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Deaf and autistic students show their Giacometti-inspired art works at National Portrait Gallery
Students from Oak Lodge School, Wandsworth at National Portrait Gallery at Giacometti-inspired workshops sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. ©Hazel Basran.

LONDON.- Students from two south London schools showed their newly created portraits at the National Portrait Gallery at a special private view on Thursday 7 January 2016.

Inspired by the Gallery’s current critically acclaimed exhibition Giacometti: Pure Presence, the portraits are the result of a creative workshop collaboration between the Gallery and Oak Lodge School for students with hearing, speech, language and communication needs in Wandsworth, and Drumbeat School and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Service in Brockley.

Following the workshops, which took place in the schools, the exhibition and the Gallery’s Learning Studio and were facilitated by artists Chloe Cooper and Jasleen Kaur, the students were invited to showcase their finished works at the Gallery on Thursday 7 January 2016.

The hard-to-reach audiences who may have barriers to participating in cultural institutions, have been offered experiences not otherwise available in their schools. Some of the participants may not have been to a gallery or museum, and those who have, still require additional support to participate.

The Gallery has worked with both schools previously, and has seen the benefits that small interventions can have in encouraging these young people to participate in the visual arts. In-depth project work is only possible with additional funding, so thanks to the support of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the Gallery has been able to work with these schools again in a more rigorous way.

This private view was a chance for students to show the work they have created and talk to guests at the event about their creative experiences. The project has introduced the young people to new, fun and creative art skills and, by doing so, has helped increase their confidence, enjoyment and knowledge; encouraging them to establish an ongoing relationship with the Gallery by using it as a resource. As well as the engagement with Giacometti’s working practice one student from Drumbeat has begun a dialogue with artist Jasleen Kaur about the process of selling her work commercially, inspired by her awareness of potential careers in the creative sector.

Liz Smith, Director of Participation and Learning, National Portrait Gallery, says: ‘The students and teachers from Oak Lodge School and Drumbeat School and Autistic Spectrum Disorder Service were inspired by Giacometti: Pure Presence; they explored human relationships and expressed their own emotions with passion and sensitivity. In doing so they have challenged our own learning practice at the Gallery. Creating an artistic project of this calibre has been a true privilege and we are immensely grateful to the encouragement and generosity of Bank of America Merrill Lynch in supporting this work.’

Andrea Sullivan, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, EMEA, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, says: ‘At our company we have a saying that our workforce wholeheartedly embraces – “bring my whole self to work”. This is borne from an understanding that it is only through a diverse and inclusive workforce that we will succeed. The same can be applied across our communities. We are therefore delighted that Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s sponsorship of Giacometti: Pure Presence combines our commitment to both the arts and the education of young people. The enthusiasm and talent of the students displaying their work at the Gallery are an inspiration to us all.’

Darryl Bedford, Art Teacher, Oak Lodge School, says: ‘The opportunity to visit an art exhibition and delve deep into artist practice and theory is a rare and wonderful opportunity. Not only has Chloe touched on Giacometti’s character and unique working method, but she has also focused on other art careers. Students have momentarily assumed the role of Art Curators and artists, working together to curate an imaginary art space! Students learn best by participating, by doing, by creating. This project is proof of this well documented learning approach and I can’t think of a better springboard for the creative exploration of portraiture and identity! A huge thank you to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, not only for funding the project but for their active presence during the workshops.’

Fiona Smithers, Art Teacher, Drumbeat School, says: ‘It was great to see the pupils’ response to the exhibition and watching them work alongside new people.’

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