be the most controversial nominee, an opportunity for the tabloids to air their discriminatory views on art (unless of course we get a super injunction out !). I had done my research on Karla and what her work is all about and after successfully being able to compare and link her work with a water colour by JMW Turner, we embarked on a practical session called “Desert Island Art”.

Bearing in mind that Karla creates her textures and colours and pigments and blends them together with paper or plastic or earth to make her art work, the teachers were stranded on their desert island with a limited number of materials and given 55 minutes to create a piece of sculptural installation inspired by Karla Black.

On offer to the groups were emulsion paint, brushes, sponges, blusher,lipstick,nail varnish, tape, polythene, paper, toothpaste and shaving foam (and other miscellaneous items).

They had the assistance of two island monkeys (Leanne and Lucy, Baltic education team) who were “available” to retrieve extra materials from the sunken ship should they be requested.

The four groups collaborated well (no “Lord of the Flies” moments seen) and explored the materials creatively to make very individual statements. Actually, the speed at which they worked was fascinating because there didn’t seem to be any hesitation at all.The room smelt lovely too, like a fresh bathroom steeped in shaving foam and toothpaste!

The session ended with each group presenting their work and title and being questioned by the others. It was a very positive session and everyone left with a CD of materials so that the activities could be used back at school. I’m glad they had a nice time, because I did too! Teachers need opportunities to create for themselves, as well as facilitate creativity, and this was one of those opportunities.

Further information on Baltic is here:“Baltic teacher events”
Baltic teacher programme summer term

Karla Black: Karla talks about her work



4021 days ago

This looks exciting.
Wonder if the Hepworth in Wakefield will be offering inset like this ? Hope so.

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