Secondary Art and Design Education with City Year UK | The National Gallery, London

I wasn’t really into old stuff until I came here. Then… it changed. City Year is a charity that cares about educational equality in this country. At the moment, how well you do in school is unfairly determined by the kind of background that you grow up in. We tackle that by providing incredible, young, passionate volunteers to spend a year in schools supporting those children most likely to be in the achievement gap. We are all about giving students the chance to enrich their learning experience so we’re really excited to be partnering with the National Gallery to broaden their horizons showing them things they haven’t seen before, and things that they can then take back to inform the way that they’re learning in schools. In 2008, we set up a foundation here in Europe: The Credit Suisse Corporate Citizenship Foundation and we put out as our mission statement that we wanted to help education, achievement, and aspirations, and help the employability of young people. City Year UK is one of our core signature partners that we’ve been operating with now pretty much since inception six years ago and we’re very pleased with the results of what they’re achieving. We selected four focus paintings that we thought would work really, really well with this age group: ‘Still Life’ by Treck ‘Supper at Emmaus’ by Caravaggio ‘Men of the Docks’, George Bellows and then also ‘Miss La La’ by Degas. The students made a variety of different artworks some prints, some painting, and then also photography and poetry as well. The subject matter of the artworks related very much to the themes that they learned about through the paintings that we looked at. I didn’t really think that the paintings would tell that much. Like, one of the paintings told their whole life story. I wouldn’t expect that. It’s actually exciting, because I never saw these pictures before and, like next to it, it had, like, information about what happened and what happened to this picture but we never looked at the information, we just looked for ourselves and then looked at what we think. The paintings, I really enjoyed looking at them and finding out about them. One of them was just a big cluster and I found I liked the way how everything was there and you could go on for hours and hours, like, maybe go back to it every single day and you still wouldn’t be able to know why they’re there and what they represent and how they all fit together. It’s been incredible to hear from some of the students that our corps members have been supporting just how much looking at works of art have enabled them to reflect on issues in their own lives. These things were created centuries ago, but they’re obviously really relevant to young people in London and Birmingham today. They tell us how relevant they are. They tell us how they’re thinking differently about their behaviour, their friendships; their relationships at school, their learning, because of something they’ve seen on a canvas and that’s touched them in a way that they haven’t previously experienced. Everybody at Credit Suisse is very proud of what’s been achieved here. The National Gallery and City Year UK have worked fantastically together and we’re delighted that we had the opportunity to facilitate that. For the students, I hope that they will remember the confidence that they’ve gained throughout their time here at the Gallery. I’ve had students that have said to me, “I would love to be an artist” or, “I didn’t know that I could write poetry”, and I hope that they capture those moments of inspiration and take it forward into their everyday lives.

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