school galleries

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.

Well the gallery

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:

Oh nervous!

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:

Quite cool.

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!

 

displaying and sharing art

This post is written by Lexi Earl, on her time at Welling School in Kent.

When I arrived at Welling School in Kent, I was immediately fascinated by the ‘mini gallery’ space in reception – a tall glass cube, filled with objects. It displayed work by Year 8 students, responding to work by American artist Judith Scott. These were vibrant, colourful balls that used thread and textiles to create new art from found objects. The wall next to this mini gallery was filled with posters advertising the school’s ‘alTURNERtive’ prize – a yearly art competition for students.

 

Welling is an art specialist school and there is a lot of opportunity to partake in art of various kinds, but what struck me in the first few moments was the clear importance of sharing and showing students’ work. In my few months on this project, I have noticed how students talk about sharing their work, and how comfort with sharing appears to develop over time – younger students tend to be more cautious about sharing their developing art works, whereas their older peers are sharing on social media and engaged in conversation with other young artists.

Students I spoke to clearly knew that their school valued the arts, their art in particular, and showcased this in various ways.

Art has always been very big in the school. I just think that it is appreciated.

They have an awards ceremony as well. The alTURNERtive prize they do that every year cause we have a gallery downstairs. And we have a lot of stuff around the room, like everyone’s work is displayed. Like last year, everyone’s final pieces will be up on the walls.

It’s one of the main things that attracted me to the school [the way it values art]. I used to go to [another school] and they’re into art as well but I thought that this was even more into art cause its what I want to go into so it felt like this was the right decision to come here.

When I asked how the school’s value of the arts made them feel they said:

It makes us want to do more big stuff and show it off, cause we know we can.

I feel less restricted cause you can make big stuff in this school.

One student explained about her experience in The alTURNERtive Prize:

So they choose a couple of people from Year 11, 12 and 13, art that they’ve done and they put it in the gallery and it’s like a show. Everyone comes in to watch it. And they choose an overall winner. […] It’s fun. It’s a good experience. You feel quite involved in everything and it feels a bit more real. And you feel like you get rewarded for the stuff you do, so it’s quite nice.

And what did everyone say when they came in and saw all the artwork?

It’s like not a community but like everyone’s joined together and everyone is like ‘oh, your work’s nice’, ‘and your work’s nice’ and you all give each other ideas. It’s a nice thing to do. It’s a good idea. It works.

Sharing art work at Welling was not only confined to formal gallery spaces or competitions. The teacher’s classrooms displayed student work, and the corridors of the art block were full of posters, art, photographs and notice boards showcasing recent plays or information on exhibitions students could visit.


At Welling I began to think about the role the school and teachers can play in creating spaces where students can share work in a gradual fashion – anonymously in the glass cube, with friends, family and other artists in the school gallery space, and eventually, on social media and in other public spaces. And through doing so, empower students to share their work with the world.