I’ve supported schools to run a number of ‘interviews’ for artists recently – well really it was more like observed workshops. In each case we split the school class between the number of interviewees and they worked together for an hour before pupils fed back to each to other about what they had been doing.
Pupils then had something to go on in order to select between artists. I always prefer that to them being able to ask questions but not always having a clue to as to what the answers really mean. As adults it gives us chance to see the rapport that is developed during the session, and keeps us out of the way! It is maybe slightly mean on the artists, who often prepare and deliver without any payment, and can sometimes feel a bit like a magician expected to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Although a number did say they preferred it to formal interviews.
I’m struck that the candidates who rose to the top were those who ensured the pupils were ‘doing’ as quickly as possible, and those who had a purpose to the activity did even better.
Kirkbymoorside Primary selected to work with Frazer Johnston, interestingly the weaker of the three candidates on paper (another reason for workshops not panels?). Pupils made handheld structures (probably had a name – sorry, I was busy going between groups!) which rotated as they walked – their delight at reaching the point that the construction was able to generate its own movement was wonderful to observe. I had a bit of heart-sink when I saw withies and tissue paper (my own prejudice I know) but to use them to make an item that ‘did something’ was a revelation – it was that the objects worked, that they moved when you interacted with them that generated excitement.
Thornton Dale Primary chose Invisible Flock, a collective based in Leeds who by the end of their hour had enabled pupils to set up a mystery based seeking game across the school grounds. Pupils were eager to get their peers to play it next break-time. It wasn’t the warmest day but the group went outside immediately and stayed for the whole time – with pupils running about a bit if they were getting cold, and mostly (and very quickly) they were dashing about finding secret places to hide clues and leave trails – congregating back to plan the next stage and then off again. Staff were amazed by the way pupils ideas led the session, and noticed a far higher engagement from a number of pupils they they had expected: “you should have heard X” “Y was building and building on his ideas, I was amazed” …
When it comes to giving information most teachers have lots of successful strategies, what they want is to increase their toolbox of ways to enable pupils to discover their own learning, enjoy the process and want to do more. Sitting in the classroom being talked at may not achieve this – something to consider when coming for interviews.
I showed staff in another school pictures of the interviews to help them in their own recruitment planning – they were amazed what could be done in an hour, saying a teacher would often take half a term over it. Just seeing the photos made them excited about what their own artist/practitioner might bring to the school skillset- how fantastic to be able to generate that anticipation.
I’m interested to learn more about how artists prefer to be interviewed, what they think is the fairest approach – drop me a comment or e-mail if you have views on this.
I’ll let you know how these two projects develop in the months ahead – they look very promising.