Making connections – Artemis Leeds

I recently received an email from another PhD researcher, Alex Woodall, who came across my blog when looking up the Rutherston Loan Scheme at Manchester Art Gallery. We met and had a natter in the Manchester Art Gallery and she told me about a couple of other museum loan schemes I might be interested in.

One is Artemis in Leeds, which started out as a picture collection for students and schools created by art lecturers at Leeds College of Art (later part of Leeds Polytechnic from 1970) about fifty years ago. I have been told that it appears to have started as a collection of reproductions which were used to make up teaching sets, as well as work commissioned from students and departments at the College of Art and examples of furniture and design, and later became a travelling exhibition which visited schools in Leeds, with lecturers available to discuss the collection and art education. Alongside this there was a small, separate collection of museum artefacts administered by a City Museum Education Officer. The aim was “to enable schools to have works of art and design easily available for display to form the basis of discussion and the development of ideas”. In 1974, following metropolitan reorganisation, these combined to become the Leeds Schools Museum and Art Loan Service funded and managed by Leeds Education Department, with the collection acquiring work through purchases and donations.

Today, artefacts and artworks are circulated to schools, with about 2,000 pictures available (although few records exist for the service from before 1974 and there is no evidence that work was purchased through Pictures for Schools, I was interested to see names such as Harry Thubron and Maurice de Sausmarez – a Pictures for Schools contributor, both of whom are associated with the Basic Design movement in art education, among the painters included in the collection’s page on the BBC Your Paintings website). All schools in Leeds education authority have access to the service, which is now called Artemis, free of charge, and can borrow up to thirty paintings for six months at a time. Schools in nearby authorities also sometimes use the service. In addition, training is now on offer for schools wishing to use paintings.

Nigel Swan from the service explained over email that: “Artworks are used in schools to enhance the environment with stimulating visual material, to provide exemplars of styles and media and for detailed study at high school level … the collections are well used and are constantly in demand.”

The services’s aims include providing children with a “‘hands-on’ experience; offering a “multi-sensory” opportunity to work directly with objects which means that “children and young people of all ages and abilities are able to access the collection in a meaningful way”; encouraging schools to use art to ”support subjects across the curriculum”; using pictures as a stimulus for “developing speaking and listening skills”; and “extending and developing the breadth of children and young people’s access to original art”. In all these regards, it is remarkably similar to the aims of Pictures for Schools when it was established more than 65 years ago.

Jane Zanzottera, Arts Manager of ArtForms, which provides art and music support for Leeds schools, added that the Artemis artefacts are “popular, well-used and easily accessed”, but that only a ‘handful’ of Leeds schools borrow pictures, which are chosen at a selection day organised for schools. She also mentioned that Leeds City Art Gallery has a long-standing picture lending scheme, set up in 1961, whereby members of the public can borrow pictures for a fee £48 per painting per year – one of the few remaining services of its kind in the country. The two initiatives have been working together in recently years to try and get more people of all ages, including teachers, to borrow art. So far this has been a success: apparently more schools are already borrowing art and engaging with the service.

Thanks to Jane and Nigel for sending me the information above.

Call for Papers: Lost Museums Colloquium

An interesting-sounding conference given my attempts to track down former county loan collections with varying degrees of success!

The Jenks Society Presents THE LOST MUSEUM

In conjunction with the year-long exhibition project examining Brown University’s lost Jenks Museum, the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage, the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, and the John Carter Brown Library invite paper proposals for a colloquium on lost artifacts, collections and museums. (Other formats—conceptual, poetic, and artistic—are also invited.) The colloquium will be held at Brown University, Providence, RI,  May 7 and 8, 2015.

Museums, perhaps more than any other institutions, think in the very long term: collections are forever. But the history of museums is more complicated than that. Museums disappear for many reasons, from changing ideas about what’s worth saving to the devastation of war. Museum collections disappear: deaccessioned, traded away, repatriated, lost to changing interests and the ravages of time.

Gallery of Classical Antiquities, ca 1893 Gallery of Classical Antiquities, Brown University, about 1893. No longer in existence. Collections apparently lost. Courtesy Brown University Archives.

We are interested…

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Paper: Pictures for Schools: educating the aesthetic citizen 1947-1969, RGS-IBG conference (New and Emerging postgraduate research in historical geography), Thursday August 28

Natalie Bradbury Pictures for Schools Educating the Aesthetic citizen-1I will be presenting my first conference paper, entitled Pictures for Schools: educating the aesthetic citizen 1947-1969, at the Historical Geography Research Group’s session ‘New and Emerging postgraduate research in historical geography’ at the RGS-IBG annual conference in South Kensington in a couple of weeks. The session, which is one of three for emerging researchers in historical geography to share and get feedback on their work, takes place on Thursday August 28 from 11.10am-12.50pm in the Read lecture theatre, Sherfield building. More information, including my abstract, can be found here.

Jake Chapman describes taking children to galleries as ‘a waste of time’

Though I’m loath to fan the flames of publicity for a celebrity artist, some of the comments surrounding Jake Chapman’s recent assertion that taking children to art galleries is ‘a waste of time’ saddened and dismayed me (even in a poll run by the Guardian, one in five people agreed with his statement).

Whilst I don’t believe anyone who describes his children as ‘not human yet’ warrants much of a response, I find Chapman’s comments wrong-headed on a lot of levels. I find it strange that Chapman reduces the value of an art experience to mere ‘understanding’, ignoring the potential for art to be something which can be ‘experienced’ even if not fully grasped (the artists cited in press coverage of Chapman’s statement, Rothko and Pollock, seem to me to be a perfect example of this. Do I find their work intricate, interesting and worthy of spending some time with? Yes. Can I, or do I want to, tell you what they are ‘about’, and I do I think that this is important? No).

There is clearly a great deal more that an eight-year-old can get out of visiting a gallery than, say, a one-year-old, yet I’ve seen first-hand that valuable work is being done by education officers in making collections fun, friendly and accessible to families and providing a way in to what can sometimes be an intimidating environment.

I believe Chapman patronises children’s abilities to take visual interest in artworks, or to enjoy details of artworks: the way art looks can still provide visual/intellectual interest, enjoyment and stimulation even without being ‘understood’ on an intellectual level. For children who experience making artwork of their own in school, furthermore, seeing the work of practising artists can provide a talking point and a comparison, as demonstrated by Pictures for Schools, which gave children visiting its exhibitions questionnaires to complete as they looked at the artworks to ensure they really thought about and engaged with what they saw. Some of the responses indicated that children had given some deal of thought to how the artists whose work they were looking at had achieved their effect, and identified similarities with their own approach to making art. Pictures for Schools did not aim to replace the creation of art by the appreciation of art, but its organisers believed that being able to see original works of art could help children approach their own art with renewed vigour and enthusiasm.