Inverurie pupils explore possibilities of sculpture using paper

Pupils at Stathburn Primary in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire experienced world-class art in their classroom on Tuesday 3rd December as part of the largest ever sculpture project undertaken in the UK.

‘Studio Grid’ made by former Gray’s School of Art graduate Julia Gardiner was loaned from RGU Art & Heritage Collections to the school to inspire learning. The boxed construction created in 2013 contains intricate shapes and forms meticulously crafted from hand-made paper recycled from pulped newspaper.

Alongside the sculpture’s visit, primary 6 and 7 pupils were treated to creative workshops run by local artist and paper sculptor Anna Shirron, also a Gray’s graduate. Taking inspiration from the sculpture, Anna tutored pupils to create their own weavings, 3D structures and wall hangings, all from colourful paper.

The Masterpieces in Schools event, organised by Art UK is part of a national learning and engagement programme which launched in 2018 – part of Art UK’s ongoing sculpture project. The unique initiative takes sculpture out of the museum and into classrooms, to bring children and young people into direct contact with practising artists who showcase their sculptures on site and deliver a sculpture tutorial.

A key aim of the initiative is to engage more children with art – 125 schools and 125 collections across the UK will take part in Masterpieces in Schools by May 2020. Teachers are encouraged to use sculpture to illustrate, enliven and inspire their teaching around art and design and other subjects across the curriculum.

With many schools across the UK facing challenges in delivering activities on this scale due to lack of resources or budget constraints, the initiative is an invaluable opportunity to bring children into close contact with high-profile artworks.

Anna Shirron, artist, said, ‘It was great to see kids getting to experience a physical piece of art and then responding to it directly in the same space. Normally this could only happen in a gallery, so it’s brilliant for a shire-based school to have an art work come to them.’

George Cheyne, Collections Assistant at RGU Art & Heritage Collections, said, ‘Art UK have provided a wonderful opportunity for children to experience this beautiful art work by Julia Gardiner from the University collection. We all enjoyed a fun day with another Gray’s School of Art graduate, professional artist, Anna Shirron.’

Scott Neish, Teacher at Strathburn Primary, said ‘The children responded very well to this rare opportunity of having an professional art work in the classroom and were highly engaged throughout the talks and creative workshops, asking lots of questions and creating their own unique pieces of work.’

Andrew Ellis, Art UK Director, said, ‘Masterpieces in Schools is a hugely rewarding initiative for schools and museums alike, and with school visits to museums on the decline, taking art into schools is all the more vital.’

The Masterpieces in Schools programme is being made possible thanks to generous grants from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. For more information about the Sculpture Project funders visit the Art UK website.