High School takeover day

Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool

As part of the Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme (ACC, NPP), the Walker Art Gallery has paired up with local secondary school St Hilda’s to develop a progression programme for their year 12 students who are thinking about careers in the arts.

St Hilda’s school is the only co-educational Church of England school for 11-18 year olds in Liverpool and has a strong arts programme. Whilst the school has visited the Walker Art Gallery in the past, this work marks the start of a relationship that has developed through the National Partners Programme and has been enabled through the programme’s additional staffing, resources and national focus on engaging young people.

Work created by pupils from St Hilda’s in response to ‘Transparency.’ Image courtesy of Pete Carr

For the past two years of the programme, Arts Council Collection’s Education Manager for Walker Art Gallery, Angelica Vanasse, has supported Walker’s Head of Art, Kate Roberts to develop a programme of careers sessions, exhibition tours, artist talks, national trips and workshops, all leading up to an annual take over event for the students at the Walker Art Gallery.

Working with students in years 9-12, Angelica has offered sessions that explore career opportunities in the arts, focusing on the Arts Council Collection Partner shows at the Walker. This model explores what the Collection is and does, and encourages students to consider both local and national opportunities across curating, learning, marketing, conservation and art handling.

In addition to careers workshops, the Walker offers students opportunities to develop and deliver gallery workshops, in turn getting to know the collections and audiences that are involved in the venue’s public programme.

Pupils visit ‘Transparency’. Image courtesy of Pete Carr

Throughout the partnership, Angelica has been able to offer students from year 12 the opportunity to visit Arts Council Collection exhibitions with support from curators, to take part in practical workshops and to develop their own responses to the exhibition themes. Each year, the students have produced work in the gallery that they then develop in the classroom in preparation for a now annual gallery take over day.

The opportunity to engage with live exhibitions at first hand makes the experience tactile and firmly rooted in reality in a world that is becoming increasingly digitised for our young people. The possibility of a career in the arts is made more real as pupils meet staff at the gallery and explore works of art by a broad range of contemporary artists.

Kate Roberts, Head of Art at St Hilda’s CE School

In 2017 students developed work influenced by the exhibition Transparency, in which they took the ideas of the artists and curators and made them relevant to their own experiences, exploring transparent media and materials. In 2018, the students explored the exhibition Lubaina Himid: Meticulous Observations and Naming the Money. Their creative responses explored identity and representation through a range of outputs including small-scale sculpture, drawings, paintings photography and installation. Students were also able to take part in an artist talk and Q&A session with artist Lubaina Himid at the gallery.

With support from Angelica and the learning and curatorial teams at Walker as well as dedicated teachers at St Hilda’s, students have the chance to display their work in the gallery and develop workshop activities, tours and performances. With this menu of activities, the gallery becomes the students’ space, they meet and greet visitors and encourage them to see the ACC NPP show and their work too.

The takeover events are a culmination of a lot of hard work but are worth it to see the pride parents and friends have when they see the artwork on display made by students they know, and engage in activities lead by the students themselves.

As a parent, to have your daughter’s work showcased in The Walker Art Gallery is nothing but overwhelming.

Parent of a student at st. hilda’s

Now, having completed their second annual takeover event, the current year 11 students are eager to get an opportunity to work with the Walker Art Gallery and Arts Council Collection.

The school has recognised the power of working with the Walker and the national weight of the Arts Council Collection and have submitted the work as a large contribution to their Artsmark application. Statistics have also indicated that by working with arts professionals on live projects, the impact on how students value the subject has increased – numbers of students opting for GCSE Art and Design has tripled since the programme began.

Work created by pupils at St. Hilda’s. Image courtesy of Pete Carr.

The experience of working with the Gallery has enriched pupils’ coursework and life experience. Last year our pupils achieved the highest grades, 100% A*-B at A Level and 100% A-C at GCSE. All the year 13 students last year and this year applied to Art Foundation and Arts courses at university.

Kate Roberts
Head of Art at St. Hilda’s CE School

Working towards an exhibition of students work and the takeover day activities has also had a broader impact on the students and staff at St Hilda’s, increasing the school’s sense of civic pride and providing opportunities to engage with the wider school community.

Having pupils’ artwork on display in a national gallery, alongside work from the Arts Council Collection, has raised the profile of the school with large numbers of the public seeing the pupils’ work and the schools’ name in the Walker. It has also raised the profile of the art department within the school as more staff and pupils become aware of what is happening in the art rooms and the potential to take it out into the city. We have had greater staff and community involvement with the postcard competition and weaving workshops attracting staff and the wider community to become involved alongside the pupils.

Kate Roberts
Head of Art at St. Hilda’s CE School

The programme has also had an impact on staff at the school in terms of motivation and professional development. Not only have teaching staff made new contacts with arts professionals but they have been able to take part in workshops, talks and tours they might not have attended if not for the programme. Having a familiar face and a constant contact at the gallery has enhanced the relationship and enabled the flow of ideas between the school and the gallery providing a two way learning experience for all.

This project has provided me with continuing professional development. It has stretched and challenged me to engage with new works of art that I have not used in my schemes of work before. It has increased my vocabulary of art and artists that I can discuss with confidence and suggest to pupils and students to develop their contextual understanding and enrich their artwork. Working within the gallery space opens up the world of curatorship and organisation of an exhibition behind the scenes, which I can then share with learners back at school.

Kate Roberts
Head of Art at St. Hilda’s CE School

Natalie Walton
Learning and Outreach Manager, Arts Council Collection, National Partners Programme 
Arts Council Collection | @A_C_Collection

This project was developed and led by Angelica at the Walker Art Gallery for the Arts Council Collection’s National Partners Programme.

Case study by: Natalie Walton, Learning and Outreach Manager, National Partners Programme, Arts Council Collection.

This project was funded by Arts Council England.

Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme
Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool

Arts Council Collection 
Walker Art Gallery