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Darlaston Town Hall
30 November - 2 December 2021
From 2019 to 2021, and despite Covid, students from the 14 Walsall Arts for All schools worked with professional visual artists to create artworks for their schools which celebrated their own cultures and communities as well as  those of their partner schools in the project.

This first phase of the programme culminated in a 3-day Celebration Event at which all the artworks were displayed, and participating students were able to visit the exhibition to experience the thrill of seeing their own work on show, as well as finding out how other schools and artists had responded to the theme.

The seven projects are presented below, along with summaries by the commissioned artists.

Who Are We?

 

Pinfold Street Primary School &

St Anne’s Catholic Primary School

Artist: Claire Leggett

In learning and being curious about other people living in other places, we become citizens who are open to new discoveries, new communities and different ways of living. 
 
The children at Pinfold Street Primary and St Anne’s Catholic Primary have begun that journey by discovering more about their own local environments and venturing further afield into each other’s locality. Although the Pandemic made direct experience of each other and physical journeying an impossibility, nevertheless the ground work has been laid for teachers and the children themselves to continue to develop their understanding of the world beyond their door.
 
For this project the schools have used recycled materials and acrylic paint to mono-print using gelatine plates, making textures and applying stencils to create details for areas of housing, green spaces, roadways and buildings of heritage and community interest. People were painted and printed using Heat Transfer inks onto fabric and the signage was hand-printed using letter stamps. These patchwork pieces were then assembled together to create fabric maps for each school - looking in detail at their own local landmarks of interest and across into new knowledge of their partner schools’ environments.

Community / Collaboration

 

Bloxwich Academy &

Blue Coat CofE Academy

Artist: Becky (Good Wives & Warriors)

In 2018 Good Wives & Warriors made a book called Myth Match - A Fantastical Flip Book of Extraordinary Beasts. It comprises 32 mythical beasts that have been cut into 2 pieces, so over 1000 different beasts can be created by the viewer. 
 
Good Wives and Warriors used this concept as the basis for the collaborative creative project between Bloxwich and Blue Coat Academies in Walsall. The pupils explored their different identities and cultures through mythical creatures and stories from their heritage, finding similarities across cultures to tell stories and create mythical creatures.
 
The main artworks are 2 large text panel paintings, one for each school. This was a collaboration between the artist and the pupils only their mythical creatures were used in the paintings. The pupils also helped add details to these paintings. 
 
Alongside the 2 panel text paintings, each pupil made a final painted beast or creature which has been split into 2 halves. These halves have been mixed and matched between both schools to create a final artwork that sits beside the paintings. This ‘mixing’ of their work has encouraged conversation about the wider issues of differences and similarities, to create a collaboration between the two schools in a very literal way.

Connections - weaving and sewing ideas about friendship

 

Abbey Primary School & Delves Junior School

Artist: Claire Witcomb

For this project, the 2 schools wanted to use materials to make a story from a number of interconnected elements, and convey the idea of friendships and connection. They designed with watercolours, pens and pencils to create images that visually represented the connection between different people.
 
· “The lines are complicated, they touch and they vary, it changes and yet they cross one another”
· “The friends line works like if it’s together, your friends then crack and argue, but you fix it, you talk it out. The x line is far more open and the spots show when you argue”
· “A journey together”
 
Through weaving visual artworks the pupils echoed the connections friends have to each other - the weaving of materials together to tell a story.
 
Working with fabric and threads and other recycled materials, the schools used the drawings as inspiration to create woven and sewn friendship artworks, using old fabric offcuts, wool, string, sticks, wire, hosepipe and tubing to create colourful interwoven, wrapped and sewn pieces.
 
Words were chosen to convey ideas of friendship and connection. Each school worked in a slightly different way: Abbey wove their pieces while Delves sewed and stitched their threads together. Both schools wrapped words they had chosen to convey their ideas on friendship.

Beyond Our Wildest Dreams

 

Rosedale CofE Infant School &

St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School

Artist: Claire Witcomb

The schools worked with recycled wood for this project. Fantasy creatures were created through a combination of collaged and drawn images. Each was made up of different parts to invent imaginary, fantastical creatures.
 
Everyone voted on a shortlist and the winning design was used to create a single collaborative creature, ‘beyond our wildest dreams’. Each child then also made their own small creature that they could take home with them.
 
The young artists got to use tools such as hammers, saws, screwdrivers on the large collaborative creatures, discovering how to build and connect wood together.

Wings of Ambition

 

Christ Church CE Primary School &

Salisbury Primary School

Artist: Claire Witcomb

Each school explored the idea of wings - wings that can carry you somewhere. The theme ‘wings of ambition’ allowed the schools to explore positive ideas of affirmation and thinking about the future, and to discover that birds have different feathers which have different functions, while butterfly wings are covered in scales
 
They recycled! Clear bottles and milk bottles were transformed into feathers and scales, and some bottles were shared across the schools, so there was less waste. Children designed ideas, thinking about the outdoor space it was for. The pieces will be outdoor artworks - collaborative pieces that the children worked together to achieve.
 
Children decided each next step in the process through a series of votes. Christchurch decided on one large set of wings, whilst Salisbury wanted more than one winged artwork for their wall.
 
Bottles were washed, dried and cut into shapes / forms ready for decoration. Patterns and designs were created on them by each child using paint pens, and each piece was then sprayed with 2 or more water-based colours to create unique pieces that reflect the diversity and difference of every child. They combine together into large artworks.
 
Look out for word and phrases scattered among the artworks!

Landmarks that Link Us

 

Blue Coat CofE Junior School &

Watling Street Primary School

Artists: Henrietta Ellis & Celia Houghton

Artists Henrietta and Celia met with teachers from Watling Street and Blue Coat Primary Schools to discuss the idea of a textile art work. It wasn't long before they came up with the idea of two banners, each one depicting the schools' local landmarks: for Watling Street, the Brownhills ‘Iron Man’ and for Blue Coat, St. Matthew's Church.
 
Bursting with ideas, the group came up with sketches there and then as to what the banners could look like, what materials, and the use of uniforms which would dictate the use of some of the colourways. The shared use of uniforms, colours and design style in both banners represent a permanent communication between the two schools.
 
At school the artists introduced the children to sewing with a simple running stitch (most children hadn't stitched before); this 'simple' stitch is the only stitch that has been used to create the banners, so every child could be included in their construction. Whilst the children got to grips with stitching on their own individual samplers, a small group would take turns to work on the large banner. The artists encouraged the children to think of a short positive word to stitch (as in traditional samplers) and then to use their imagination to think of a design; they also demonstrated how to appliqué (like collage but with fabric) and the children used this technique to sew on their design.
 
By the end of the sessions every child could sew. They produced their own sampler to keep, as well as contributing towards making their school’s banner which would be exhibited and permanently displayed in their school.

Cultural Identity

 

Aldridge School &

Ormiston Shelfield Community Academy

Artist: David Brown (aka Panda/Flake)

Graffiti Artist David Brown was invited to work with students from Shelfield and Aldridge Academies on a project exploring identity.
 
The first session was an introduction to Graffiti/Street Art, with each school talking about the history of this exciting artform, the reason why people do it, and its integrity as a creative artform which is not about defacement when engaged with correctly. David explained how to create graffiti lettering and street art style images, and the students completed individual canvases using paint pens.
 
Building on initial skills, the succeeding sessions involved talking, designing and painting large scale works of art using spray paint. The theme was what Walsall meant to each of the students, and how they linked with other young people at other schools. To create some canvases which concentrated on some of the ideas brought up, the teachers chose 7 students from each school to form a focus group which worked on large canvases using paint pens. This enabled them to add more detailed images and powerful words, and think about the similar views and feelings that students from the same area of Walsall had. The results have been amazing and insightful.
 
David says ‘it was great fun to work with the students and school staff to make their ideas turn into meaningful pieces of art for others to relate to in a positive way.’
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Phase 1 Celebration Event

If you'd like to get in touch with Walsall Arts for All, or find out more, please contact Baz Chapman, Programme Manager: baz@bazchapman.org.uk 
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