Jessica Hartshorn – Case Study – Magnificent Mushrooms project – Boundary Way

Art is essential to help us understand and see the world differently. As a freelance illustrator, artist, and educator in the cultural and heritage sector, I use art to tell stories. With over 18 years’ experience advocating and engaging schools and families in the arts, my practice is divided between illustration commissions, murals and art education delivery. My work with children and young people often includes focusing on core drawing and painting skills and then developing these into something more playful, focusing on narrative. I’m really passionate about innovative ways of working to encourage children to explore creativity in different ways.

I also work with students to create illustrations or mark making onto 3D objects and materials, such as wood, Perspex, card or everyday objects to create sculptures, public art or installations.

During projects and workshops, I develop connections and draw out stories and ideas with students helping to develop vocabulary and develop ideas.

The ‘Magnificent Mushrooms’ project took place at an allotment called Boundary way in Wolverhampton, funded by Kew Gardens and I was commissioned to work with a year 3 class to create artwork inspired by mushrooms.

The project included a school visit with a specialist in this area to the allotment to find and learn about mushrooms. During my workshop which followed, we carefully held and looked at the shape, texture and colour of mushrooms on each table, and drew what we saw with sticks and mud. We then drew and painted designs onto wooden discs with acrylic, before hanging them together to create an installation. It was important to use good quality brushes and materials to ensure the children were valued as artists and it helped to produce better results. Finally, we created clay mushrooms discussed their habitat and how they would sit within it… how they might stand, curving and bowing. The completed clay mushrooms were installed onto a large organic log, creeping out from the sides, as if they were engulfing the tree. The creations were added to a final project exhibition and sharing day at the allotment polytunnel, in which the children could admire their work on display. The project enabled children to take the mushroom knowledge they had learnt and creatively bring it to life. Children were filled with pride to see their creations on display, to be artists themselves and talk about the process and skills they had learnt along their journey.  The impact of art was powerful and enjoyable, it improved the children’s wellbeing and supported their connection with nature and the world around them.  Art is Essential.

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