How to work with Arts Partners

working with arts partners header

Just one magic day in school can change your life.

Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales, 2013

This section looks at how to choose the right arts partner and how to prepare your class for work with an artist.

1. Be clear about your aims

Good partnerships between teachers and artists depend on a strong shared understanding of what you’re setting out to achieve. To give your joint project the best chance of success, first you need to be clear about your aims. Whilst it’s useful to identify and be clear in advance about your aims and objectives from a school perspective, schools-arts partnerships are invariably more successful and productive, when project planning is done collaboratively and  jointly by both the school and the artist(s). You may therefore choose to develop / refine the aims together in your first meeting.

Prompts to help you arrive at your aims:

  • What’s the motivation behind the partnership?
  • What specifically do you want to achieve?
  • How will you identify success?
  • And (in the case of longer-term partnerships), what long term effect or impact are you seeking? (e.g. on your pupils and your school improvement plan)

Consider what your project needs to address

Here are some examples. Be realistic about how many aims are achievable:

  • knowledge and skills development
  • literacy and numeracy skills (fulfilling elements of the LNF)  - e.g. language development, subject-specific vocabulary , questioning, presenting, using fractions and proportions, reasoning numerically
  • the quality of arts work within the school
  • learner enthusiasm and motivation
  • self-esteem and self-confidence
  • team work and collaboration
  • engagement in creative opportunities both within and outside school
  • learners’ ability to take risks creatively and/ the determination to complete a task
  • Broadening horizons, for example in terms of employment opportunities, the role of the arts in society.

Your aims might also include your own, or other staff’s professional development in terms of:

  • increased confidence, skill and knowledge of art forms and their related techniques
  • Developing creativity across the curriculum.

Obviously, if your project aims to benefit other staff, consult them at the outset to make sure the project aims reflect their needs. If you’re embarking on a of long term partnership, you’ll also want to consult with senior members of staff to ensure their support as well as the project’s fit with your school’s priorities (e.g. identified in the School Development Plan). 

 

Consider what your project needs to address

 

Here are some examples. Be realistic about how many aims are achievable:

  • knowledge and skills development
  • literacy and numeracy skills (fulfilling elements of the LNF)  - e.g. language development, subject-specific vocabulary , questioning, presenting, using fractions and proportions, reasoning numerically
  • the quality of arts work within the school
  • learner enthusiasm and motivation
  • self-esteem and self-confidence
  • team work and collaboration
  • engagement in creative opportunities both within and outside school
  • learners’ ability to take risks creatively and/ the determination to complete a task
  • Broadening horizons, for example in terms of employment opportunities, the role of the arts in society.

Your aims might also include your own, or other staff’s professional development in terms of:

  • increased confidence, skill and knowledge of art forms and their related techniques
  • Developing creativity across the curriculum.

Obviously, if your project aims to benefit other staff, consult them at the outset to make sure the project aims reflect their needs. If you’re embarking on a of long term partnership, you’ll also want to consult with senior members of staff to ensure their support as well as the project’s fit with your school’s priorities (e.g. identified in the School Development Plan). 

 

2. Clarify the budget

Before identifying artists or arts organisations, it’s helpful to have an idea of budget available (or a sense of how much you might need to fundraise with your project partner).

3. Find the right arts partner

You can find a wealth of information about arts and cultural organisations across Wales in the Resources section. That’s a good place to start looking. Here are other ways and approaches to locate a good artist / arts partner.

  • It’s likely that many local artists and arts organisations will have already worked with schools so, in the first instance, it’s worth talking to other schools in your area to see if they have any particular recommendations of artists who have a good track record of working with schools.
  • Contact your nearest Regional Arts & Education Networks. A key part of their role is to broker links between artists, arts organisations and schools and they will have an in-depth knowledge of the arts scene in your region. Details and information about national and regional arts organisations are listed on the Creative Partners area on the Creative Learning Zone on Hwb 
  • Get in touch with your Local Authority Arts Service / Arts Development Officer (if you have one).
  • Contact your local Arts Centre or library. Creu Cymru’s  Members map lists nearly all venues across Wales.
  • Sign up for newsletters, forums and blogs that can help you keep up to date on artists, arts/cultural organisations and their learning programmes.
4. Meet with your prospective art partner

Once you’ve identified a possible arts partner through one of the above routes, a meeting is likely to be the best way to decide if you’ve found the right match for your school, class and particular project. You might want to interview or meet with a few artists or arts organisations in order to make your choice. Things you might want to explore with the artists through the meeting could include their:

  • rapport with learners and teachers
  • artistic practice
  • ability to communicate ideas and processes clearly at an appropriate level
  • potential to work with the range of abilities in your class
  • awareness of the school environment and how their art form specialism fits with the school curriculum
  • understanding of the LNF
  • approach to project evaluation
  • reliability and responsibility
  • language skills (eg bilingual / Welsh speaker)
  • management skills.
5. Take time to plan your project

Ideally, you will want to co-plan your project in partnership with the artist / arts organisation. This will help ensure that there is a clear shared understanding of what you’re setting out to achieve and the project scope. It also gives you the chance to explore / include suggestions from the artist that you may not have considered or factored in and vice versa.

You may find the The CAPE UK guide to Working with Artists in your School useful to refer to as well as the Case Study section which provides examples of how other schools have worked successfully with artists (as well as lessons learnt along the way).

6. Prepare your class

Before you launch into the project, you might want to prepare the class by exploring examples of the artist’s work, (through online images / films / videos).

If appropriate, you could give the class some time to generate a few questions to put to the artist about their work.

Questions to artists might include:

  • What are you currently working on?
  • How and where do you work?
  • Do you work individually or with other artists?
  • What is your favourite art tool/ instrument/medium/form?
  • Do you have a piece that you are especially proud of?
  • How do you know when a piece is finished?
  • Who are the artists and thinkers who influence you?
  • What do you look at or think about to gather ideas?
  • What mistakes have you made and what have you learnt from them?
  • How did you start?
  • Why do you make art?
  • What advice would you give to somebody who wanted to study your art form or be an artist?

Preparing a class for a Visit to an arts organisation or venue

If you’re planning to visit a venue for a performance or exhibition, contact the education team at the venue / gallery in advance to see how you can get the most out of your visit. Check out the website to see what learning resources, web trailers, opportunities to meet performers/artists/staff, ‘behind the scenes’ guided tours, trails, talks or other ‘wrap-around’ events may be on offer.

Further information can also be found on the Go and See pages of the Arts Council website; part of the Creative Learning Experiencing the Arts fund

How cultural visits can support literacy

For children to write well, they need to have something to write about and a trip to a show / exhibition can spark an excitement that has to be communicated. Research has shown that a memorable experience or an inspiring cultural visit, supported by a structured approach to writing and reviewing can significantly improve literacy skills.

As the Prince’s Foundation for Children and the Arts observe, visiting a cultural centre can provide ‘a life-enriching experience, as well as an opportunity for a unique kind of learning. It can touch the imagination, arouse curiosity or create a desire to make art’.   

For more practical advice on working with venues see The Prince’s Foundation for Children and the Arts materials