As Kettle's Yard Great Art Quest came to end, Communications Manager Marie Stirling attended a private view of an exhibition by local primary school pupils.
Find out more about the Great Art Quest here

There may have been grey skies overhead but that did nothing to dampen the spirits as Scottish Dance Theatre 

Going to visit our arts partners is always a treat, particularly visiting for the annual celebration events where you can see and celebrate the work that the children and our partner have managed to achieve over the year.

This is why I found myself on a train to Cambridge to visit Kettle’s Yard for their Great Art Quest celebration event in June. The Great Art Quest is an arts project we’ve been running for over 12 years, engaging primary school children with visual arts and storytelling at their local gallery. This year we’ve been working with four venues across the UK, including Kettle’s Yard.

Throughout the year Kettle’s Yard arranged for children from three local primary schools to have five workshops from an artist and a poet, plus a visit to the gallery. The schools were partly chosen as they had a high percentage of children receiving free school meals, and had never (or infrequently) visited Kettle’s Yard. The project culminated in a celebration event for each school, where the children’s work was exhibited for fellow pupils, families or curious Communication Managers to see.

Arriving at Kettle’s Yard we were directed to the new Clore Learning Studio where the pupil’s work had been displayed. A surprise addition to the space was an Antony Gormley statue hanging from the ceiling, displayed as part of a temporary exhibition at Kettle’s Yard. So the children can now say that they had their work displayed not only in a renowned art gallery but also that they exhibited next to the artist who created the Angel of the North!

Looking around the exhibition it seemed that every available space had been used to display the many different works (and in many different media) that the children had produced! Everything had been inspired by the work of Alfred Wallis, whose work was completed by memory of his life and journeys as a fisherman.

Wandering through the space I came across tents which was broadcasting audio of the children telling stories that they had written. The children had also painted on wooden boards depicting a trip – which mirrored how Wallis used improvised materials, sometimes even cardboard from boxes, in his work. Kettle’s Yard had bravely arranged the wooden boards in a domino set up, which I am pleased to report survived the day!

One of my favourite parts was a delightful twist as, instead of asking the children to write to their past selves (as the visiting poet normally does), the children wrote to the future selves with both poignant and charming results – these were some of my favourites.

It was brilliant to see the thoughtful work that the children had produced and how well they had responded to Wallis’ work. This joined with how proud they were to show their work to the parents and friends, and how comfortable they seemed in the space were the cherries on top.

The Great Art Quest is only a year-long project, so sadly our partnership with Kettle's Yard has now finished, but I’m delighted that one of the primary schools has already booked to bring pupils back to the gallery – hopefully just the first of many future trips.

by Marie Stirling

The Great Art Quest is sponsored by GAM.

Images © Josh Murfitt