Day 1: Monday morning I had two school groups dropping by for a chat and to view the exhibition. 37 students from Claddagh Primary School and 49 from Scoil na bhForbacha. This was the first time either myself or Baboro had held a 'Meet the Artist' session in a busy environment such as this. It was a definite learning curve, and while the first meeting was difficult in ways I learned a lot about the benefits and limitations of working in such a bustling and noisy locale. By the second group I had a fair idea of what worked and didn't work and was able to adjust the school sessions accordingly making the afternoon group a great success.
For the visiting schools I created 3 possible activities for them to take part in during their visit. Which and how many of the three they undertook depended on a number of variables. Size of group, age of students and time available. Therefore each group had a program tailored to suit their individual needs. The exercises were as follows.
1. Post-its - What are the characters within each picture saying and thinking? I challenged the kids to look at the characters within each image and imagine what they were saying to one another. I then transcribed the children's ideas onto post-its and stuck them to the paintings themselves. This was a lot of fun and a bit of an ice-breaker. The idea behind this activity was simple. Galleries and framed art in general can often be quite daunting for young and old alike. It's easy to feel intimidated. I wanted the kids to feel relaxed and understand the artwork was there to be engaged with and talked about.
2. Scavenger Hunt - Find and count elements within the paintings. This was a hugely popular exercise. I compiled 20 questions, the answers only attainable by looking very closely at my illustrations. Some were easy, others more difficult. The questions were designed to work for any age, interaction between the child, parent/teacher and myself was the key to completing the list as some questions were only answerable once one asked for help. Saying that I never divulged the actual answers. For example ''How many snails can you find? The exact number of snails hidden or otherwise was unimportant. The act of looking was the important bit. No child's answers were ever graded...whether you found 10, 11 or 12 snails everyone left assuming they had found them all.
3. Drawing - while the shear size of some of the groups made a mini drawing session impossible I did manage to hold one with a select few. When dealing with kids and their art, at all costs I avoid 'teaching' them. I prefer to draw alongside them. They learn by watching me, and I from watching them. Children should never ever be criticized when creating, constructive or otherwise. A child's view of the world is concise and perfect and unfortunately very easily tarnished by the awkward and unsolicited comments of parents, siblings, friends and teachers.
I absolutely love meeting school groups like this. The kids are honest, funny, intelligent and I always learn a lot from them about myself and my work. I left the centre late Monday night and went home to have dinner with the missus and prepare for the following morning!