In March the exhibition Degas’ Dancers: A Courtauld Masterpiece opened at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. It included one of The Courtauld’s most famous pieces of work Degas’ Two Dancers on a Stage, 1874, as well as two sculptures and a drawing.
Edgar Degas, Two Dancers on a Stage, 1874, The Courtauld Gallery, London
To celebrate these works on tour in Coventry the learning departments from both the Herbert and The Courtauld have worked together to put on a range of events for the public. For example, the Herbert organised a number of late openings to engage new audiences and The Courtauld’s Oak Foundation Young People’s Programme Coordinator (Thurs-Fri) Helen Higgins delivered a number of talks as part of this. We also took the time to observe and learn from each other’s specialisms, which you can read below.
Meghan Goodeve, Oak Foundation Young People’s Programme Coordinator (Mon-Weds) from The Courtauld, reflects on primary school workshops ran by The Herbert:
One of the first things that struck me when meeting the learning team from the Herbert was how comprehensive their primary school programme was. I was keen to observe one of these and see how they used their amazing learning space. I was lucky enough to see a workshop on the theme of sculpture (including our Degas!) for 28 students from local Gosford Park Primary School. The session was engaging and lively, using props such as a chisel and hammer (under close supervision!!) to demonstrate key ways of making sculpture, in this case carving. The Herbert were also brilliant at grounding the learning in literacy, using sheets with key words to help expand the students’ vocabulary. One of my favourite bits of the workshop was when a student was asked to play the role of the workshop teacher and lead the class through their own visual analysis of a work – culminating their learning from earlier in the session. Finally, we hit their learning space to take part in some hands-on clay sculpture. I know the table I was on really enjoyed this and left grasping their work proudly!
Brian Scholes, Learning Officer for Schools from the Herbert, reflects on a post-16 outreach workshop for Coventry City College delivered by The Courtauld:
The outreach workshop was delivered to a group of 20 art students from different disciplines including painting, photography and graphic design. Meghan Goodeve and Naomi Lebens from The Courtauld led the session, beginning with a presentation in the Herbert’s learning space which gave a brief history of the Courtauld. This was extremely illuminating as it also gave the students a chance to learn about the nature and the status of modern art at the end of the 19th and turn of the 20th centuries.
Meghan then introduced the students to the role of curators in museums. This included an exploration of the different viewpoints of art historians and how this can influence the interpretation of an artwork (The Courtauld’s masterpiece La Folie Bergere was used as an illustration for critique). A discussion then took place around how differing interpretations of artworks can influence the creation of an exhibition. Bearing these points in mind the students were then introduced the Herbert’s exhibition Degas’ Dancers in the gallery. The students engaged in an interesting discussion about the content and display.
After lunch the students were given a task, working in small groups, in the learning space. This was led by Meghan and Naomi. Each group was given a series of postcards of paintings from The Courtauld collection. The groups had to pick a theme, then choose appropriate works of art (using the postcards) in order to design an (imaginary) exhibition, including the physical layout of the show. This led to much discussion as ideas flowed and eventually each group came up with a design for an exhibition using the learning from the day.
The whole experience was invaluable to the students, not least because they were all about to embark on the display of their end-of-year shows.