This book grew out of the experience of observing teachers, students and artists interacting together in many different environments. We, Karla Sánchez and Els Dietvorst were part of the first Living Arts Project initiative run by Wexford Arts Centre and Wexford County Council. A project that aims to provide children with an understanding and appreciation of contemporary visual art by placing an artist in residence for fifteen weeks at schools throughout the county.
We both had previous experience in various educational contexts in Ireland and abroad. After our second and third years participating in the Living Arts program (Els as a resident artist, Karla as an advisor) we both had a desire to create extra aids for teachers to use.
After presenting the results of a year and a half of research, we were commissioned to create these booklets supported by the Creative Ireland Programme.
Both of us share a profound respect and admiration for primary school teachers, whose task is to stand in front of a class every single day, lead, and inspire new generations. We also regard artists highly. Particularly those very committed individuals, who amongst other things, show us alternative ways to look at the world.
We decided to work with a group of artists who have several years of experience in the challenging task of teaching art in primary schools. The artists we worked with are Orla Bates, David Begley, Clare Breen, and Laura Ní Fhlaibhín.
This book also has its origins in a shared concern about the future of the world and an interest in how art can help us understand our environment and ourselves better.
We are both parents, and we try to raise our kids keeping creativity, curiosity, kindness, and imagination as the highest values. We regard these as fundamental qualities that can help everyone survive and thrive even in the most challenging of environments. We have witnessed how living in these values can shape girls and boys into caring, sharing, loving and effective human beings who can also have a critical stand before an ever changing and complicated world.
This project hopes to illustrate how art can be a valuable tool in primary school education. The openness and flexibility that art processes allow are great avenues where to explore all other disciplines. Art classes can be the loom in which to weave subjects as diverse as geography, mathematics, history and ethics.
We hope this book can inspire and help everyone who reads it to use art in different and exciting new ways. We are very much interested in encouraging teachers to use art as a process without placing too much emphasis on a finished product. A process based on dialogue and connection between pupils and teachers often produces outstanding and unexpected results.
We believe that all the arts- poetry, music, literature, dance, visual arts (including film and photography)- should be a priority in every school. There is room for artists to have a more active role in contemporary Irish society and education, every school could benefit from having an artist in residence.