Operation Treasure Hunt
City Gallery Leicester, Imperial Avenue Infant School and Creative Partnerships Leicester
July 2007 – July 2008
In 2008 I was invited by City Gallery Leicester to work alongside three other artists in an Infant School, as part of a Creative Partnerships project. The aim was to support the school in devising and delivering an OFSTED creativity audit. The other artists were Glenn Boulter, Ellie Harrison and Francis O’Donnell. Together the curators, school staff, the artists and I formed a project structure that involved five days based in the school researching or observing creativity; followed by two more days developing and proposing ideas for new work, based on our experiences.
My intention was to embed myself in the school and open up conversations with children, teachers and other staff, in order to capture their ordinary, everyday and often overlooked creativity. My Interim Report describes my experiences and the strategies I adopted. It also describes my interest in the school's architectural origins and how over time it had been creatively adapted, transformed and modified to suit the community’s needs.
It was unusual for me to be in a position of being invited into school without the expectation that I will be planning and delivering creative learning sessions or child centred learning in collaboration with teachers. With previous Creative Partnerships projects I had been brought in to ‘open up new models of learning’ or ‘strengthen links between a cultural organization and a school’. Whilst the latter may also apply to this situation it was both liberating and confusing to be offered an open brief framed only by the idea of supporting the school in their creativity audit. Being in the school at the same time as Glenn, Francis and Ellie reminded me to step back and not fall into the traditional role of artist educator. I felt I had permission to sit back, absorb and respond through making art work.
As the project evolved Ellie Harrison and I began to exchange emails questioning why we were there. We questioned how effective it was to bring a group of disparate artists into a school at the point which it is going through tremendous physical change and internal reorganisation? What were the real priorities for staff, children and the wider school community? Were artists the best people to meet those needs? Read Ellie Harrison's final report.
At the end of Operation Treasure Hunt I presented photomontages constructed from fragments of my photographs of the school building combined or hybridised with images of other places including airports and beaches that I found in books from the school library and charity shops. Go to Photomontage to view more work. Operation Treasure Hunt was part of a programming strand at City Gallery Leicester that culminated in the exhibition A Process of Living. This show aimed to showcase some of the possible relationships between education, art and society.