The Ark has a number of spaces that I can design workshops and engagements for including the theatre space which I decided to use for the Paper Playground, the second of this series of The Ark's Seedlings workshops. The monochromatic floor and lighting possibilities were ideal for our focused explorations with paper. The paper forms were transformed into playful tails, robotic arms, road-sweepers, giraffes, hats and shadows among a myriad of others things. The transformation of the space was also dramatic from organised paper formations and piles to mixed-up paper explosions. I loved it and felt I got better at presenting and opening the possibilities as the workshops progressed. My assistant for this workshop was Duffy Mooney-Shephard, who helped with preparing all of the hundreds of paper forms and the theatre set-up including lighting and sound (we used a Kevin Volans piece).
New Supportive People
The assistants for these workshops have all been wonderful. It’s such a treat to work collaboratively with people, to have someone in the space who understands the movements and processes and is enabled to make suggestions that all add to learning and the children’s experiences, each assistant bringing their own expertise. Before Duffy, Roisin White assisted beautifully on the first seedlings iteration and Laura Toledo worked with me on the Cyanotype workshop (light sensitive photo paper on which we exposed small random objects in the strong sunshine of the workshop balcony garden). During the Cyanotype workshops we also hosted a (very large!) group of artists for a coffee morning and were able to share a peek at the space and set up and answer some questions.
This residency also affords an opportunity to choose a mentor, a critical friend outside of The Ark who can contribute new thinking and reflection to the process. I choose Dr. Christina MacRae from Manchester Metropolitan University and am so delighted that she accepted the invitation. I had the opportunity to meet with her in Manchester to discuss the residency and possible future directions. Christina is an Early Years expert with a particular interest in artistic practices with young children and in using Posthuman and New Materialist critical theory (as am I in my PhD research).
New ‘Stuff’ & Playfulness
For the travel and training aspect of the residency I chose to visit the Festival of Stuff and the Materials Library run by the materials science department and Prof. Mark Miodownik at University College London. This was a wonderful opportunity to expand my experience of materials and to explore them in a hands on way. I made milk glue, algae nail polish, sand-cast aluminium, played with expanding polymers and salts, and swooned at the sweetshop like displays of the weird and wonderful collections in the Materials Library itself.
I also visited Tate Britain and an event run by their Early Years Team in collaboration with dance artist in residence Aya Kobayashi. There was so much to learn about movement in and through different spaces at different speeds, the use of very simple props (duvets and vegetables!) and of course playfulness within museum spaces.
I am so very grateful to all of the people contributing to this residency with such generosity and openness. With their help I am aiming to develop a momentum that is reflective of Prof. John Coolahan’s ethos and commitment to Early Years Art Education and take this opportunity to extend my deepest sympathy to his family on his very sad passing last month.
Lucy Hill is The Ark's Early Years Artist in Residence. A visual artist, educator and researcher with particular interest and expertise in the area of early years visual arts education, Lucy has exhibited nationally and internationally and has won several public art commissions and awards. You can see some of Lucy's work at her website: https://www.lucyhill.ie/