Year 12 Art History Summer University 2015

Student Ambassador, Isabella Dabby, reflects on this year’s Year 12 Art History Summer University. Isabella recently completed a Graduate Diploma at The Courtauld, and will be starting her MA in October 2015.

On the first day of this year’s Summer University, nearly thirty A-level students from across London climbed The Courtauld’s spiral staircase and took their seats within the lecture theatre. Just three days later, these students delivered confident and thought-provoking presentations before their peers, parents and teachers.

13 - presentationsThanks to the efforts of Dr Katie Faulkner and the Public Programmes team, a busy timetable was devised to ensure the students gained a real insight into what studying Art History at The Courtauld is like. Inspiring lectures from Dr Alixe Bovey and Professor Joanna Woodall introduced them to the excitement of art historical research, whilst an energetic morning studying and handling Iranian art objects with Dr Sussan Babaie got the students thinking about art beyond the West.

3 - sussan babbaie 4 - object handlingAlongside this, seminars from Dr Caroline Levitt and Dr Natalia Murray provoked discussion amongst the group on topics as varied as the impact of the industrial revolution on Cubism, to the influence of fashion and poetry on art.

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At the start of the course, the students were asked to bring along and discuss an image of their choice with their peers, organising themselves into groups according to their identification of common themes. Using The Courtauld collection as a source of further inspiration, they were then tasked with developing a virtual exhibition proposal. To help them with this they saw a range of exhibitions, with a tour from Dr Karen Serres, curator at The Courtauld Gallery, a tour at the Ben Uri Gallery, and a visit to Tate Britain. Finally, the students were given the chance to discuss their ideas with this year’s MA Curating students. They were asked to think critically about their experiences in these galleries as they developed their projects and undertook further group research within the The Courtauld’s specialist art library.

1 - gallery 2 - group workLeaving no stone unturned and proving that art history isn’t just about lectures, libraries and quiet museums, a trip to the conservation studio proved a highlight for many of the students, who were asked to look beyond the theory and consider works of art as physical objects. For those students undertaking a mixture of science and arts A-levels, the experience showed them just how varied careers relating to Art History can be.

6 - conservationAs a student ambassador helping out on this year’s course, it was a pleasure to witness the students embrace the challenges thrown at them and watch their understanding of Art History, curation and conservation grow so rapidly over just four days. Even the awkwardly-timed tube strike did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the group, who ended up having to walk the two miles journey to Tate Britain, in order to explore and critique the Barbara Hepworth exhibition.

8 - tateOne student said to me that before coming to the Summer University, she hadn’t just been confused about which course to study, but whether she even wanted to go to university at all. By the end of the week she reckoned that getting a degree would be worth the time and money, so long as she studied a subject she really loved. To me that summed up what the Summer University is all about, and is what makes me so proud to have been a part of it. It is a unique opportunity for inquisitive students to gain an understanding of what going to university is all about: meeting like-minded people, exploring new ideas and challenging yourself within a fun and supportive environment.

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For more information about Summer University see here or contact Meghan Goodeve/ Helen Higgins, Oak Foundation Young People’s Programme Coordinator (job-share), on education@courtauld.ac.uk or 0207 848 1058. 

Working with Welling

The Courtauld Institute of Art and Welling School are happy to present to you our zines. These are the result of a collaboration that has taken place over the 2014-15 academic year, where 150 pupils in year 7 at Welling School visited The Courtauld Gallery and have taken part in art and art history workshops. From Medieval saints to Paul Gauguin’s radical nudes, the students have explored the collection working with artists, academics, and designers. Ten students were selected from their peers to make these zines, investigating the theme of gender in The Courtauld Gallery. Ultimately, this project is a celebration of the ways in which art history and art practice can complement and enrich each other.

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This project was in response to Welling School’s exciting curriculum model of the ‘canon’. Lessons offer a way to teach history through the lens of history of art for year 7 students. To extend and enrich this curriculum, students were taken on trips to The Courtauld Gallery focusing on different elements of the collection and working with a new academic, educator, or artist each time. For example, the first visit in November 2014 looked at Jasper Johns and symbolism.

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These trips to the gallery were complemented by afterschool seminars and workshops, where students were handpicked to attend due to an interest in art history. Themes of these included: 19th century art, modern British sculpture, and wood cut prints.

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Following the success of this model in the Autumn and Spring terms, we decided to stretch a small group of students and challenge them to create a zine (or fanzine) stemming from the theme of The Courtauld’s exhibition Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album. To create these, they thought critically about gender in response to The Courtauld’s collection, learning how to research in a gallery and art library. Moreover, they reflected on the development of feminist art history reading original texts by seminal feminist art historians such as Griselda Pollock and Linda Nochlin. Finally, they learnt about the activist history of zine-making, experimented with this form of communication, and to quote one of the students, ‘learnt that zines really help to get your message out to the world’.

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Over one visit to the gallery, two afterschool workshops, two full-day workshops, and just one day to print at The Common House, the students produced a series of five professional zines that relate to notion of Gender and The Courtauld. Taking just two pieces of artwork from The Courtauld’s collection they constructed critical arguments on themes such as Trapped and Free, Blue Sky Dark Purpose, Working Girls, Judging Feminism: Motherhood, and Women as Objects. And here they are!

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And to close, I would like to leave you with this comment from one of the Welling School teachers involved: ‘The project became an opportunity for the students to intervene in their own learning through probing the very subject they study, and steering their own path as critical thinkers. Through working together with academics from The Courtauld Institute they have made a real engagement in theory and principles of art history.’

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(An exhibition at Welling School, which included work from this project)

To find out more, or if you are interested in running an extended project in your school, contact Meghan Goodeve on education@courtauld.ac.uk or 0207 848 1058.