Laura Barlow completed an internship with MCA Learning in 2015 and then went on to assit in the production of digital learning resources for Primavera 2015 and Being Tiwi. Early this year Laura completed her final teaching placement at St Columbia Anglican College in Port Macquarie and took the opportunity to test out the Being Tiwi resources in the classroom. We asked her to reflect on this process:
Behind the scenes at the NCCL, a small team of Artist Educators are at work developing new resources for the MCA’s Learning Portal. Designed for use by students and teachers, each resource is created to engage young people with contemporary art – regardless of their proximity to the Museum.
Earlier this year, Artist Educator Ella Condon and I were given the opportunity to add to the Portal with a set of resources supporting the MCA’s touring exhibition; Being Tiwi. Having just relocated to Port Macquarie to begin my final teaching placement, I took the chance to put these developing resources to the test with a class of Year 7 Visual Arts students at St Columba Anglican School.
As well as exploring how students responded to the tone and content of the Being Tiwi resource set, my supervisor and I experimented with how it could be used to shape a complete unit of work. This direct use of the resources led to a program focused on seeing students develop their understandings of contemporary Aboriginal art and how it can be accessed. Our sole focus on Being Tiwi as an exhibition with both a physical and digital presence also oriented the unit as an investigation of the role of museums and galleries in engaging audiences with artists and artworks.
The unit’s opening lessons addressed these key ideas, with a guided exploration of the MCA’s website introducing students to the museum itself and the diversity of works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) artists in its collection. From here, the Being Tiwi Encounter provided the structure for a number of Critical and Historical Studies lessons, leading students through a focused exploration of the Tiwi Islands, Tiwi ceremonies and traditions, and how these aspects of culture relate to the exhibition’s artworks. Encouragingly, students’ feedback at the unit’s close indicated a broadened awareness of ATSI art and specific understandings of the artworks in Being Tiwi.
Fresh to Stage 4 Visual Arts, our students were keen to create their first linocut prints during the unit’s artmaking lessons (despite the frequent call for bandaids!). Based on an adaptation of the Unique Perspectives activity, the abstract designs featured on these prints were the result of both group and individual explorations of students’ cultural identities as Port Macquarie residents. Adding to the value of introducing new material processes, this sequence gave these early Year 7 students the opportunity to practice collaboration while considering their identity within their class and wider community.
The usefulness of the Learning Portal in providing regional students with insights into the MCA’s collection and exhibitions was made clear throughout this project. Its strongest value, however, was found in each resource’s capacity to offer of an accessible experience of the sometimes-tricky world of contemporary art. With Being Tiwi making its way to Port Macquarie’s Glasshouse Regional Gallery in mid 2017, I’m looking forward to seeing our students inspired to make a visit and enjoy a familiarity with the works on display.
Alex’s interest for intersections between creativity, technology and community has drawn him to roles in community broadcasting, community development, and cultural sectors. He has a long history of organising and curating experimental music and art through projects like; Tele Visions, Serial Space, Electrofringe, High Reflections, Lion Mountain Studio and Liquid Architecture.
Alex currently works as the Digital Learning Producer for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. He is passionate about the possibilities for art and creativity to change lives both for audiences and creators. Alex also produces and performs sound, video and installations working with both customised software systems and hardware based modular synthesis systems.