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UCL Public Engagement Blog



New Ways of Seeing: Printmaking as an Introduction to University

By Briony Fleming, on 29 April 2020

This post has been written by Emma Bryant, Schools Engagement Manager: Museums (UCL Culture) who focusses on a programme of activity with secondary schools in east London.

“The workshop was so inspirational, I have always been interested in Art and learning the process and seeing people creating Art made me want to carry out my dream.”

Hello, I’m Emma, I work in UCL Culture and the quote above is from one of the school students in our Printmaking Project. That is part of the UCL East Museums and Schools Programme that I created and manage. This blog post is the first in a series we are publishing to give a taste of some of Culture’s work that takes place outside the public eye, specifically with schools.

The programme’s main aims are to raise the profile of the university amongst east London schools in advance of the opening of the new UCL East campus; to increase school students’ skills and knowledge; and to give insight into opportunities for study and work available to young people between the ages of 11 – 18.

All children visit a museum during their time at school so I use the familiarity of this environment as a starting point to engage young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Object based learning (OBL) is key to our offer and all school students attend workshops in one of the museums on the Bloomsbury campus: UCL Art Museum, the Grant Museum of Zoology, or the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology.

Key to the success of our projects is the input of UCL students and alumni. Visiting school students, many of whom will not have been to a university before, really enjoy meeting our students. Interesting conversations take place in a relaxed and informal way and the school students’ gain insight into studying at UCL. Over the coming weeks you’ll be hearing form some of the UCL students and alumni who have worked on and have enriched the schools programme. They write about both what happens during their workshops and how they feel about their involvement.

My programme introduces school students to subjects and topics which many of them are not aware of but will be part of the academic programmes planned for the UCL East campus, located in the heart of where they live. The Printmaking Project raises awareness of the opportunities to study art and design at the Culture Lab and the Bio-Robotics Project about the Robotics and Autonomous Systems hub. By broadening their knowledge about what can be studied at university these young people will be better equipped to make informed choices about their next steps on their educational journey.

Pupil drawing in the UCL Art Museum on the first day of the printmaking programme.

First up is the Printmaking Project, for GCSE and A level Art students, which runs over two days. Day 1 takes place on the Bloomsbury Campus, the morning is spent looking at and studying etchings, followed by lunch with Mataio and Nia, two Slade School of Fine Art undergraduate students. After lunch they take the school group on a tour of the campus and the Slade School. The day ends with a practical workshop led by Mataio and Nia in the Slade Printmaking Studio. Day 2 is an outreach workshop at the school or college where school students learn all the practical printmaking skills needed to design, create and print a drypoint etching. The day is led by two Slade School alumni, Isobel and Taylor. These are some of the students who you will hear from in this blog series.

The Day 1 art workshop at the UCL Art Museum begins with prints by Old Masters and prize-winning prints made by former Slade School students being taken from storage and displayed around the museum. I chose these prints because they all are created either partly or wholly using the drypoint technique, they showcase the Art Museum’s amazing print collection in which ranges from old master works to contemporary pieces by Slade students and most importantly they open the school students eyes to the possibilities of using drypoint as a medium to express their creative ideas.

As a group we study, analyse and discuss these original prints. This is followed by drawing activities ranging from quick-fire sketches to longer studies of up to half an hour. Teachers are often surprised that their students can get up close to a selection of etchings by Rembrandt to study his amazing technique and look at his masterful depictions of light and shade.

Rembrandt Drawing at a Window (1648) by Rembrandt Van Rijn which was among the prints displayed at UCL Art Museum on the first day of the programme. © University College London Art Museum.

A teacher commented that her ‘Students were challenged…and looked at work that they would normally not look at. They deeply analysed the work of Rembrandt and former Slade students, making a series of drawings – this informed their designs for Day 2.’

Future posts will describe the next stages of the Printmaking Project. The project has grown over the past three years and we now offer an extension workshop which builds on the skills learnt during Day 2. The quality of the prints produced by the students has been very high so in 2019 all the prints created by participants were exhibited in the Cloisters at UCL  in Make An Impression: Prints from East London Schools. A second exhibition was in the final stages of planning when the Coronavirus hit. This exhibition, Make An Impression II, will now become a virtual one so look out for a blog about how our STEP trainee Mohammed creates it.


The Printmaking Project is part of the UCL East Museums and Schools programme run by UCL Culture and supported by the Access and Widening Participation programme. You can find out about all of our Access and Widening Participation programmes here.

18 Responses to “New Ways of Seeing: Printmaking as an Introduction to University”

  • 1
    Ann Walker wrote on 1 May 2020:

    Thanks very much for this very interesting blog, Emma, introducing your schools scheme. I look forward to reading the students’ comments in future blogs. (I am now going to look up drypoint etching as it’s something I have never heard of, although I recognise Rembrandt).

  • 2
    Briony Fleming wrote on 4 May 2020:

    Hi Ann, glad you enjoyed the blog, we’re hoping to get up a new one every week for the next couple of months, so hopefully plenty to sink your teeth into!

  • 3
    Ian Stone wrote on 1 May 2020:

    This is a very good programme. I’m pleased to see it getting good feedback.
    A horribly current comment, but can it work as a virtual/online programme?

  • 4
    Briony Fleming wrote on 4 May 2020:

    Hi Ian, thanks for your positive comments and your question. We are currently exploring what elements we can move online, including among other things, how we can re-imagine the exhibition that would have seen the student’s work hanging in the buildings at UCL. Watch this space (the best thing to do is to sign up to our newsletter (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/culture/newsletter-signup)

  • 5
    Wenden George wrote on 1 May 2020:

    Such a wonderful program for young people! I especially enjoyed learning what the students get to experience – life changing, really. Studying beautiful works of art and observing beauty, while gaining perspective that will forever serve them. Bravo to Emma and the whole team —making a real difference in this world ❤️

  • 6
    Ana Lozano wrote on 2 May 2020:

    What an interesting programme! I’m sure this is an eye opener for many young students, and will encourage many of them to pursue a fulfilling career in the cultural/creative sector.

  • 7
    Rachel Warner wrote on 2 May 2020:

    Very inspiring and stimulating work. Great to read about.

  • 8
    Jess wrote on 3 May 2020:


  • 9
    Emma Bryant wrote on 4 May 2020:

    Thanks for all the kind comments. It’s great to hear what the wider world thinks about the programmes. The comment about the real/virtual world is something I am struggling with at the moment. Obviously visiting a university campus and studying and learning from real objects and artworks Cannot be replicated in the virtual world.There’s no easy answer to this and, as has been reported, disadvantaged students are expected to fall behind academically because of the lock-down, partly due to of ‘digital poverty’. If anyone has any thoughts or ideas please do share them.

  • 10
    Kat wrote on 5 May 2020:

    Such a great experience for the students, both the A’level students and from the Slade

  • 11
    Martine Rouleau wrote on 6 May 2020:

    Great summary Emma. Running part 1 of this workshop with you in UCL Art Museum was a highlight of my term. I’ve heard so many insightful comments from students that led me to think differently about the selection of prints. Looking forward to a legacy, digital and/or analog.

  • 12
    Richard Shepley wrote on 6 May 2020:

    Amazing programme, Emma. Very different from when I was at the Bartlett in the 1960’s and 70’s, where everything was closed up and hidden. Didn’t know you had an Art Gallery. When all of this is over, I’ll visit!

  • 13
    Briony Fleming wrote on 11 May 2020:

    please do Richard, we’d love to have you. Last year prints were hung in the cloisters in the Wilkins Building, which was great, as it’s such a big thoroughfare, and maximises the opportunity for staff and students to see what’s been created.

  • 14
    Betsy Bush wrote on 8 May 2020:

    What a fantastic programme. Congratulations, I imagine that the experience would be one that will stay with the students for life – very special. Are the prints the students produced online anywhere other than the link to the blog ‘Make an Impression’?

  • 15
    Briony Fleming wrote on 11 May 2020:

    Hi Betsy, thanks for your reply, we’re currently looking into how we might be able to use our online platforms to create a virtual ‘exhibition’ of the prints created, we feel it’s an important part of the process to showcase the prints in a setting outside of school where a wider audience can see it. We’ll keep you updated!

  • 16
    Omar Alghali wrote on 8 May 2020:

    This was really interesting, especially to hear how students today can learn first hand from Rembrandt!

  • 17
    Maira Aviles wrote on 10 May 2020:

    Hi Emma! This is a beautiful program. There are several layers of educational learning: (1) There is the teaching of art appreciation. Students are learning art techniques and can therefore understand and appreciate the artistry and mastery of art pieces in museums – and by doing this you are then (2) removing a common perceived barrier. From my own experience with public programming, a major hurdle to getting people in the door comes from their false assumption that they lack the education/insight/knowledge/etc to enjoy themselves in a museum. This program makes sure that is no longer an issue. These students are given several resources as well as access to museum staff, current undergraduate students, and to the art itself. And that is yet another barrier you are breaking down for them (3) the physical barrier. For an audience that does not frequent museums, the environment itself is a barrier. There are rules in these settings (for example, no leaning on cases, no touching, etc) but there are also unspoken rules. This can be uncomfortable to navigate all on your own. You are acting as their guide into the museum field and giving them a launching pad for furthering their art and museum appreciation. Well done!!

  • 18
    Emma Bryant wrote on 11 May 2020:

    Maira, thanks for your thoughtful response to the programme with it'[s analysis of how we are trying to break down barriers both to art appreciation and to their enjoyment of museums. it would be interesting to hear more about the programmes you run, where they are and who the audience is.

    Richard, do come to visit the UCL Art Museum once it reopens, in the meantime there’s an interesting online exhibition, Witnessing Terror, about the French Revolution: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/culture/projects/witnessing-terror-french-revolutionary-prints-1792-94-2020

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