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

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The fact that I’m typing this blog up on yet another train journey will explain the gap in blog entries – I’ve been busy and life has been creative fun all round. I’m keen to talk about a recent experience which has been a major part of this- a “residency” at Seascape Primary School in Durham. Seascape is a fabulous new build school, with a view of the sea to rival any holiday destination, but is set in Peterlee, an area with high unemployment. Art is an important part of the school curriculum there and valued by the head teacher and the staff. I have been asked to form a partnership with them as their “artist” and the art coordinator (Jo Brown) had a vision of us perhaps taking this in a different direction- with a focus on more conceptual and contemporary art forms.

To start the thinking off, I ran a lively staff inset, where we debated the ‘what is art?’ theme and opened up everyone’s thinking to using their art week to develop this for both themselves, as teachers and teaching assistants, and their pupils. The school were also keen to work across age groups and use the Olympic values. These are made up of three Olympic values – Friendship, Respect and Excellence – along with the four Paralympic values – Determination, Inspiration, Courage and Equality.

Artists that we looked at to inspire thinking and ideas included Kusama, Tomas Saraceno,Annette Messager, Sue Webster and Tim Noble, and Cornelia Parker

Children were fully engaged in everything they were offered. Installation art (inspired by Kusama) saw us using 20,000 coloured dots (in one day) to create furniture installation and artistic paper plates.The “fingerprint” Olympics was another theme-children supporting each other to see who could create the highest fingerprint, and the rest of the group creating a crowd to watch this, making fingerprint drawings on post it notes. And, an amazing human sculpture in the outdoor space with year 6 and year 4 pupils working together on the theme of equality. We continued this theme with an indoor drawing session where they drew around each other and then tried matching parts of drawings together to illustrate the theme. There was the joy of seeing the reception class being invited into a group installation made by year 3 pupils who had created their art work independently of teachers- for Jo this was a magical moment. Lots of the pupils made new friends and were warm, encouraging and inclusive in the way the older pupils worked with the younger ones. The younger ones just seemed to have permanent grins on their faces as they found the “courage” to join in with the events.

For many of the staff it was new territory and they were brave to get on that learning curve. Although we all know the importance of creativity in education the current climate of fear instilled by external factors (including Ofsted) can make it difficult for teachers to be natural risk takers. I didn’t feel this at all at Seascape. I found them to be ready for action, ready for anything and totally hands on in their approach. Watching Chris, year 6 teacher, direct the human sculpture and group drawing from his rooftop vantage point was like watching the early 20th century film makers (just think of Busby Berkley) direct one of their spectacular “cast of thousands” dance routines.

Teachers Jo Brown and Simon Curtin spent each evening compiling the days events into a stop motion film (using photos taken on a visualiser every five seconds) and the whole school watched the entire film on the last day of the art week. The most amazing fact is that every single child in Seascape School was a part of that film.

It’s hard to sum up the main achievements, as so many unexpected things happened, but I’ll start with saying that a lot of the fun and the success came from not knowing exactly what would happen, that teachers entrusting children to take the lead empowered them to work collaboratively and happily and without any conflict, that the best ideas can sometimes come from the most unexpected sources.

Jo and Simon also attended the Baltic primary inset on Thursday 31st May, with Jo sharing the adventure with other teachers in a powerful presentation which included key snippets from SeaScape the Art Movie. It certainly got a good reception at the unofficial “premiere”.

We are already thinking about the next project….. and the whole school will be making a visit to Baltic in September- which should also serve as inspiration to staff and pupils and allow them to continue to see art as thinking as well as doing.

Seascape School Website


Teacher EYFS

3630 days ago

Looks very interesting. I hope we get chances like this to think outside of the box. There is a lot of unused creativity in EYFS these days.

Louise M

3630 days ago

The photo looks good- is the video made available online? I’d like to show it to my HT.

Susan M Coles

3628 days ago

Unfortunately we can make the video public as you will understand. But, contact me if we can give you more information about the project. Thank you for your interest.

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