Year 6 pupils from New Silksworth Junior Academy spent Monday (March 29) at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens creating a piece of tapestry depicting social mobility and class and where they perceive their own social standing.
The pieces will now be collated together with designs from students at Castle View Enterprise Academy and East Rainton Primary School to create a large tapestry.
The project is in advance of Grayson Perry’s exhibition ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’, which will go on display at the museum next month and will incorporate the children’s own tapestry which will be displayed as part of Sunderland Heritage Fortnight (May 21 to June 5).
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Featuring a series of tapestries, Grayson’s work explores social class and British society. In advance of creating their own artwork, children spent time interpreting photographs of the tapestries.
Lilly Cheape, 10, said: "It was interesting to learn about the classes and how some things are different and some are the same."
Classmate Isabel Finnon, 11, said: "I enjoyed learning techniques like sketching, weaving and making designs for the tapestries. It was a chance to tell my story."
Jessica Hope, 10, added: "I think we can achieve anything no matter where we come from. It might be hard work but you have to try."
The project also enabled pupils to gain an Arts Awards Explore qualification.
Reception teacher and Art Lead at the school, Victoria Merrie said: “The children had to produce a piece of art which reflected social change and where they see themselves fitting.
"Children investigated Grayson Perry as an artist and by the time they got to the session at the museum they had developed a really good understanding of the concept of social class and the fact doors open for some people while others have to work harder to get those same opportunities.
"The children were really proud of their work and are looking forward to seeing it displayed at the exhibition.”
Victoria also feels the initiative has an important role in raising the profile and importance of art in schools.
She added: “Art has such an important role. Exploring social class is a difficult concept. Children are visual learners and raising awareness and understanding through art is an ideal tool.
"It can also stimulate a child’s imagination, allowing them to experience things and express themselves through art.”
The project was coordinated by The Art Room Sunderland.
Art teacher and project lead Kerry Cook said: “Grayson Perry’s work really opened up lots of conversations amongst the children and in particular ‘is it posh or not”? It’s important all children have access to quality arts education.
"Some children who may have issues with literacy, excel when it comes to art. Art provides a medium for them to express themselves through drawings and symbols.”
Commenting on his latest exhibition, Grayson said: “Of all the pieces I have made this was the one I conceived from the outset as a public artwork. I hope that wherever it goes it not only delights the eye but also sparks debate about class, taste and British society.”
The project is being funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.