University of Cambridge Museums

Projects, events and news from the University of Cambridge Museums

Source: supporting art & design students

Source matches the University of Cambridge Museums collections with Art and Design exam themes, providing high quality starting points from objects for students and teachers at GCSE , A Level and BTEC.

In 2017 Source worked with 139 independent young art students and with 431 whole class visits, reaching in total 570  young people.

Source was started in 2007 to offer students the time to research original objects, and enables them to draw and write in their sketchbooks in the galleries. Students are encouraged to discuss their ideas with their peers and museum education staff while freelance artists in the Fitzwilliam Museum’s education studio space support students’ technical and conceptual art practice. Source encourages young people as independent learners outside the classroom as it takes place during school half-term and on Saturdays. Parents play a crucial part in the project by enabling students to get to the Museum, and for shy students feeling outside their comfort zone parents give that all important initial confidence boost. Students work as independent learners within their peer group, with the support of Education staff as facilitators.

“My son loved Source, he has SEN and would like to attend the Fitzwilliam Arts Pioneers project now” (This student is now part of the Arts pioneer Group)
Parent of student

Students are offered a drop-in environment where they are provided with support as and when needed throughout their visit. Many students visit over several days to extend their work and find that they achieve a great deal. Sketching in the galleries leads to experiments and finished work in the studio.

Source offers young people the opportunity to work alongside regional artists offering a range of creative voices. It is stimulating for young people to engage and discuss their own art practice with established professional artists. Among this year’s artists we welcomed: Hideki Arichi, Artist fellow at Digswell Arts; Caroline Wendling from Wysing Arts Centre, who works on arts interpretation and interventions; and Susie Olczak who is a key artist in the Cambridge E-Luminate art light festival. With the valuable addition of arts education specialists Jason Ions (Saffron Walden County High School) and Lucy Mazur (Cambridge International and Anglia Ruskin University International) These artist offer a range of art forms and their accompanying thought processes that may be new to young art students. The opportunity to ask questions about art and artefacts in the museum and to discuss how to incorporate this in their own developing artwork is a key success of Source.  Giving their own voice to the museum collection is exciting for our young student visitors.

“At Source, I felt incredibly welcomed and comfortable talking about art techniques etc. as well as learning about techniques I could use to develop my art work, like reduction lino printing.”

“Very helpful for beginning brainstorm ideas and view specific pieces in the gallery – thanks! Welcoming and very useful for my GCSE art project!”

“This makes me improve my skills. Also meeting Will Hill from Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University to talk about Game design – improvements to my portfolio and degree Course entry requirements.”

Students’ comments

As in 2016 we offered a Portfolio Review Day with guest lecturers from Cambridge School of Art at Anglia Ruskin University. With bookable slots of up to 20 minutes per art student (and parent) this proved really useful for students to find their strengths and weaknesses with gentle guidance and encouragement, whilst also hearing insights into degree courses and potential career paths in the arts. 12 students took up these 20-30 minute portfolio review slots, which proved a valuable addition to the programme with two foundation students travelling especially from London.

Selection of Intaglio prints from Sawtry Village College students

“The students benefited from the expertise of the museum education staff who were able to discuss with them their ideas for their forthcoming exam. The staff were very knowledgeable of the museum’s collection and how it can inspire the students with their individual starting ideas. The printmaking workshop offered them the opportunity to create some immediate artwork to support their ideas.  A very worthwhile day that all the students involved really enjoyed.”
Kevin Terry, Art Teacher, Sawtry Community College

Source also encouraged students to make self-led visits to the other University of Cambridge Museums, where Education staff had matched exam themes to their specific museum collections. Students responded in several ways to these visits: some commented that they would not have previously thought of going to a ‘non art’ museum to research their exam themes, and were very impressed by the richness of the collections and the relevance to their exam themes. They enjoyed drawing and carrying out research, and many said that they might have completely missed the opportunity to develop their ideas in this way. They were amazed at the range of specialist knowledge of the Museum staff they met.

Sarah-Cate Blake, Education Officer, Fitzwilliam Museum

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