Personal Insight: City of London's Culture Heritage and Libraries Developmental Team member Helena Boehm reflects back on the No Colour Bar Summer College, running in mid-July at LMA.
The No Colour Bar Summer College invited GCSE and A-Level students from schools across London to engage and interact with the NCB project in a whole host of creative and academic ways. The week-long summer school endeavoured to raise the students’ awareness of certain social, political and historical issues explored in the NCB exhibition that they might not encounter in their daily school lessons. It aimed to actively encourage critical thought and debate around these issues, as well as provide an opportunity to experiment with a rich variety of media and art forms.
The students ranged from 14-18 years old and came possessing a varied background and interest in art. The week began with an introduction by Maureen Roberts, Senior Development Officer, to the No Colour Bar project and the Huntley archives, as well as a tour of LMA and introductory talks by the different departments. During these first sessions the students engaged directly with the Huntley archival material and began to discuss the issues that it raised. The introductions on the first day were followed by a whole day at the Guildhall Art Gallery and immersion in the exhibition. Hazel Sawyers’ session asked the students to think critically about the art work displayed and engage directly with individual pieces. Next came a discussion with Michael McMillan, exhibition curator, in which the students discussed and debated not only the exhibition but a whole range of social and political issues that its content triggered. EricHuntley, one of the Founders of Bogle-L’Ouverture Publications also attended this session to talk to the students. Thus they received first-hand information about the archived events in the exhibition. This was an invaluable opportunity for the students to challenge themselves and vocalise their opinions on crucial issues concerning race, identity and the utilisation and display of black art.
The students were then given the opportunity to engage with collections from two other galleries, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery. At the National Portrait Gallery, Evan Ifekoya, a free-lance museum facilitator, provided a thought-provoking and stimulating tour based around paintings depicting different races, as well as art produced by Black artists. This enabled critical discussion amongst the group regarding the depiction of Black people in art and the representation of art produced by Black artists on show in cultural institutions. The afternoon’s visit to the National Gallery invited the students to explore the art work on their own terms, sketch specific pieces that appealed to them and to consider their personal opinions on the Renaissance art displayed.
The opportunity throughout the week to experiment with different art forms allowed the students to consider and interact with the project not only academically but creatively. Despite a varying interest in art and artistic confidence all the students produced an impressive portfolio of work. A workshop on the techniques of life drawing by artist, Tam Joseph was named as a particular highlight and a unique opportunity. Muirah Olton ran a fabric workshop in which the students created material flags on canvas, offering them the opportunity to represent and explore their own identity and heritage. Even the summer school facilitators took part in this, producing some incredibly interpretive representations of flags! A favourite workshop of the students was held by Rudy Loewe at the end of the week, in which the students produced zines on the subjects of Walter Rodney, the Huntley archives and the political and social climate during the 1960’s – 1980’s.
The last day of the summer school was celebrated with an exhibition of the impressive art portfolios that the students had produced. The exhibition was attended by FHALMA volunteers, LMA staff and NCB project staff and was a fantastic way to end the week. It provided a platform for the students to explain to others about the work they had been doing and what they had each got out of their time at LMA and with the NCB project. The NCBBBA Summer College provided a unique opportunity for the students to immerse themselves in a week of art, culture and history and from all accounts was a huge success.