MaxLiteracy 2016–17

In 2016 it was announced that the second round of the Max Reinhardt Literacy Awards (MRLA) would be hosted by BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Leeds Art Gallery and York Art Gallery. The Awards are funded by the Max Reinhardt Charitable Trust, with additional support from The Ernest Cook Trust in 2016-17. The Awards are run in partnership with Engage, the National Association for Gallery Education and the National Association for Writers in Education (NAWE).

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

BALTIC worked with 2 mixed ability groups of Year 7 students from Northumberland Church of England Academy, Ashington (NCEA) and writer in residence Stevie Ronnie. The stimulus for this project was a major exhibition of the experimental work of the Canadian artist Rodney Graham. The project with the NCEA pupils was particularly bold because it took place in advance of the exhibition arriving at the BALTIC; actually encountering the artist’s work in the space was an endpoint for the project rather than a stimulus. One of the pupils involved in the project was 13 year old Jessica, who has no vision other than light perception due to a rare genetic condition. Planning sessions placed her at the centre of the process from the outset, and a ‘PenFriend’ assistive technology enabled Jessica to create her own audio labels and record her own responses. Jessica was also able to take part in the recording of the pupils’ responses to the exhibition. These were turned into a sound installation at the BALTIC as part of an initiative to encourage new audiences. Stevie’s own interactions with Jessica influenced what he produced as part of his residency commission: the poetry pamphlet Self Portrait as Someone Else and an artist’s book containing two poems set in Braille.The commission was an important part of the project for the writer; providing an opportunity to combine creative practice with the engagement that took place in the school and the gallery.

Leeds Art Gallery

Leeds Art Gallery is an international centre for modern and contemporary art that celebrates and explores creativity in Leeds with free access to exhibitions. Founded in 1888, the gallery is nationally significant with a collection of 19th, 20th and 21st century British painting and sculpture, alongside contemporary work and other media widely considered to be the best outside the national collections. The school and gallery worked with poet Helen Mort and flamenco guitarist Samuel Moore, with participation from the whole of Stanningley Primary School including five families acting as ambassadors for the school community. After considering several paintings from the gallery’s permanent collection, the pupils voted to borrow On the Move by Jack Butler Yeats and have it professionally hung in their school. Helen helped Year 5 classes write their own poems using colour from the painting as a starting point, and to work together as a team to write a collective poem. This was set to music and performed by Helen and Samuel to a packed hall of children and their families in the school. A second performance was held in Leeds Art Gallery. Watch the video above to find out more.

York Art Gallery

York Art Gallery houses European paintings spanning more than 600 years and works range from 14th century Italian panels and 17th century Dutch masterpieces to Victorian narrative paintings and 20th century works by LS Lowry and David Hockney. The gallery’s collection of British studio ceramics in its Centre of Ceramic Art is one of the most important in the UK, containing more than 5,500 objects. The gallery was winner of the Family Friendly Museum Award in 2016.Poet Antony Dunn worked with the gallery and year 9 students from The Joseph Rowntree School in York. An evocative and enigmatic contemporary statue of a bleeding young boy from the exhibition Flesh, was selected as the stimulus for the development of an ambitious play script. Antony skilfully built up the students’ confidence in creative writing through a series of manageable steps, including fun descriptions of classmates and descriptive poems using the five senses, one line at a time. The students then explored narratives that may have been relevant to the character, engaging in drama games, role play, and using different voices to tell the stories.The students’ writings coalesced into a piece of drama that was performed in the gallery in front of the artwork. An emotional, personal, yet collective response to an encounter with an artwork. >> Link to download York Resource, A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words