Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Schoolkids’ artistic skills on display at Hastings Contemporary

HOT’s Judy Parkinson visited Hastings Contemporary on a family day when the whole place was alive and buzzing with tots, mums, dads and grandparents, not to mention a BBC news crew and visitors to the Quentin Blake and Elias Sime shows. Her focus was the Pearls of the Sea exhibition – an eye-popping show created by 400 local primary school children.

Pearls of the Sea is the result of a year-long collaboration between Hastings Contemporary and eight local schools, each paired with a local artist.

Pearls of the Sea is Hastings Contemporary’s flagship schools programme. Since its launch in 2015, it has given thousands of local pupils the opportunity to respond to modern and contemporary artworks, explore their creativity in the gallery’s learning studio and have the thrill and pride of seeing their work displayed alongside internationally celebrated artists.

There are so many social and inspiring benefits for the children, many of whom might live nearby but have never visited the gallery. The eight schools are from socially deprived areas where there are fewer opportunities to engage with the arts.

Pupil comments include: “I have had the best day ever.” “I loved it all, I liked looking at the paintings and drawing faces.” “It just made me really calm.”

Teachers are enthusiastic too. “We love the programme and feel our pupils gain a lot from the experience.”  “The staff are flexible, and the space is very accommodating for our young people.”

Throughout the academic year, students from these Hastings and St Leonard’s schools have been working with local artists in a series of day-long gallery sessions, school visits and workshops. Teachers are provided with Career Personal Development to enhance their arts delivery skills.

This year 400 students have created eight collaborative art pieces exploring their relationship with the local coastline and environmental issues, all the time getting their hands on all sorts of materials and letting their imaginations run free, to make works including cyanotype banners, mosaics, clay tablets, seaweed-dyed fabric, stick-and-ink illustrations, puppetry and two ambitious on-site installations.

Leah Cross, director of programmes at Hastings Contemporary, said: “Pearls of the Sea is such a valuable part of our programme and a joy to deliver. We are so proud to showcase the outstanding creative talent of local schoolchildren.”

“It’s an honour to work on this project and to meet so many enthusiastic and talented students and teachers,” Louisa O’Shaughnessy, the gallery’s learning coordinator, told me. “I hope all the participants are really proud of what they have achieved, and that the exhibition confounds expectations of children’s art.”

Helen Foster, higher level teaching assistant at Ore Village Primary Academy, said: “Our students love taking part in Pearls of the Sea. For many of them it’s their first visit to Hastings Contemporary, and for all of them it’s the first time their artwork has been displayed on the gallery walls.

“It’s a journey of discovery – a chance to feel welcome and comfortable at a gallery, to work with a local artist and get creative, and to try something new and boost their confidence. Our students don’t get many opportunities like this, and it’s been a highlight of the year.”

The exhibition is part of Hastings Contemporary’s spring season and appears alongside exhibitions of work by Sir Quentin Blake and leading Ethiopian artist Elias Sime.

Pearls of the Sea Participating schools 2023-24:
Ark Blacklands Primary Academy, years 3 and 4, working with Olivia Abdallaoui
Ark Castledown Primary Academy, year 3, working with Hattie Collins
Baird Primary Academy, year 5, working with Toya Walker
Churchwood Primary Academy, years 4 and 5, working with Joseph Legg
Dudley Infant Academy, year 2, working with Dagmara Rudkin
Ore Village Primary Academy, year 4, working with Toya Walker
Saxon Mount School, year 9, working with Janey Moffat
Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School, year 1, working with Gilda Silva

Participating students and their families have been given complimentary gallery entry to view and celebrate their work.

Tickets can be booked in advance online. Hastings and Rother residents go half-price for £5.50. Up to four under 18s go free with each adult ticket.

Pearls of the Sea Exhibition
27 March to 2 June 2024, Hastings Contemporary
Rock-a-Nore Road, Hastings TN34 3DW
Open Wednesday to Sunday and Bank Holidays
11am to 5pm (last entry 4.40pm)
Family days every Thursday during the school holidays.

For more information about Hastings Contemporary, visit their website, X page (@_art_on_sea), Facebook page, or Instagram page (@_art_on_sea).

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Posted 11:31 Wednesday, Apr 24, 2024 In: Arts News

Also in: Arts News

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