In July 2017, Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) welcomed S5 and S6 pupils from across the UK to its first Summer School of Imagination. Initiated and led by Dr Patricia Allmer, with Dr Emily Goetsch and Cara Samuels, the programme allowed students theoretical, historical, and practical engagements with different ECA subject areas including Art, Design, History of Art, and Music.

The programme was designed for students to learn about Edinburgh’s world-leading artistic history, and about ECA, its facilities, its outstanding collaborating institutions, and the wealth of career options we offer. Advice on portfolio development was a particularly important practical educational aspect of the Summer School, and our student helpers, Craig Waddell, Mook Attanath and Rosey Norman, offered first-hand advice and information to the School attendees.

The programme focused on Edinburgh as a space of imagination. Students discovered, among other things, the artist Eduardo Paolozzi, learning about artistic movements such as surrealism, playing with materials to create new realities and finding the marvelous in their everyday environment.

Paolozzi

On the first day, the students toured key Edinburgh sites associated with the Leith-born artist. The morning started with a viewing of the National Library of Scotland’s Paolozzi maquettes. A talk from the library’s Rare Books Curator, James Mitchell, about the maquettes also stimulated rich discussion about career pathways within the library sector. The Paolozzi tour continued to the National Museum of Scotland, where Gordon Brennan from the School of Art introduced students to Paolozzi’s sculptures and the artistic techniques involved in making them. It ended in the University’s Centre for Research Collections in the Main Library with the story of the mosaic arches Paolozzi designed for Tottenham Court Road Tube Station. Led by Liv Laumenech, Public Art Officer, students had the opportunity to handle the mosaic fragments, and to gain insights into career opportunities within art collections.

Examples of students’ jewellery made out of found objects
Image: Dr Patricia Allmer
Examples of students’ jewellery made out of found objects

Student feedback from the Summer School was overwhelmingly positive. Comments ranged from having their interest in art-related subjects confirmed, to an opening up of new and unexpected interests such as history of art and curating.

Collage and Jewellery

The second day investigated surrealist techniques through practical workshops. Gordon’s morning session focused on collage and printmaking, two significant means of art making in Paolozzi’s work, while the afternoon session, led by Susan Cross from the School of Design, invited students to transform found objects into jewellery through a variety of collage and re-assemblage techniques. In both sessions the students’ imagination and skill produced a range of excellent and exciting works.

Music and Animation

The final day started with imagining music, exploring the latest neuroscientific findings with Dr Katie Overy (Reid School of Music), and trying out some different ways of learning and thinking about music. The session took place at St Cecilia’s Hall, where students had the opportunity to see the newly refurbished concert hall, and to visit ECA’s extensive instrument collection. After a visit to ECA’s library, the Summer School concluded with a phonotrope workshop, run by Jared Taylor (School of Design), where the students produced wonderfully surreal phonotropic animations.

Imagining Music session at St. Cecilia’s Hall
Image: Dr Patricia Allmer
Imagining Music session at St. Cecilia’s Hall
Students’ work at the Animation workshop
Image: Dr Patricia Allmer
Students’ work at the Animation workshop

Feedback

Student feedback from the Summer School was overwhelmingly positive. Comments ranged from having their interest in art-related subjects confirmed, to an opening up of new and unexpected interests such as history of art and curating.

One student commented, “it has broadened my options on which courses I would like to do,” while another noted that they’d learned that, “music can be paired with science and psychology”.

Students also commented on the thrill of learning about new artists and experimenting with new materials, and emphasised that, “seeing the studio spaces at ECA was really inspiring”. And in feedback to the question, “Is there anything we could have done better?” one answer was: “I wish it was longer.”

The ECA Summer School was supported by a Gordon Cook Foundation grant.




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