This April, Freelands Foundation will present ‘Resist – Things Artists do Whilst Learning to Teach’, an exhibition that brings together the results of its fourth collaborative project with artist teachers from the Art & Design PGCE course at UCL, Institute of Education (IoE). This exhibition, and an accompanying publication, capture the insights and ideas of artists at the start of their careers in schools.
The title of the show, ‘Resist – Things Artists do Whilst Learning to Teach’, was born out of conversations that took place between the artists and Freelands Foundation, when the content of the exhibition was brought together. The title is consciously assertive and reflects a feeling amongst the artists of entering teaching at a challenging time, as the value of artistic practices and expression are being questioned as an academic form.
The project, and concluding exhibition at the Foundation, explores how artist teachers continue to produce their own work, while balancing the demands of life in schools. ‘Resist’ will address the rich tradition of great artists making great teachers and anecdotes about how all-consuming working in schools can become, with the difficulty of maintaining any sort of practice alongside teaching.
Following the completion of teaching placements in secondary schools across Greater London, individuals were invited to reflect on this time, their position as artists in schools, investigating their new context, and make an artwork in response to the situation.
For some of the 27 artists included in ‘Resist’, this has meant continuing an established practice, but focusing on a new subject, while in others, the shock of the school environment has generated new ways of working.
In the artworks of Alice Kemp and John Fitzgerald, the presence of the school and students is very much evident, picturing classrooms, lessons and painterly sinks.
In contrast, pieces by Ellie Northway and Sophie Ormerod take a more abstract approach, while still maintaining an element of connection to teaching through form and style. Ormerod invites the viewer to conjure their own mental picture through printed words, evoking colourful, vivid memories of art classes.