Concluding our series of articles exploring the partnership between Freelands Foundation and the Art & Design PGCE course at the Institute of Education(IOE), University College London (UCL), we bring things around to the students’ perspective, with the viewpoint of three artist teachers from the course who all participated in the Must Should Could virtual exhibition: Anna Grace Rogers, Isobel Harvey and Jazmyn Maher.
Anna Grace Rogers studied on the BA (Hons) Fine Art course at the Cardiff School of Art & Design, part of Cardiff Metropolitan University. After graduating, Rogers became an ABF Step Change Fellow for a year between 2017 to 2018, before later enrolling on the PGCE course at the IOE. She has described her own artistic practice as exploring “the strange ideas that form between seemingly irrelevant or unconnected experiences, places, people and interests and how those things naturally form themselves into cohesive narratives over time.”
The Net Gallery: When did you first start to think about the idea of moving into teaching, and have you now got plans to teach art at secondary school level?
Anna Grace Rogers: I started thinking about moving into teaching after I started working for the education and engagement team at The Artes Mundi Prize. I worked with quite a few community groups as part of that role, but it was the secondary school-age students that I enjoyed working with the most. There was a freshness to their ideas and insights that I wasn’t really seeing anywhere else.
TNG: How would you compare the experience of studying art at Cardiff School of Art and Design with your experience on the PGCE course, particularly in terms of your interaction with the tutors and the other students?
AGR: This is a tough one! In many ways an undergraduate art degree and a PGCE are very different, but what I’ve loved about the PGCE at the IOE is that the course has clearly been designed around the fact that we are artists and doesn’t try to make us into something else. I think I worried that I would have to compromise a bit of my identity as an artist by going into teaching, but that hasn’t happened: in fact, it’s worked with those skills around criticality, questioning and visual language and used them to look at arts education (and the reality of schools) in a thoughtful way.
The peer relationships have also been such an important part of this year. My cohort has been very supportive and there’s such a good mix of backgrounds and disciplines – like graphic design, ceramics, textiles, art history, illustration etc. – that it’s been a great opportunity to work with different artists and share skills.
TNG: You’ve experienced the relationship between studying and teaching from a number of different perspectives. Did the PGCE course have an effect on the way you approach or think about your own artistic practice?
AGR: I think teaching has changed the way I’ve developed my practice, but it’s hard to say exactly how. In truth, I have less time for it, but I feel more creative and inspired than I ever have. During the PGCE year, I set aside half an hour for my practice every Sunday, in between all the marking and lesson planning. That doesn’t sound like very long, but I’ve made a more productive use of that time than I think I have in the last few years combined. I think when you are an artist, it’s the thinking that makes you one: not necessarily that you are constantly making. You’re still an artist when you’re teaching, just like you’re still an artist when you’re walking the dog.
Rogers participated in the Must Should Could exhibition as an individual artist with a virtual installation piece. Describing the inspiration behind the work for the exhibition catalogue, she wrote:
In September 2019, I started to train as a Secondary Art and Design teacher. I lost my hearing in my right ear aged 19, so as well as learning to do all of the (many) things that you have to learn to do in teaching I’ve also been learning how to navigate in a classroom as someone with a hearing impairment. I sometimes ask the students to give me non-verbal feedback to show me they don’t/sort of/do understand by showing me their thumbs up/shaking in the middle/thumbs down, instead of me having to hear them (which I can’t when they all talk at once.) I’ve also been thinking about the current Art and Design GCSE exam unit title, which this year is “event”. I’ve been thinking about the performance or “event” of them all putting their hands in the air for me to look at, how natural and regular it has become for them, and for me. I still think it feels like a performance though, just one that we do together every time I teach them. It’s becoming a routine now, but a routine is still an “event”.
Isobel Harvey studied Fine Art at Newcastle University before undertaking the PGCE course at the IOE. Harvey’s practice focuses on sculpture and installation-based work, recently making use of found, constructed and printed materials. Often inspired by her immediate surroundings, she seeks to question the temporality and character of a place.
The Net Gallery: Did the PGCE course at the IOE particularly stand out to you as one you wanted to be on? And how did you find your experience of the course?
Isobel Harvey: I was totally sold by the IOE after hearing how focused it was on the artist teacher. It was the only course I actually applied for and was definitely the course for me. They teach you not only to be confident within the classroom, but also how to be confident in your approach to learning. We were encouraged to explore “why we teach”, constantly questioning our own position within teaching, specifically in relation to our own practice. We were encouraged to form our own thoughts and opinions, whilst reading and writing, and exploring alternative pedagogies.
As a sculptor, I have always been an advocate for more sculpture within schools. Since the abrupt end of my placement (due to lockdown), I dedicated my time to exploring these issues in more detail and have located a sound basis for the development of my personal philosophy for art & design education that identifies a productive intersection of sculpture, installation (and concomitant issues of ‘space’) and broader issues of socio-political participation and critical citizenry.
TNG: What was it like to have the additional interaction with Freelands Foundation, and how did the events and activities they organised complement what you were doing on the course?
IH: Working with Henry at Freelands Foundation and Anya at Hato has been, without doubt, the highlight of my PGCE. They encouraged and welcomed us into their space, helping us develop our confidence as artist teachers. Working with Freelands taught me that my practice and what I teach are not separate: they compliment each other, making me a stronger teacher and a better artist.
The events throughout the term were a beautiful antidote to the day spent in the classroom. They created a space where artists challenged and worked along side each other, through various activities, to create a beautiful publication and end of year exhibition.
TNG: What are your current plans, both in regard to teaching and your own artistic practice?
IH: I am currently already employed at my school to help build the curriculum. I hope to spend this time implementing all I have learnt and creating space for sculpture within next year’s curriculum. I am also planning a collaboration with my new friend, who was my mentor at my last placement school. I will also be keeping a keen eye on Artist Teacher Network – a group hosted by Freelands Foundation where artist teachers meet.
Jazmyn Maher completed a BA (Hons) in Fine Art (Painting) at Wimbledon College of Art, part of the University of the Arts London (UAL). After graduating, she was granted a year’s free access to Thames Side Printmaking Studios, where she continues to practice today, focusing on works on paper and print making.
The Net Gallery: What made you specifically choose the PGCE course at the IOE – as opposed to similar courses at other institutions – and is your plan to now go on to teach art at secondary school level?
Jazmyn Maher: I chose to study a PGCE at the IOE because I went to an art college in London for my BA degree in fine art and I wanted to have a contrast in education. From the interview, I gathered that the IOE had incredible resources when it came to learning about art & design in secondary schools. You are equipped with a studio, as well as benefiting from alternative pedagogy workshops, visiting artists and lectures. Out of all my interviews, the IOE gave the best impression and have upheld that expectation. I plan to take what I have learnt this year into my NQT year as a secondary school teacher – it has been very rewarding working with teenagers!
TNG: Having studied art yourself at degree level, how did you find the experience of approaching the subject from a teaching perspective?
JM: Approaching this course from a teaching perspective suited me really well because I felt that I had a very enriched alternative experience at my first university and was ready to learn some of the critical side to art education. I think the IOE approach this very well, with a mixture of academic written assignments and creative workshops to make art ourselves. They are very keen on us being an artist-teacher and so our own practice has always been encouraged, making the course feel quite balanced.
TNG: Do you plan to continue your own artistic practice and career alongside working in teaching?
JM: I have kept my own artistic practice going throughout the duration of my course as I think it feeds into my teaching and I intend to keep it going throughout my career. As I said before, the IOE really encourage us to be artist-teachers and incorporate and amplify our artistic skills when we teach, because when you do that the students can connect and see that you are genuine and care about them and the subject!
Maher and Harvey participated in the Must Should Could exhibition with a number of fellow students, as a group. They created the Instagram account @accountsuspended_collective as an additional way to showcase their work. The images below, provided by Maher, show part of the process involved in preparing for the virtual exhibition.