Interview with Norman Rae ‘Art Educates’ Exhibitioners

During most of the year the Norman Rae Gallery in Langwith College displays professional artwork on sale to the general public. However, this summer term sees the gallery space being taken over by a group of York undergraduates who have been set the challenge of putting on a series of themed exhibitions from scratch.

First year History of Art student and aspiring curator Grace Dunning, leader of the group, found that her team “learnt how much work goes on behind the scenes when putting together a seemingly simple exhibition”. From selecting pieces, to acquiring display boards from suppliers and mounting the work, the team of five students found that the process was “a lot more lengthy than first expected, but nevertheless hugely rewarding to stand back and look at the final result!”

The opening exhibition focuses on the role of art in education and was launched earlier this week at a special evening party. The students had collected children’s artwork from Knavesmire, Osbaldwick and Heworth primary schools on the themes of Portraiture, Nature and Motion, filling the gallery with colourful pieces of pottery, sculpture and multimedia collage.

The organisers also invited local artists to help lead two workshops in the gallery itself, exploring painting oriental script and watercolour flowers, for small groups of children. Langwith Provost Dr. John Issitt has facilitated the student run exhibitions for a second year running. He is keen to break away from the University’s representation as an isolated academic institution and the workshops have proved a successful way of enabling York to truly act as an open campus.

In addition to children’s art, many of the works came from the educational department at Full Sutton High Security Prison, 17 miles out of York. Dunning said that the group wanted to “highlight the fact that art can be an educational tool not only for young children but for adults too”. The work is very varied including emotive pencil sketches of roommates reclining on beds and brightly coloured cartoons.

‘Art Educates’ is open Monday to Friday weeks 4 and 5 in the Norman Rae Gallery, situated above the Langwith Snack Bar. It will be replaced with a second student run exhibition in weeks 6 and 7 focused on ‘Art in Community’, which will display works from a range of artists from across York under the theme of ‘The Body’. Once again this exhibition seeks to unite the campus with its host city bringing together pieces by local amateur artists and students work from the Wentworth Art Studio.

The Norman Rae Gallery is open weekdays 9am – 8pm and entry is free of charge.