Guest Blog by Thanh Sinden – Inclusion and Engagement Specialist
Over the summer of 2019 I brought together 10 young people to produce a short film about former employees and their working memories at Courtaulds factories in Coventry. The film project focussed on supporting the young people to gain media and interviewing skills and knowledge such as optimum environment settings, lights, sounds and camera settings as well as how to approach and draw out the best interviews from interviewees. Making people feel comfortable and the type of questions that would get a good story, being sensitive and ethical about recording people’s oral history. The project had to take place on a short and tight timescale due to filming schedules and availabilities of the volunteers. ‘I particularly enjoyed the social element to this project, from getting to know the team members and working together, to meeting the interviewees and know their varied and interesting stories.’
The young people felt proud and a great sense of achievement having no prior experience of doing this type of projects before. ‘I definitely feel more connected to the local population and their history and learned more about the community than I would’ve from merely reading.’
Looking ahead at future projects I would like to support the further engagement, development of skills and interest of the young people and widen participation to more young people in Coventry. It would be great for future projects to enable more people to connect with a creative and heritage project like the Courtaulds film project. Creating more opportunities to work with a great team of people at the Herbert to support the building of skills, knowledge and develop confidence and enjoyment of Coventry’s history with young people.
‘Last but not least, helping on a project that contributes to the local social and historic heritage was very satisfying and sparked my interest in joining similar projects in the future.’
Our partners from Wolverhampton Art Gallery joined us recently to explore our collections, ahead of our contribution to their exhibition celebrating the centenary of the Wolverhampton Society of Artists (WSA).
Despite the best efforts of the stormy weather to disrupt the day, we were very pleased to welcome eight visitors from Wolverhampton to take a look at our collections with an introduction from Barnaby Wright, followed by networking and meetings with other members of the Courtauld team in the afternoon.
In December, the Wolverhampton Society of Artists exhibition will feature a special display celebrating the influence of Samuel Courtauld on the art world in Britain in the early 20th Century, and exploring the artistic context in which the WSA came to be formed. Included in the display will be exceptional works by C.R. Nevinson, Vanessa Bell and Roger Fry, as well as archive material relating to Courtaulds Ltd which began operating in Wolverhampton in 1927.
During the research day we were all able to get up close to these works and engage in lively discussion about the many links between the artists, Wolverhampton and the Courtauld collections. As well as planning an exciting programme of public events and volunteering opportunities to run alongside the exhibition and throughout 2020.
The exhibition runs from 14th December to 16th February. Find out more about the exhibition and how to get involved in volunteering on the Wolverhampton Art Gallery website: http://www.wolverhamptonart.org.uk/whats-on/wolverhampton-society-of-artists-centenary-exhibition/
In preparation for the opening of Radical Drawing in October, the Herbert team joined us at the Courtauld on August 6th to take a look at our prints and drawings collection.
We were delighted to host members of the curatorial, learning, conservation and marketing teams at the Herbert, and we were joined by a wide variety of Courtauld staff from the Gallery and Public Programmes. In the morning we got a chance to take a close look at the 16 amazing works travelling to Coventry in October, where they’ll join works from the Herbert and the University of Warwick. Expert guidance was on hand from Rachel Sloan (Assistant Curator of Works on Paper), Kate Edmondson (Conservator of Works on Paper) and Barnaby Wright (Deputy Head of The Courtauld Gallery and Daniel Katz Curator of 20th Century Art).
The prints and drawings in the exhibition range in date from the 16th to the 21st Century and demonstrate a variety of techniques and themes, united by their innovative and creative approaches to drawn marks and lines.
After a great lunch, provided by Good Measure, we got to work on the details with meetings about the public engagement, events and marketing for the exhibition, as well as the opportunity to research the background of the works and some of the techniques used to create them. The highlight of the day was the opportunity to work so closely and collaboratively with colleagues to develop this exciting exhibition and associated programme of activities.
Radical Drawing: Works from the Courtauld and Coventry opens on 18th October 2019 at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and runs until 19th January 2020. Check back soon for details of events and ways to get involved.
On 26th April we welcomed 18 staff members and volunteers from the Courtauld National Programme’s eight partner organisations to take part in the first of our annual networking events.
The partners from across the UK, which include The Herbert, Ulster Museum, The Harris, Braintree District Museum, Ashton College, Greenfields Heritage Site, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and The Ferens, are at the heart of the National Programme (part of the larger Courtauld Connects project) collaborating with the Courtauld Gallery on exhibitions, oral history projects, volunteer activity and workshops with schools and colleges. A key aim of the national programme is to build relationships that allow for the sharing of ideas and experiences across a variety of cultural and educational partners, and the networking days are an essential part of developing these connections.
The activities during the day were highly interactive, with a focus on developing relationships, sharing best practice and discussion around two significant strands of the programme; engaging new audiences and communities, and engaging young people aged 14-25. The workshops included input from members of the gallery, public programmes and digitisation teams at the Courtauld and presentations from partners about their experiences with the programme so far. The team at the Harris shared their approach to engaging new audiences through a café at the former Courtaulds Ltd site; Anna Liesching from Ulster Museum introduced us to innovative event programming, such as feminist Wiki-edit-a-thons; and Sarah Way spoke about volunteer recruitment and retention in the Courtauld digitisation project. We also heard about a successful pilot run by our own public programmes team with Greenfields Heritage Site to engage secondary school students with their local heritage through drawing.
Held at the new Vernon Square campus, there was also an opportunity to introduce our partners to the work of our staff and students, through a tour of the conservation facilities and Resfest. We were able to speak to and observe the work of third year Conservation of Easel Paintings students and to learn more about how the department could support the partner’s own collections through student projects. In the evening, Robert Rose, Museums Manager of Braintree District Museum, presented on the legacy of the Courtauld family in the local area to a large and diverse audience at Resfest, while other partners were able to find out more about the work of the Research Forum and get to know each other better in an informal setting.
The ideas and enthusiasm generated by the event show how important the networking aspect of the programme is and over the next four years we will offer more formal and informal opportunities for our partners to share their expertise and learn from each other.