Making meaningful connections and collaborations

Kerri Sellens tells us how Lansbury Lawrence Primary School have used their school environment to inspire students' creativity

15 May 2017

Our school building is a bit of a cultural gem. It was built as part of the Lansbury Estate for the Festival of Britain Live Architecture Exhibition in 1951, and along with mid-century architectural style it is home to three brilliant original murals by the designer and teacher, Peggy Angus. Recent art and design technology collaborations with cultural organisations have focused on these features as inspiration for creative work. Using what we have around us has made projects and outcomes more meaningful to our children, and begun to install a sense of pride and understanding of our learning environment.

We’ve worked with Bow Arts for the past three years, as part of a long-term collaboration with other Poplar partnership schools. Each year we devise a bespoke school-based project together, and, once decided, are allocated a suitable artist or designer to work with. This year, we worked with product designer Haidee Drew, who was immediately excited by our building and its history. Through Haidee’s enthusiasm, year 5 children designed, made and sold their own functional products, which were developed from patterns and shapes found around school. Children were looking at the school in a new way, and created very sophisticated design work as a result.

Haidee then went on to design a sculpture for a stairwell in school, commissioned by Bow Arts, casting building features in resin and suspending them from the ceiling together. This work compliments our resident Peggy Angus works, and it feels like we are developing our environment creatively and sympathetically, adding contemporary pieces to our existing historic works. Can a school which exhibits permanent works of art within the everyday environment promote well-being and encourage creative thinking and questioning? This is an area we are keen to explore, develop and build upon at Lansbury Lawrence.

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(Picture credit: Bow Arts)

Our recent project with the V&A was directly inspired by the Peggy Angus murals. Working with contemporary ceramicist Matthew Raw, Year 6 children visited the V&A to explore their ceramic collection before making their own set of four ceramic tiles. Matthew taught the children how to glaze their clay work before it was fired, and the children’s work complimented the Peggy Angus colour ways and repeated patterns. Next half term, the children’s tiles are going to be installed in the V&A Micro Museum in nearby Chrisp Street market, and displayed collectively the link between their work and the Peggy Angus original will be even more apparent. As we walk past this imposing feature every day in our school entrance it can become unnoticed, but it’s through creative collaborations like this that encourage us to stop, look and appreciate what we have.

making tilesJPG

(Picture credit: V&A)

Each school environment is unique, and within London we have a wealth of history and architecture that tells a story in every borough. Finding these connections and collaborating with cultural organisations over a common interest can be a very rewarding starting point for in-school creative projects which are cross-curricular and relevant to the children’s lives.

Kerri Sellens is Art & Design and Design Technology Lead Teacher at Lansbury Lawrence Primary School, and is also part of our AND Advocates programme. Click here to find out more about her and the programme.