Last year we were approached by the staff at Sunnyhill Primary – a local school near us in Streatham – to come up with a project as part of their Art Week at the end of term 3. As the idea developed, a week became a term, and the project expanded to involve the whole school – 500 children from Reception to Year 6, culminating with an exhibition of the finished work.
We wanted the project to reflect the ethos of DOLPH, so we set the children a brief as we do our own artists. The premise was: “What Makes Sunnyhill Tick?’ and the idea was that each child would make a piece of artwork that described how they felt about something they liked. We wanted them to communicate their emotions through their work, revealing information about their chosen subject so we could get a sense – just by looking at it – of how they felt about it and why it was so important to them. Their inspiration or ‘something they liked’ could be a thing, a person, an activity, an ambition, or a hero, and they could make anything – from a painting or a sculpture, to a photograph or a film. Its finished form had to relate to their inspiration in some way.
The project began with an assembly, in which we spoke to the children and gave them some ideas about how they could go about making their artworks. We showed them examples of how other artists played with colour and shape to describe emotion, and encouraged them to do the same. They then went away and made mood boards in class with their teachers, brainstorming their individual ideas onto paper. A week later, we visited their classes over three days to view their results and talk about how they could translate these ideas into a final work. Then at the start of February, we held a series of practical workshops at the school. We wanted the children to experiment with different materials and techniques, and play with different ways to communicate their feelings for whatever thing they were focusing on.
The children came up with some amazing pieces. Some made models of guitars and gymnasts. Others, footballers or robots. Dancers symbolized joy; A fish symbolized freedom; Donald Trump, anger; Home, feeling safe and relaxed.
The finished artworks were exhibited in the school hall at the end of term to which friends and family were invited. We hope to exhibit a selection of the children's works at a venue on Streatham High Road in the near future for the public to see.
We would like to thank the staff of Sunnyhill primary school for their fantastic commitment to the project, and of course the children, for sharing with us their amazing ideas.