Artists looked for ways to make an occasion

Artists looked for ways to make an occasion

All of the artists that we saw wanted to make experiences special for students.

For some, this meant attending to the way in which they presented themselves as ‘non teachers’. While a minority of artists sought to ‘look ordinary’, most came to school dressed for the kind of work that they intended to do - dancers and theatre workers wore clothing for moving in, artists wore clothes that might get splashed on. None were as ‘booted and suited’ as regular teachers. Some artists however arrived in costume, ready to perform as a character.

Artists sought to make each ‘session’ memorable and eventful. They spent time working on ways to surprise, delight and extend students in activities that also required them to build skills, language and understandings. They often arranged events so that students met new people, encountered something unfamiliar, went somewhere new. They looked for audiences for work-in-progress; they also encouraged students to take work home to share with their families.

Artists were often expected to produce a ‘product’ – an exhibition, a performance, a film. When this was the case, artists always sought to make the ‘product’ challenging, public and risky as well as achievable.  Students were encouraged to work on big projects, with imposing objects and difficult materials, for longer periods of time, with highly regarded professional artists, in grand performance and exhibition spaces, for audiences with sophisticated cultural experiences. These occasions gave students a strong sense of accomplishment – they had achieved something that at the outset of they project they had thought beyond their reach. The importance of being enabled to think big, to be writ large, and to be supported to develop the necessary skills and knowledge to achieve this, was the foundation for building new notions of what-I-can-do and who-I-might-be. Achieving something initially beyond their reach opened up new horizons of possibility for significant numbers of children and young people.

This sense of occasion was in line with a general commitment to the notion that every cultural experience should be inherently valuable in its own right.

Further information

Video materials

A selection of videos from our Vimeo channel on making special occasions can be viewed below.