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Education-research / Projects / Art and the Sea

Art and the Sea

As part of an Art and the Sea programme initiated by The Crown Estate, the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is celebrating the heritage, landscape and culture of the stretch of Norfolk coast from Weybourne to Sea Palling.

The project follows a long tradition for art to interpret social and environmental change along the coast-line. Picking up the Sainsbury Centre and UEA Weatherquest’s theme of weather, first explored at the Coast Festival for 2010, this project demonstrates the continued role for art as a means to reflect upon the long-term environmental, cultural and historical changes of the Norfolk coast and shore, and to comment on its present and future.

So far, the Sainsbury Centre has commissioned artist Sophie Utting to make a film ‘The Sea is a Hungry Dog’, worked with The Voice Project to create a Coastal Choir, to sing Songs of the Sea written by Raffaella Barker, and staged three interdisciplinary Art and the Sea conferences, with contributions from artists, scientists, geographers and art historians.

Most recently, the Sainsbury Centre has been working with Blakeney COE Primary School on a series of workshops and collaborations exploring life on the coastline, both around the world and in the particular environment of Blakeney.

Led by artist educator Liz Ballard and taking the Sainsbury Centre collections as our starting point, the workshops have explored how communities live by the sea across the world and make use of its resources in creative, innovative and sustainable ways. The Sainsbury Centre collections are rich in objects and artefacts made from and for life on the coast, and these objects, particularly those from North America and the South Pacific, became our reference points throughout the work with Blakeney Primary School.

Activities included:

- Sharing the Paget handling collection of Papua New Guinean objects with children in the classroom at Blakeney Primary School, observing, handling and sketching the objects and uncovering their connections to coastal life and culture

- Making practical as well as decorative objects for life on the coast at Blakeney with local materials, and inventing ‘an object for Blakeney’ that is useful and sustainable, as well as celebratory

- A whole school visit to the Sainsbury Centre, with sketching and learning in the galleries focused on the North American and South Pacific objects in the collection, followed by the design and small-scale invention of a coastal island environment in the Education Studio

- The creation of a temporary ‘Seaside Museum’ at Blakeney Primary school, with objects collected and displayed by the children in second-hand museum mounts with handwritten labels, and a private view for families.

While the year’s project entailed outreach work on the coast with Blakeney Primary School, our aim equally was to bring the creativity and learning back to the Sainsbury Centre. Artist Liz Ballard is producing a publication that will show her work and research in the Sainsbury Centre collection and in Blakeney, and the Education team is producing resources for use in the gallery about the coast and its environment.