We recently paired sculptor James Capper with John Donne Primary School to work with the students on creating their very own hydraulic structures inspired by Capper’s own sculptures.
The project was co-designed by us, the school, and James. We carefully designed the project to tie in with the school’s curriculum and goals, tying this creative project to the learning students were already doing about robots.
We interviewed James to explore the impact the project had upon him and to find out if it had any impact on his own practice.
“It was very interesting to see the consequences of my session, after I’d done it, back at the studio… I started challenging myself to come up with ideas which involve simplicity, that would allow the kids to make the work and everyone to have a successful piece of work…I’ve re-educated myself in how to go back to that way of working. I don’t want to call it lo- because it isn’t. It’s quintessentially still maquette making and sculpture, but it’s doing it in quite a beautiful simplistic way and that has been educational to me.
For me it was also inspiring to see the level of creative problem-solving in such a young human being. These lessons combined exactly what I do in real life, which is combining my aesthetic choices with my mechanical understanding of hydraulics to make something that moves. To be able to pretty much take my studio to the classroom and have the children able to make their artwork that was amazing.
One boy I remember because we are probably quite similar, because he was branded as the naughty one, his teachers weren’t sure if he would get anything done. In fact he was really excited about getting it finished and stayed in at lunchtime to finish it off!
It was interesting to see firsthand whether or not all
of these things that you hear about kids these days is true, that they aren’t interested in sports or art, they are only interested in computer games, they’re just on Candy Crush. What I saw was crystal clear thinking from six and seven year olds that had no prejudices and simply wanted to make work. For me it’s clear these are completely irrelevant myths.
Passion is a very important thing to bring to a
project like this and it gets everybody excited – the students, the teachers, the project managers. And that’s what it’s about; it’s about the excitement, and the elevation of teaching, and talking freely about creative obstacles, creative problem solving, art, engineering.
I think lessons like these are very important for a child’s development. They allow an
out of box curriculum method of teaching, it allows the spirituality, and also it allows us to see that if this is achievable now at six, what will these kids be capable of at sixteen? I definitely now have more interest to go into primary school than I do to give a traditional lecture at an art school.”
Our ambition is to grow Artists in Schools and initiate more of these bespoke extended artist-school collaborations. We would like to be able to fully fund additional artist time, and to ensure that we work with a full range of education institutions including Pupil Referral Units, an area we know could massively bene t from what our project can offer.