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An Insight into the Creation of An Education Project

October 2, 2013

One of the creators of the educational project – Lauris Bokišs – explains how a visit to the exhibition can become an adventure and reveals many elements of the interactive game.

Until the end of October, Rīga Art Space is hosting “...for an occurrence to become an adventure…”, an exhibition of the contemporary art collection formed by ABLV Bank. The exhibition, whose curator is Solvita Krese, showcases works of art created by contemporary artists from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Russia. Under the auspices of the exhibition, a special education project has been created – an educational game based on modern technologies for 9th-12th grade schoolchildren. The nucleus of the game is the content of the art and the “background” stories created by the team selected by the exhibition curator, while the objective of the exhibition project is to turn a visit to an art exhibition into an event and adventure for schoolchildren. Six months ago, meeting the Board Chair of the ABLV Charitable Foundation Zanda Zilgalve resulted in the first sketches for the implementation of the idea for an education project.

We started work on the creation of the education project by studying the pedagogical trends of museums and the audience, conducting focus group interviews after a visit to a number of exhibitions. For example, in the company of pupils we studied both the exhibition which offered “an hour in a museum”, as well as the Purvītis Prize exhibition. We concluded what schoolchildren require to form an understanding of art in terms of both content and form. In turn, schoolteachers helped us to understand how they perceive modern art – not only as viewers, but also as teachers, moreover that kind that teach various subjects including biology, physics, mathematics, culturology and history, etc. Accordingly, through discussions with both pupils and teachers we reached several conclusions and tasks that had to be solved in creating the education project. For example, it’s necessary to involve every pupil, give consideration to the dynamics between individual and group tasks, balance self-learning with specialist narration, creating a dialogue and also taking into account various other aspects.

An important task when it came to devising the education project was creating an adventure which would be intense for the pupils and at the same time oriented on each pupil individually. In order for it to be an adventure, you need various emotions, satisfaction and challenges. Important elements of an adventure are a person’s own individual abilities and knowledge and the ability to collaborate with others and to trust the partners with whom they’ve embarked on this adventure. Therefore, the education project has been created so that pupils are aware of themselves both as participants in a group and also as individuals. It should be an opportunity for them to draw on their subjective experience and to express their disposition towards the works of art which they’ve seen, to use their knowledge and in so doing to gain understanding of the interaction of art, science and everyday processes.

Even though the schoolchildren are in a single room and jointly experience the exhibition “...for an occurrence to become an adventure...”, the various routes and accordingly the sequence in which they view the works of art create differing experiential imprints which clearly resonate in the concluding group discussion in which the pupils discuss the experience they have had.
Every weekday, every hour from 11.00 to 16.00 a group of high school pupils arrives to view the exhibition. Every hour, the pupils are welcomed by assistants who help the pupils to take their first steps in the understanding of contemporary art, as well as explain the practical side of the exhibition – i.e. how the game will take place as part of the exhibition.

In the context of the exhibition, these assistants play a very important role, even though in terms of content and form, a stable foundation has been laid for the exhibition, i.e. the exhibition itself, the background stories, the tasks on the tablets and the worksheets with the maps and instructions for the pupils, but it is the assistant who welcomes the group and provides the insight into the creation of the exhibition and briefly explains the significance and role of contemporary art, as well as the practical aspects of the game, thus determining the level of interest with which the schoolchildren view and study the exhibition. The role of the assistants at the conclusion of the exhibition is equally important. When the schoolchildren, having experienced the exhibition, return for the concluding discussion, the assistants help to form a uniform summary of the pupils’ experience.

Each pupil receives a worksheet with a map. This not only helps the pupils to physically find their way around the broad exhibition space, but also to undertake their personal journey around the exhibition. Six different maps have been created, therefore there are six different routes and it is also possible to divide large groups of pupils into smaller groups, thus creating the opportunity to encounter a work of art one-on-one without being disturbed.

As part of the exhibition, tablet computers are placed next to works of art which link the work of art or the process of its creation with various branches of science; in professional jargon – providing an inter-disciplinary link. The tasks depict the interaction between the processes of art, science and daily life. For example, the tasks next to Andris Eglītis’ paintings provide the viewer with information about the natural materials that he uses when painting, whereas the tasks next to Arnis Balčus’ photoworks provide a more detailed understanding of the Soviet-era realities that he depicts in his series of photos. Likewise, through a prism of physics and chemistry, the given tasks provide an insight into Gints Gabrāns’ photon paintings, Ieva Iltnere’s works are influenced by mathematics and geometry, chemical and biological processes are related to Barbara Gaile’s paintings, while the laws of physics are illuminated in Alnis Stakle’s works of photo art. These tasks are intended to be carried out in small groups. Each task allows one of the pupils to take the initiative, depending on their knowledge in the specific field. Moreover, the tasks invite the pupils to concentrate and to study the works of art themselves in detail.

Even though the schoolchildren move about in groups and solve the tasks on the tablets collectively, the basic questions on the worksheets also provide an opportunity for individual work. These questions invite the pupils to form individual relationships with the works of art. Realising that the attention of schoolchildren is attracted by various fields and questions, they provide the pupils with the opportunity to use their erudition, attention and knowledge, as well as to succumb to contemplation, imagination and reflection.

In practice, during the course of the game dynamic relationships form between feelings and knowledge and between the individual and the group. Moreover, various forms of perception are employed and satisfied including visual perception, text reading, and from what they hear listening to the tasks on the tablets. In doing the tasks, the schoolchildren jot down their thoughts, seek and agree on the correct answers as a group and listen to one another’s experiences during the concluding discussion.

After the pupils have returned to the starting point by following the map, under the guidance of the assistant, the basis is laid for the concluding discussion. Thanks to the different paths that the schoolchildren have taken during the course of the exhibition, their experience differs – both at group and individual level. Accordingly, the discussion about the visit to the exhibition forms a sum of experience for the whole group, which under the leadership of the assistant helps the pupils to successfully reflect on art, its connection with science, and the importance of personal experience, perceiving and interpreting a work of art.

A good team has been crucial to the implementation of ABLV Charitable Foundation’s education project. For example, the whole essence of the project is represented by the exhibition’s assistants, because they help schoolchildren to piece together the jigsaw of experience which they have obtained in the exhibition. In turn, until the time when the first groups of schoolchildren visited Rīga Art Space, a range of people from different field participated in the implementation of the project. The education project was dreamed up and implemented by ABLV Charitable Foundation after ABLV Bank decided to organise an exhibition of the collection. Through the synergy between the management of the Bank and the Foundation, a vision arose of how in a few years’ time the schoolchildren of today will be the ones who will choose to visit the Contemporary Art Museum. In accordance with this principle, the Foundation created a team which, in collaboration with the organisers of the exhibition, would be capable of implementing an education project within the parameters of the exhibition. Together we have managed to offer schoolchildren an exhibition adventure, after which they can express their thoughts and be listened to – both through stories about the fragile beauty in Barbara Gaile’s paintings, as well as when musing about Kurševa’s “Žanis’ suffering”, and the subject of loneliness in Neiburga’s “Solitude”. To date, we have concluded that the most powerful impression on schoolchildren is made by very different works of art. This provides both a reason and an opportunity for a further conversation, including after visiting the exhibition. Therefore, we now need attempt to answer the question: how can we continue to educate young people about the realities of contemporary art after the end of the exhibition?

Information source: www.satori.lv/raksts/6281/Lauris_Bokiss/Izstade_ka_piedzivojums

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