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.
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.
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.