Sustainable Art inspires at the Churchill Theatre

27th January 2016

Lorna MacDonald, Principal Officer for Creative Learning, tells us how six of Edinburgh's schools were lucky enough to be selected to work with the artist Kathy Beckett to learn about sustainability as part of ArtCOP21, a global festival of cultural activity on climate change that tied in with the recent Paris climate summit.

I had no idea of the fantastic artwork, inspiring stories and creative learning that would come from our project, The Lifecycle of Stuff, for which I worked in partnership with Gemma Lawrence of Creative Carbon Scotland. The work they produced was exhibited at the Churchill Theatre and their learning was captured in a film we bring you below.

The six schools involved were

  • Canal View Primary
  • Gylemuir Primary
  • James Gillespie’s High School
  • Liberton High School
  • Pilrig Park Special School
  • St Peter’s RC Primary

The six schools all engaged in different learning journeys, but they all tackled issues that affect each of us today: our relationship with waste and how we deal with ‘stuff’ in our lives. The potentially complex concepts of linear and circular economies were dealt with in a way that was meaningful to the young people.

The short film The Story of Stuff was shown to the pupils to provide a context for their work.

Each class collected items that would otherwise have gone to landfill and used them to create sculptures, learning skills and techniques within art and design. Importantly, all the pupils had the choice to make something original, rather than having a product prescribed. The process of playing with the materials and coming up with ideas was at least as important as making something wonderful in the end.

sign on a wall and a perspex cabinet of art materials

Workshop materials on display at the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh.

One teacher from James Gillespie’s High School commented that the artist, Kathy Beckett, inspired their students, not only with her understanding of the issues and of the process of creating artwork, but by demonstrating her personal commitment to making conscious choices in her actions. The students felt she was a role model as an artist and as an eco-warrior.

At Pilrig Park Special School, the art and design teacher commented:

The class gained confidence as well as learning new skills. One particular pupil, who is normally extremely shy and will not talk to many people, actually spoke independently about her art work in front of the class. This was very encouraging to witness.

The teacher felt that, for herself

it was invaluable to gain knowledge of various new techniques and processes which I can use within my department in the future. It was also refreshing to work alongside an artist… share ideas and discuss possibilities.

Pilrig Park pupils said:

It made me feel happy to see our artwork hanging up in a place where anybody can go and see it!

Thank you Kathy for teaching us…it made me think about where our rubbish goes to.

A teacher from St Peter’s RC Primary commented on the pupils’ learning

Pupils were challenged to extend their thinking to include examples of linear and circular movement of resources and appliances in their everyday lives.

I really liked how… it was really left to the pupils to create and explore their ideas. I think this was incredibly valuable for the learner… something I’d love to be able to replicate in the future. It taught me a little about letting go and going with the creative process.

The whole project has really highlighted to me about the value of the creative process and not just the finished artwork, something I could definitely work on.

Watch the short film below to get a flavour of the work within each school and think: what will you do?


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About Creative Carbon Scotland

We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

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Supported by

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A project initiated by Edinburgh’s Festivals with key partners the Federation of Scottish Theatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network

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