For Teachers: How to Make your own Art Gallery

A Gallery guide at the Fitzwilliam Museum stands in front of 3 impressionist artworks.

The Gallery guide explains impressionist art.

© Culture Street

    • Art galleries are fantastic environments for inspiration, reflection, learning, meeting friends or for just taking some time to enjoy beautiful and interesting things.

      Making a school art gallery

      Establishing and maintaining a school art gallery is a great way to develop pupils’ skills, knowledge, understanding and appreciation of art, while building a sense of pride and ownership in their school. By producing, collecting, storing, researching and exhibiting artworks and their associated themes and stories pupils make direct, meaningful, real world links to their learning in art and across the curriculum. Involve the pupils in as much of the developing, maintaining and decision-making as possible. And because there are no rules when it comes to art, you can have some real fun with it all.

      Follow these guidelines to making your own art gallery:

      What kind of art gallery will you be? Some galleries simply provide a space for artists to exhibit their work like the Tuner Contemporary in Margate. Others have their own collections which they look after, research and make available for as many people as possible to enjoy and learn from. These include the Tate collection which features over 70,000 artworks by over 3,000 artists, from Matisse’s Snail to Dali’s Lobster Telephone and Cornelia Parker’s exploded garden shed, or the Whitworth in Manchester which has over 55,000 artworks in their collection. Most galleries do both of these. You can decide what works best for you.

      1.       Your collection: if you decide to develop your own collection, it’s a good idea to agree on a ‘collecting policy’ before you start, stating what you will collect and what you will leave out. This could be shaped by a theme or be representative of your approach to art in the school. It could simply be a case of collecting a handful of pupils’ works each year - samples from your annual art week, or works that have been created for the school entrance for example. It could include works exclusively by pupils and staff, or extend to include parents, community members and further. Imagine if one of your pupils is a future Anthony Gormley or Tracey Emin – your collection could be worth a fortune! Your collection could include, paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography, sketch books.

      2.       Looking after your collection (stewardship): if you do choose to collect artworks, they will need to be carefully stored and looked after, the British Columbia Museums Association has some good advice on caring for paintings.

      Each artwork should be ‘catalogued’ - this means keeping a record of what you know about each artwork and the artist who created it (date, medium and name of artists and artwork at the very least) so that users of your collection can make the best use of it. It will also help when choosing artworks to include in an exhibition. You can do this digitally using a simple database. Here’s an example of an online record from the National Portrait Gallery.

      3.       Putting on an exhibition: here you can be as creative or conservative as you like. Your school and its grounds could act as a permanent exhibition space so that pupils are constantly surrounded by artworks. Or you could choose a designated space within the school. Or a bit of both. Exhibitions can be celebrations of children’s work, retrospectives of works from past pupils, showcases of guest artists from the wider community or local art schools and clubs. Or a combination of these. Your school gallery could act as a venue for entries to an art competition like the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the year or the Royal Observatory’s Astronomy Photographer of the year competitions.

      Check out our top tips for putting together your own exhibition.

      4.       Online gallery: you could publish your collection on the school website or use a social media site like Pinterest, Tumblr or Instagram. It’s never been easier to take and upload digital photographs of your collection; films and sound can easily be recorded and transferred using a smart phone or tablet. If you want to restrict access to the school community only, choose a platform with privacy settings – most social media and blog sites have these.

      Many art galleries have great online exhibitions or collections which can inspire, like Tate modern’s ‘highlights’ or the National Gallery's Children's Gallery. Guest ‘curators’ - pupils, parents, members of the local community - could curate an online exhibition. They could choose artwork to highlight and review each month, or show how they were inspired to create their own work – like designer Iris Apfel in this film about Matisse, or just simply have some fun recreating famous artworks with this interactive website from Culture24.

      5.       Staffing: individual pupils, classes and year groups can be given different tasks, roles and responsibilities for developing and maintaining the collection and exhibitions. From creating the artworks themselves to cataloguing and researching the collection and developing and marketing exhibitions, a school art gallery provides endless opportunities for meaningful, relevant, creative learning across the curriculum.

      Whatever you decide, whether you create your own collection and make art central to your whole school ethos, or simply choose to give art some time and space in your curriculum, have some fun with it and be creative. There are no right or wrong answers in art.

      Curriculum links

      Making your own gallery is a fantastic way to enrich learning across the curriculum

      Creative and critical thinking
      -    Generating ideas
      -    Questioning assumptions and exploring possibilities
      -    Innovating, testing and adapting
      -    Creating

      -    Developing language and vocabulary
      -    Persuading and arguing
      -    Qualifying and justifying
      -    Discussing and debating
      -    Communicating in different forms for different purposes

      -    Effective searching
      -    Analysing
      -    Selecting
      -    Evaluating
      -    Presenting
      -    Repurposing
      -    Combining multiple applications

      Personal development
      -     Working collaboratively
      -     Taking responsibility
      -     Planning

      Artsmark and Arts Award

      Artsmark is a nationally recognised sign of commitment to high quality arts and cultural education. It enables education settings to evaluate, celebrate and strengthen a quality arts offer and contributes to the cultural aspect of Ofsted’s requirement that a school promotes students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. Using museums and galleries to support classroom work, or developing you own museum, gallery, archive or exhibition is a great way for your school to gain Artsmark.  Find out more about Artsmark and its impact here.

      Arts Award is a range of unique qualifications inspiring young people to connect with and take part in the wider world of arts, heritage and culture through different challenges at different levels. Through Arts Award young people gain a nationally recognised qualification enabling them to progress into further education and employment. Find out more here and how museums and galleries can support young people in gaining Arts Award.
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