Anna Bowman, Head of Education department at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Great Britain






Yorkshire Sculpture Park as a Centre for Learning and Teaching in Relation to 3D Objects and the Environment: History, Policy and Practice.

Anna Bowman

Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) is a national sculpture park. It takes up to 250 hectares of a historic eighteenth century landscape and has two indoor galleries. In 1997 executive director Peter Murray started the sculpture park.

The museum aims to provide an accessible and stimulating resource for the whole community and to offer equal opportunities for practice, understanding and enjoyment of sculpture. It has a particular obligation to protect and enhance historic landscape of the Bretton Estate and to contribute to artistic, economic and social life of the region. Through its mission statement and in practice, Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) is committed to open access and supports life long learning and culturally diverse initiative. Working with many partner organisations, programmes of events and activities are devised and delivered for all ages and abilities. Over 30,000 school children visit YSP annually.

The role of artists, their projects, commissions and residences are very important in YSP. One polish artist, for example, worked for 3 months to create an art work with other artists and groups. During 3 months the visitors were able to see the process of her work. She also gave lecturers to the students, did informal talks for the visitors.

Artist led workshops and a wide variety of activities are organised for school, college, community and special needs groups. An important part of the museumís educational activities is the demonstration of artistic processes, for instance, the casting process from clay to plaster, then - resin. Public, bank holiday and special events for participation by all, attract large, and often return family audiences. Skills-based sculpture courses are run every year during the summer months. These include wood and stone carving, metal working and work with environmental materials. In a 5-day course an artist with a special technique to understand the materials gives people an in-depth understanding of a sculptural process. It also gives the opportunity for the schoolchildren to see the process too. In wood carving courses we provide space, tools and wood. It gives an opportunity for a visitor to talk to an artist what s/he is doing.

Education underpins everything that happens in the park. One of the very important things of the education programme is active understanding of the processes of work or the concepts behind it. This involves working with artists, therefore, education departmentís team basically consists of artists. For example, Shaun Pickard made a project ďArtists in Sites for LearningĒ where he worked for 6 months with a group of young people with disabilities. They had to work as ornithologists and used the environment and the space of YSP. They were involved in an artistic process that was about the environment they were in. During 6 months the children came every week to YSP. They would walk around the park, made lists, did drawings and worked with other sculpture in the park by Sol LeWitt and made their own interpretation and version of it. They made their big minimal blocks out of birdseeds and fat and then watched the birds eat it. The project was documented and at the end of the project an exhibition showing of the process of work, that is, what they saw, what they did, how they recorded it was prepared. At the same time Pickardís work of neon pieces placed down the trees saying ďUnnaturalĒ was displayed.

YSPís programming is varied and becoming increasingly broad in approach. New media, digital, video and sound based work extends the programme beyond a purely object-centred experience, and encourages a wide range of both intellectual and sensory engagement for all. The absence of any entry charge means that everyone can enjoy what YSP has to offer and ensures a wide range of visitors.

Educational services and resources provided by YSP are the following:

  • In-service training for teachers

  • Assistance from Education staff in planning a visit

  • Guided tours

  • Workshop/study days

  • Sculpture courses (skill-based)

  • Artist residencies and projects

  • Collections information Ė permanent and temporary

  • Education packs

  • Audio type guides of the Access Sculpture Trail

  • YSP Archive

YSP has wide-ranging work experience and volunteer schemes. Work experience placements for secondary school pupils last from two to four weeks, and teachers can take part in continuing professional development and research work. Projects, research and learning opportunities involve postgraduate Fine Arts and Museum Studies students from European as well as UK universities.

Outreach work is undertaken in many settings including artist residences in primary, secondary and special schools in colleges and in community, residential and day care centres. YSP, in partnership with the Feiweles Trust and University of Leeds Arts Education, organises an annual bursary for an artist to work with regional schools to support and enrich the Arts Curriculum.

Education staff regularly gives slide talks, lectures and seminars not only in formal Education settings at further and higher education institutions, but also to regional art and leisure clubs and professional organisations, both on and off site. The Park has a rich research archive, which is utilised by students and academics, and YSP frequently hosts lectures from both artists and critics.

The departmentís work in interpreting exhibits is very varied. In terms of audience development, there was a project, for instance, with single mothers. Within 250 hectares of land, 2,5 hectares has been dedicated to Access Sculpture Trail. It is a land work that gives complete access to people with mobility disabilities. It is a sensory garden within the greater landscape of YSP.

As part of our outreach, we have the work by Igor Mitoraj. We worked on this project at the hospital for the criminally insane. We placed the exhibit in the grounds of this hospital. It meant that prisoners had the opportunity to see contemporary art. The artist worked with the prisoners to create their responses to the exhibition.

The museum also tries to create partnerships with teachers that come for a variety of purposes to the park. In Britain there is a national curriculum and there is an entitlement of every child to be able to develop skills within art curriculum. Thus, many teachers come to the park for the element of art curriculum which has to do with three-dimensional objects. The practice for most of school visits is to work in the park for the whole day. In the morning they will be taken round and they will look at the sculpture, talk about it, make poetry, drama or just enjoy it. They will get a whole variety of interpretative tools to get a better understanding not only of sculpture, but also of the environment. The afternoon session is a making session. They will make a response to the morning session depending on the teacherís aims, specific themes, etc. The educational departmentís work principle is that you have to be able to touch all the works. You can engage and come to understanding of the material through the touching. Children are not restricted in their artistic expression. When they come to the park, they can either write a poem or make a drawing, etc. Also, there is not a uniform piece of paper and pencil. Children will be offered a variety of paper and pencils to work with and they will preferably work with the art in the space where the objects are present rather than in the specific educational room. Thus, gallery space is turned into an interactive environment where children can work with musicians, sculptors and other artists. It is very important that each child or visitor feels his or her own presence as an artist in the space.

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