Thinking in Three Dimensions: How do Young Children Engage with Modern Sculpture?

By Sheila Galloway, Sarah Shalgosky and Mel Lloyd-Smith.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Sculpture trails offer learning opportunities and foster engagement with contemporary art although we know little about how this happens in practice. In the second half of the twentieth century the UK has seen a whole hearted civic embrace of public art through regeneration projects and other agencies. Three dimensional work on open display is accessible to all, not just to those people who are at ease in galleries. Meanwhile, curriculum time for creative subjects has been under great pressure. Research has shown the scarcity of primary teachers with specialist training in the visual arts. Sculpture trails promise ‘Education Outside the Classroom’ but many teachers express a lack of confidence when dealing with contemporary art. How do young people learn to engage with the works they will encounter in their communities?

A University of Warwick research team has compiled a directory of sculpture trails in England. We investigated primary schools’ experience of visiting a sculpture trail, focusing on the learning and development of pupils, teachers, and visual arts professionals. What do such visits offer young pupils? What do they offer teachers? How can a sculpture trail best exploit the learning opportunities? This research is also located against developing concepts of gallery education. Funded by Arts Council England, the project uses case studies of established sculpture collections catering for school groups and in-depth studies of Midlands schools which visited the University of Warwick’s Sculpture Trail in 2007. This article concentrates on the immediate responses of young children to modern sculpture in open settings.

Keywords: Sculpture Trails, Children and Sculpture

The International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 3, Issue 6, pp.43-56. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.810MB).

Dr. Sheila Galloway

Principal Research Fellow, Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research, University of Warwick, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK

Sheila Galloway is Principal Research Fellow in the Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research, University of Warwick, UK. She has conducted many research projects in educational settings. She evaluated for the Department for Education and Skills the Museums and Galleries Education Programme Phase 2 and the Dance and Drama Awards Scheme. For Arts Council England she co-directed research on artists’ labour markets and on the presentation of the contemporary visual arts. She evaluated the national Artist Teacher Scheme and is now reviewing Birmingham Royal Ballet’s work with young people in youth clubs and community centres. For the NHS, she is evaluating a programme of artistic projects for hospice users, and is reporting to the Training and Development Agency for Teachers on aspects of the Learning and Performance Network created by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Sarah Shalgosky

Curator, Mead Gallery, University of Warwick, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK

Sarah Shalgosky is Curator at the University of Warwick.

Mel Lloyd-Smith

Freelance researcher, University of Warwick, Kenilworth, UK

Mel Lloyd-Smith is Chair of the Friends of the Mead Gallery. As Deputy Director of the Faculty of Education at the University of Warwick, his teaching and research focused on Special Educational Needs. Currently, as a consultant, he is an Associate Fellow in the Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research.

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