'The Making of Learning' and 'What is Art'?

Thoughts on the Making Learning: Pop-up School and Symposium workshop at Tate Exchange with Plymouth School of Creative Arts...

It was amazing to see actually - not worrying whether their answer could be considered right or wrong, or silly… none of that. That’s purely them saying exactly what they think and if we could all do that more often, that would be fantastic.[1]

As an MA Arts Administration and Cultural Policy student at Goldsmiths University, I had the opportunity to assist one of my lecturers, Sylvia Lahav, during a workshop at Tate exchange with the Plymouth School of Creative Arts.

A selected group of students, aged nine through to Master Level, travelled from Plymouth to London, to set up a school in the Tate for three days: Making Learning: Pop-up School and Symposium.

The workshop I was involved in provided a refreshing framework around the concept of ‘the making of learning’ and what is art. It aimed at exploring the meaning of art through the incorporation of personal stories to create a welcoming and challenging environment.

In three distinct steps, it furnished ideas for successfully connecting with children through their direct involvement and interaction with the museum.

Step 1: Make it look familiar

When asking for their initial feeling when they entered the Turbine Hall for the first time, some of the children underlined a too big and too vast sensation. Some of the words they used to describe that feeling were; impressive, big, massive, unfamiliar, unknown.

The children were asked to bring a personal object with them to the gallery. Sylvia asked them to talk about their items; an ‘endanger’ orangutan toy, a small bottle of perfume, a precious doll, a notebook, a necklace etc. All those objects had individual stories and all the children seemed happy to introduce their object. Then, they were asked questions such as; what is art, who can be an artist etc.... This first introductory step established a link between the children and the participants and forged a welcoming environment.

Step 2: Let them create their own stories

Then, in groups the children went to explore the Tate, with the instruction of placing their object in front of an artwork and then discussing it. Instead of using the artwork’s accompanying text, the children directly addressed the artworks with their objects and by bringing their story; they reinvented and gave new meanings to the art on display. This process also helped to diminish age hierarchy as it offered the opportunity to deliver personal meaning. It is not about the Tate as an institution but about their very own relation with art.

Step 3: A dedicated time for sharing

Back in the Tate Exchange room, the children had the possibility to draw on graffiti walls, write, and share their experience.

All in all, the time allocated at the end of the session was truly important; it enhanced the experience of students, and led them to the understanding that learning exists through sharing. Also, materials they created will be used for further discussion back at Plymouth School of Creative Arts.


Alexia Lanta Maestrati - Learning and Participation Intern



[1] http://www.plymouthart.ac.uk/latest/blog/making-learning-journey-to-tate-exchange/