During my visit to Welling School in Kent, I was able to have a look around ‘the gallery’ – a dedicated art space for students to display their work. The school had recently had the 6thform show, where students from Years 12 and 13 all had their art up on display. Parents, friends and other teachers could come in and view their work, and they could view each other’s work too. I talked to the students about what the gallery space meant to them, and the experience of having work on display.
I think we are really lucky to have things like the gallery though. It is nice to present your work like that. It makes you take it a bit more seriously.
All of that stress and everything we have done for a whole year; that is the end result and it makes you proud.
You show it off.
I found it quite daunting. I didn’t want to admit to it being my work. They put my name underneath it so in the end everyone kind of realised! I enjoyed looking at everyone’s artwork.
It was nice because in the lead up, when we had the 10-hour exam, everyone was really stressed. But when it came to that, everyone was happy. We all sat there in the corner talking to our teachers, talking with our parents.
It was a bit of a relief. You could relax and just enjoy our work.
It is weird seeing everyone’s parents taking pictures of other children’s work so their parents didn’t just like their own kids work, they were looking at everyone’s.
It utilises our work because obviously once you’re produced your work, people just chuck it away. Whereas here they keep it and value it to be shown.
I asked students what it was like having family and friends come to view their work. They said:
Everyone has their own interpretation of arts and not everyone is going to like your work.
It is funny when someone doesn’t get it and they’re like ‘what is that?’ And you have to explain it!
Like you know where you had your plaster of the sanitary towel and some boys walked past and went ‘what is that meant to be?’ and I went ‘sanitary towel, periods’, and they went ‘oh! Oh okay!’
I remember with my room as well [sanitary towel prints installation] when I was at the gallery, no one wanted to walk in. I purposely put it on the floor so that people could walk on it and I had to be ‘you can go in! It is fine. Just walk on it!’ It is interesting to see how people react.
I find it funny when they just stand. Just stand there, ‘is that a piece of art work?’
I also asked the students about the experience of sharing art, of having it displayed in a gallery space. They explained:
It makes you feel more professional. A lot more confident I feel. I feel like we all had a lot of doubt in our work, thinking it wasn’t good enough, that we could’ve done so much better than we had done but after receiving comments about everything from different people, some people that don’t even take an interest into art normally, they’d be like ‘oh my god, that is amazing, tell me the meaning of that’ and knowing that they had that kind of interest, it just built up our confidence.
It makes you think you are capable. And capable of so much more as well, for next time.
It is very rewarding.
A lot of them could tell how much effort was put into each piece of artwork, which is not really normally appreciated. So when they were like ‘wow, that must’ve taken you ages’ and you’re like ‘yeah, it did! And not even doing it, the thought process as well’.
Everyone is really proud of each other. It was such a nice feeling.
It was a really happy environment to be in.
Even on the school website we had a banner with a photo of all of us in it. When we saw that we were like ‘oh my god, that is so cool! ‘
It was nice for me because my work had a message. To actually get it across to more people than what it was before was a big thing for me.
It is quite nice actually. It shows that you are doing something. It is actually good enough to go up on a wall.
Yeah. I’m proud of it.
When you get the feedback like in the shows and stuff, you feel more secure about it. It makes you want to carry on, which is nice. I’m glad we’ve got that kind of support in art.
The 6thform students at Welling clearly appreciated being able to display their work, and for the opportunity to talk to different people about what they were doing. The gallery space had a professional feel about it, and the students clearly felt that their work was taken seriously by the school because they had the opportunity to have it professionally displayed and shared. It is a model I hope other schools consider!