Over the past few months I have been working with Gateshead College to deliver a project called Make Art Not War to their students. The project has been set up by the organisations 14-18 NOW and Creative & Cultural Skills and is being undertaken by colleges nationwide. The project was launched the week before the centenary anniversary of Armistice Day, when the lead artist on the project, Bob and Roberta Smith posed the question “What does peace mean to you?” Students aged 16-18 were invited to make their own creative response to the question using any media they wish. The purpose of the project was two fold, one to commemorate Armistice Day and secondly to encourage young people to develop and nurture essential creative skills that are fundamental to wider learning.
I used to teach at Gateshead College so it was nice to be invited back to be one of the artist mentors who worked with their students on this project. The students involved came from the Art and Design course and the Photography course. During the first set of workshops in November I introduced the students to typography and we explored different styles of type. We ran workshops where the students produced organic, flowing typography, 3D typography, collage typography and then typography made from found objects. I introduced them to the work of other artists who produce typography artwork including, Kate Moross, Wes Wilson, Oscar Wilson and Becca Clason. They had time to experiment and create their own pieces of work. Many of the students were used to working digitally so it was nice to get them to produce work by hand and really encourage them to step out of their comfort-zone. During the second day the students were encouraged to produce their own response to the question, “What does peace mean to you?” using the skills and techniques they had experimented with during the workshops. It was great to see the variety of outcomes that they produced using different mediums including, pencil, paint, photography and animation.
In January I was back in Gateshead for the second round of workshops with the students. This time I set the students the task of creating placards and banners for a Peace ‘protest’ that we would be holding at the end of the second day. The North-East of England is historically very industrial and has over the years workers from the area have been involved in protesting for change. I showed the students banners and placards that trade unions had produced for protests to use as inspiration for their own. I also introduced them to protest artwork from Paul Peter Piech, one of my favourite artists.
After two days of production we took a walk down to a very cold Gateshead Quayside to stage our ‘protest’ and the photography students documented the process.
The workshops have been so enjoyable and it was great to work with the students. It’s so nice to see them experiment and create work that is completely outside of their usual style and hopefully they can utilise the skills they have learned in their future projects.
The work on the Make Art Not War project is not quite finished yet however, as I’ve been asked to go back to the college in March to work with the students for a week on one final piece of work. Exciting stuff…more details to follow.