November 18, 2011

Phoebe Suttie : The Score

Hello kiddlywinks or should we say OAPs, for you are a geriatric bunch compared to the creatives this week’s scorer normally deals with. This week we welcome Phoebe Suttie, or shall we say Miss Suttie, an Art & Design teacher in a school in West London.

Why teaching? How did you get into it?

My job is a challenge but I love it. As a teacher, you have to be constantly creative, current and interesting; teaching has become my Art. Watching kids take a journey with the art they create is a great experience.

I have spent time as a youth worker in East London, I’ve worked with special needs kids, kids in rival gangs and re-integrating kids who have been kicked out of mainstream education. I had a degree in Graphic Design then trained to be an Art and Design teacher.

What does your average day involve?

My job entails teaching kids about different types of Art, its meaning, its application, technical skills and generally encouraging their creativity and personal expression. As an Art teacher it’s also important to introduce pupils to the different routes they can take within Art, whether its fashion, graphic communication, fine art etc.

I teach ages 11-16. My average day involves staff meetings, dealing with my form group, 4 lessons a day, lunchtime sessions, marking, phoning parents… There is a huge amount of preparation and behaviour management involved but it’s worth it when you see some of the work that comes out of the classrooms.

What are kids like to work with creatively?

These young kids have a unique way of looking at things. They are hugely talented but hugely challenged at the same time. Kids especially in our cities, have been exposed to immense technological and sociological change, they are often, ‘plugged in’. There are so many complex issues around them that they can’t make sense of, there are so many feelings that they can’t really articulate. Art helps them express themselves freely and we can learn so much about them and the world from their work.

Can we see some of the stuff they've been working on?

Antony Gormley | Study in clay

Athletes in motion | Exploring movement of the human figure, applying 'echo lines'

Taking inspiration from the Obama ‘Hope’ image, by Sheppard Fairey. | This Artwork was both a response to the ideas of Fairey and a statement on current issues faced by the pupils in their environment – Year 9

Ndebele House Painting study

Creativity doesn’t just come from a fancy Ad school, but can arise from a busy inner city art classroom. As long as there’s experience, the ability to be inquisitive and critical as a conscious observer, the nerve to respond to the outside world and to communicate ideas effectively.

What are the biggest challenges?

Behaviour is one. Paperwork is another. But the biggest problem comes from those above. In the financial crisis it’s the creative subjects that are the first to get squeezed. Teachers are being made redundant, departments are shrinking — we’ve got £60 left in our department’s budget to last until July! It is seriously limiting opportunities in the creative arts. All of this is going to affect the creative industries in the not too distant future.

Wire and plaster statues of the public

So Art is going through a bit of a crisis?

And it’s not just the budget cuts; Art doesn’t count towards the new English Baccalaureate. The E-BACC is a new certificate awarded to students to measure the success of the school via the dreaded league tables. It includes English, Maths, two Sciences, a Foreign Language and History or Geography. Kids are put off pursuing any subjects not included as they’re made to feel they’re not of any use and won’t help them get a job.

Art helps you understand all subjects in a more visual, tactile and sensory way. Yet there’s no place for it.

This popular animation was created by a 16 year old for his AS Level Art & Design course:

A Brief History of Pretty Much Everything

What the government also fails to see is that Art education is important even for those that may not wish to go into an Art based job. Art is the only subject that teaches kids how to think, not what to think. It helps children to discover the joy of creating, become self-aware and gives them a voice that extends far beyond the spoken word.

Youth Club Workshop

Ken Robinson, an expert on creativity and education gave a brilliant talk which has been set alongside a brilliant animation: Changing Education Paradigms

We’re squeezing the creativity out of schools. This is hugely relevant, as we know some industry employers aren’t impressed with the UKs grads and are increasingly hiring from overseas.

The UK has the largest cultural economy in the world, relative to GDP - this is something we should protect. I’m not surprised that they’re having problems. It’s only going to get worse.


* * *

Well if there wasn’t a challenge for you! As far as we can see there’s a great cause that needs a creative platform to give it a voice.

Last month we stood up for students and grads at D&AD’s debate. Now it’s your turn to stand up for the next generation.

Take this up as a brief. Put your talents to something that could make a huge difference. Prove the value of art in schools —any medium — and potentially save the future of UK’s creative industries. It’s a real problem that needs a fixing and has no voice.

Email us your work monkeys@youngcreativecouncil.com by Monday January 9th 2012 and we’ll showcase the best ones and who knows maybe we’ll discover the next Andrew Langsley rap

(preferably something made that can be shared with the wider world, but good spec ideas will be showcased too)

If you’d like to contact phoebe with any questions you can email her p.suttie@hotmail.co.uk

See Phoebe's recent article on the subject for D&AD

Til next week,

The YCC x

Published by: admin in The Score

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