Art, craft and design education: The value of exhibiting and visiting

Emma Lanman / Van Girls ©NinaSologubenko

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Ian Middleton

Formerly Her Majesty’s Inspector, Ofsted

Creating art is a highly personal and often private experience, both for young children and more experienced artists.

While exhibitions make art public, the work remains an insight into the individual.

Art education nurtures that individuality while teaching the knowledge and skills required to develop and discover more, individually or collaboratively.

The sensitivity shown by teachers, peers, parents and carers when supporting a young artist’s creative development is a critical factor in building their confidence to share work with others.  Feedback can be a great source of inspiration or equally, can limit confidence in and commitment to learning about art, craft and design.

A young artist’s work displayed in school or at home gives value to their creativity. Exhibiting in a gallery or other public place adds recognition, increasing opportunities to see how people more widely react, respond and relate to the artist’s work.

Unrestricted by language barriers, young artists, from an early age, are able to share their ideas, feelings and experiences using what might be their most fluent form of communication.

Art education enables those who visit exhibitions to become receptive. Learning to read an artist, maker or designer’s work is also about learning to communicate. The experience of exhibiting, and the experience of visiting an exhibition, can be equally profound.

Across history, artists, makers and designers have shared their work with others in order to inform their development. Many have worked alongside others or as communities of artists, making connections both consciously and subconsciously.

Skilful teachers help young artists make fruitful connections between their work and that of others as part of the creative process. This includes working with other pupils, students and sometimes visiting artists, makers and designers. Teachers and other adults who work with young artists can help them develop the resolve and resilience to give and take criticism.

Students in the Generation ART work and exhibition space, International Youth Day, Turner Contemporary
International Youth Day, Turner Contemporary

 Handled well in the classroom or as part of a gallery visit, discussions about art and artists develop curiosity about, and lasting commitment to, learning in and through art, craft and design.

Not all young artists enjoy the experience of seeing their work displayed or find explaining their work in words meaningful. Not all pupils and students experience a visit to an art gallery or meet an artist, maker or designer as part of their art education. Exhibiting work in a public place or a prestigious gallery is a challenge that few young artists experience. Even fewer are able to exhibit their work alongside established artists.

And yet, the freedom to engage with new ideas or media and to experiment with the traditional or tested, makes the opportunity to gain inspiration through exhibiting an opportunity that more should experience.

Too many people, including young artists and other pupils and students in school, view public art spaces and art galleries as out of reach or disconnected to their own interests or creativity. They often associate public art with people who already have their work recognised or who have the knowledge and language skills to express their views articulately.

Art education in schools, in art galleries and at home, plays an important part in convincing young people that they too can participate confidently. All can grow as a young artist or develop culturally as a young person able to appreciate art, craft and design.