Out of Schools Exhibition, Saturday 30th June, 10 – 4p.m, Holden Gallery, Manchester school of Art.
Words and Photographs by Caroline Coleman.
Outside, the streets of Manchester are grey and mundane, inside the Holden gallery however is a beautifully intricate labyrinth of colour and creativity. As parents and children amble along the art clad hallways into the various aesthetic pleasures that meet their eyes as they move from studio to gallery, every nook and cranny is bursting with inspiration. The ‘Out of Schools’ exhibition is a collaboration of schools, artists and the Manchester Children’s Book Festival, working together to provide the perfect fusion of art and literature.
Upon arrival the viewer is drawn into the main gallery where the work of Malcolm Garrett adorns the walls. A former MMU student, Garrett has very kindly donated his work to the Holden Gallery. The now famous graphic designer displays a range of work depicting his obsession with contemporary visions dating from the 60’s onwards. From Thunderbirds memorabilia (which is a hit just as much with the parents, as with kids), to a marvellous array of band artwork that Garrett produced himself for the likes of Duran Duran, Culture Club and the Buzzcocks. My favourite piece, and Garrett’s sole inspiration for becoming an artist, takes premise over one large wall of the gallery, a set of original Andy Warhol pictures of the one and only Marilyn Monroe. Rumour has it that Garrett saw the work of Andy Warhol and realised that art wasn’t just for posh kids, but that it was accessible to all. When he became successful enough, he purchased the whole Marilyn collection! Can’t argue with that.
Just around the corner are a hub of workshops and windy corridors filled with a never-ending drawing roll, reminiscent of Jack Kerouac’s On the Roadtypewriting roll. Children are inspired to draw as they listen to the sounds of Duran Duran, music from Garrett’s adolescence. Alongside this roll is a large-scale comic strip where people can write or draw whatever they desire.
The workshops are not just for the under 12’s. Even as a 24 year old I want to join in the festivities, which include badge making, book making and bookbinding. The show stealer however, takes over the room in a somewhat different fashion (no pun intended!). This is a piece of artwork created by Jade Alana Ashton, a first year 3D design student at MMU, is a perfect illustration of how literature can influence art. The work entitled: Havisham, is inspired by Poet Laureate and Festival Creative Director, Carol Ann Duffy’s poem of the same title. The piece consists of a wedding dress recreated to imitate Lady Havisham’s dress from Dickens’s Great Expectations. Delicately attached to this by pieces of thread is a quilt work with the poem written on it.
Continuing the walk around, if you fancy getting messy this room is not for the clean hearted, but it is the most popular amongst children and parents, which could be seen from the room being filled with that air of excitement. Inspired by the works of the great artist Jackson Pollock, members of the public are urged to recreate pieces of their own, in light of his work. The walls are lined with paper, paints are ready with brushes raised and sponges waiting to be thrown. Jackson Pollock, eat your heart out!
The exhibition has not just provided fun and festivities; it is also an opportunity to raise awareness of issues affecting art in schools. The Crafts Council and the ‘Out of Schools’ exhibition has joined forces to raise the profile of ceramics in education, by displaying the ceramic work achieved by children from local schools and making videos to drive the message home about the importance of ceramics and education. After seeing the work of various children, it’s hard to argue with what the Crafts Council are fighting for. If you are interested in participating in the Craft Council movement ‘Firing Up’, visit their website here.
The exhibition also provides an insight into the future of Garrett and Pollock’s art world. A vast array of work from schools in and around the Manchester area are displayed in the hallways, and a whole studio is dedicated to their work. Unbeknown to the public, the work of 6-year-old is displayed next to college students’ final pieces, at times proving it hard to decipher between them, as all the pieces are of an extremely high standard. From the Year 6 artwork of Dawson Primary School that has a selection of magical spell books created by the children with all sorts of embellishments, to the water colour paintings depicting the trip of a Constable’s Train Ride story by Moss Hey School, each institution and student brought something new and vibrant to the exhibition, inspiring all. This, after all, is what it’s about; inspiring future generations to explore their creative sides, whether through the written word or drawn image, every message is important.
Caroline Coleman is in her third year, soon to be a graduate, studying English Literature with Sociology at MMU. Her passions are writing, eating and cooking and she hopes to one day write for a food magazine. Visit her blog here.