My Work Placement Experience with Mall Galleries Education

‘Our Shared Heritage’ Exhibition and Project in partnership with The Royal Parks.

By Zhenni Xu

Audiences Are the Best Artists and Children Can Be the Most Inspirational Mentors

For two weeks over this summer, I was fortunate to undertake a work placement with the Mall Galleries Education Department, assisting with the delivery of the ‘Our Shared Heritage’ project. This placement was part of my Masters degree in Museums and Galleries in Education at the Institute of Education, University College London. ‘Our Shared Heritage’ was a multimedia exhibition showcasing the rich and previously hidden heritage of The Royal Parks, accompanied by a community engagement programme of activities for all ages.

During my placement, I learned more about designing and delivering educational workshops and most importantly I was able to exchange ideas and art inspiration with participants. Their talent and enthusiasm helped me increase my own understanding of art education. I was not only a facilitator and educator, but also a happy listener and eager student.

‘Our Shared Heritage’ had several workshops, and they all had something in common: audiences were invited to draw inspiration from painting, drawing and photography in order to create their own artwork inspired by The Mall and St. James’ Park area. The first workshop was ‘People and Places of The Mall’, a walking tour and drawing session that introduced young and adult participants to various historical, architectural and social aspects of the area.

Classical architecture meets concrete structures at the ‘People and Places of The Mall’ workshop

Using Photography to Capture Moments in St. James’s Park

The photography workshop in St. James’s Park was memorable. Participants used Polaroid cameras, took photographs on their phones and explored collage in order to capture the various elements of the Park. At the same time, they experimented with different photographic techniques, looking at line,

shape, perspective and the positioning of their subject matter. Although it was a very rainy day, this did not affect the enthusiasm of the participants, to some extent, it actually made the photos even more artistic and colour-saturated.

Dee, the photographer leading the session, is discussing with the group different photographic techniques and ways that they can express ideas and feelings through the camera.

We found interesting viewpoints and angles to capture our shot. For example: leaving white space around our subject matter made the photographs more poetic, a case of ‘less is more’! When shooting intricate buildings and structures, we zoomed in on detailed views, thus creating more abstract and artistic works. We were enjoying ourselves so much that we even forgot about the rain.

We are trying out different angles, with a goal to capture the best moments!

A distorted tree shot from an unconventional angle, a bit like a swirl or a labyrinthine tunnel.

Photos taken with Polaroid cameras

Many participants combined photographs printed from their phones with text, collage, cyanotypes and polaroids to create painting-like travel diaries.

‘Art in The Park’ Activity Day

For the ‘Art in The Park’ activity day we invited all ages to come and join us for a day-long drawing session inspired by all the exciting images, feelings and inspiration that green spaces provide us with. Some participants preferred to created detailed works using delicate and exquisite brushwork, while others combined bold brushwork with different colors and textures, creating strong and expressive images. People’s work revealed their personal style, and interestingly, adults tended to record more realistic scenes while children preferred to convert their feelings into abstract patterns or colours.

Photo Wall

On the final day of the exhibition, we invited the wider public to bring in their own photographs capturing an unexpected moment at The Royal Parks or any other green space that they enjoy spending time in, to be exhibited in one of the Gallery spaces. Photographs from the workshops were also hang alongside those brought in by visitors, prompting people to stop, look at their work, as well as to talk to others and exchange ideas about the animals, people and colours of The Royal Parks.

Me in front of the Photo Wall

The ‘Our Shared Heritage’ programme of activities was a partnership between The Royal Parks and Mall Galleries education teams.