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Arts Award at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery: Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition

Written by: Elmtree Press


As an Arts Award provider, Bristol Museums support local schools to complete the Discover level award. ‘Discover in a day’ workshops for Key Stage 2 pupils are tailored to museum exhibitions to provide a stimulus for pupils work and encourage children to learn about the arts around them.

To mark the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery displayed twelve of his finest drawings as part of #Leonardo500. Leonardo da Vinci: A life in drawing included landmark anatomical studies to sketches of mythical beats.  The drawings revealed his qualities as a dreamer, note-taker, designer and above all, an insatiably curious observer of the world around him.

To enable local pupils to engage with this exhibition and see-up close the world-famous artist’s own drawings, funding was sought to provide the cost of coach travel and class visits to Leonardo da Vinci: A life in drawing. Schools in priority neighbourhoods known to have had little contact with Bristol Culture over the last 3 years were approached to take part. The Leonardo ‘Discover in a day’ was also available to any school in the south-west that wished to take part and could fund their own visit.

From February to May 2019, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery also used funding to employ two artists in residence in an effort to provide drawing technical expertise, hints and tips for learners of all ages visiting the museum. Audiences from families, dementia cafe groups, home educators and adult learners all worked with artists Freya Gabie and Christine Allison.  The artists also supported pupils learning during ‘Discover in a day’ Arts Award workshops. Freya and Christine could provide expertise and specialist drawing skills facilitated by the learning team, while pupils were introduced to practicing artists as role models. 

Key Stage 2 pupils took part in artist lead activities around portrait - from discussing Leonardo’s sketches and museum art on display, to sketching the face by feel only, creating their own colour wheel and experimenting with new and exciting art materials. The emphasis was on the experimental nature of Leonardo’s sketches and his use of drawing to make sense of his own ideas. Art activities were practical, creative and hands-on, using mediums inspired by Leonardo’s own sketches, and which pupils may otherwise have little exposure to ‘ It has made me change how I feel about art because now I know art tips and material that will be good for me to use’ Year 4, Staverton Primary.

Caroline Barlow, teacher at Staverton Primary, said of the benefits of taking part in the Arts Award day:
“We had an excellent day visiting the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. My class of Year 4 children really enjoy art activities, in particular drawing, so I had been searching for a trip to encourage and develop their art skills. The children hadn’t visited an art gallery or art exhibition before, although, because we going,  one of the boys visited the Leonardo drawings with his father the week before as they both enjoy art and his father wanted to see the drawings with him.

The children loved the day, one said that it was ‘the best day of her life’; another has been inspired to do more drawing; several children were delighted by the colour wheel and one wants to go back to the museum with her family. I honestly believe that has made a lasting difference to the way the children look at art by other artists and approach their own projects.

Christine and Freya were brilliant and persuaded the children to persevere and develop their portraits, even the less confident ones who might usually give up quite early on! The overall impression I took away from the day was that Rachael, Christine and Freya really wanted the children to view themselves as artists and have skills they could develop in the future.

Since the trip the class completed follow up activities drawing another portrait and, inspired by the materials provided at the museum; I found a variety of materials  in the stock cupboard, it turns out we had a surprisingly good range of pastels, pencils and chalk lying neglected at the back!
Another change I will make to my approach to art in the future is that I may now show the children a range of works by different artists to inspire and inform them. In the past I would have focused on one artist at a time.”

For Staverton Primary the learning has continued, with post-visit activities taking place in class. Caroline has been inspired to explore a range of artists work with pupils, use different art media with the class and now has a free copy of artist Christine’s published works for the school to use in their future teaching. 

“The trip encouraged me to draw more as I now know art is whatever you want it to be”, Year 4 pupil.
“Now I have learnt more about drawing it encourages me to draw more at home” Year 4 pupil.
“It has changed how I feel about art because I found out there are loads of different forms of art”, Year 4 pupil.

For Bristol Culture, during the Leonardo 500 project, relationships were established with schools that do not usually access museum learning activities and are from identified priority neighbourhoods in Bristol. Activities such as these help contribute towards a target of 100% Bristol schools having contact with the museum service over a 3 year period. The learning team now also have further experience at tailoring arts activities to temporary exhibitions and have developed skills in facilitating activities between artists and pupils.

#Leonardo500 is a national celebration and this exhibition is one of 12 simultaneous shows across the UK. Exhibitions are also taking place in Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Derby, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Southampton and Sunderland. These shows will be followed by major displays at The Queen’s Galleries in Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.

Leonardo Image: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

Although the Leonardo500 exhibition is now finished, Bristol Museums still offer an Arts Award programme that can be booked by teachers.  Here is the latest opportunity https://www.bristolmuseums.org.uk/bristol-museum-and-art-gallery/learning/discover-arts-award-schools/