Case Studies

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

Key Stage 3 (ages 11 – 14)

A major exhibition is the stimulus for bookmaking, guided writing, printing and random poetry, and an alternative audio guide for the venue is voiced by year 7 students.

  • A book created by pupils through the project was considered by the teacher to be more A Level standard than KS3/4
  • School staff observed positive behavioural change in pupils involved, evident in art but also non-art classes
  • Pupils became more confident when analysing an artwork, their use of language improved, from one word responses to extended answers, with a deeper level of thinking

BALTIC worked with 2 mixed ability groups of Year 7 students from Northumberland Church of England Academy, Ashington (NCEA) and writer in residence Stevie Ronnie.

The stimulus for this project was a major exhibition of the experimental work of the Canadian artist Rodney Graham. The project with the NCEA pupils was particularly bold because it took place in advance of the exhibition arriving at the BALTIC; actually encountering the artist’s work in the space was an endpoint for the project rather than a stimulus.

One of the pupils involved in the project was  13 year old Jessica, who has no vision other than light perception due to a rare genetic condition. Planning sessions placed her at the centre of the process from the outset, and a ‘PenFriend’ assistive technology  enabled Jessica to create her own audio labels and record her own responses.

Jessica was also able to take part in the recording of the pupils’ responses to the exhibition. These were turned into a sound installation at the BALTIC as part of an initiative to encourage new audiences.

Stevie’s own interactions with Jessica influenced what he produced as part of his residency commission: the poetry pamphlet Self Portrait as Someone Else and an artist’s book containing two poems set in Braille.

The commission was an important part of the project for the writer; providing an opportunity to combine creative practice with the engagement that took place in the school and the gallery.

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art
Gallery lead
Vicky Sturrs (Head of Learning)
Creative Writer
Stevie Ronnie
The Northumberland Church of England Academy, Ashington
Lead teachers
Louise Gatti, Subject Lead Art and Design, Teaching Assistant, Marion Majewski
Year 7
Number of participants
  • exhibition
  • mixed ability
  • visual impairment

Resource produced

It’s Raining Words

Downloadable PDF

Word play and guided writing techniques that are both challenging and playful, for educators interested in using contemporary art to inspire literacy.

Want to explore a creative approach to literacy?

  • Start pupil journeys into an artwork or exhibition in the classroom; complete it with a visit to the gallery
  • The assistive technology used by a visually impaired student has potential not only to assist an individual but also inspire all
  • Work with a creative practitioner not only to bring art expertise but also an outside perspective

Explore more ideas in the resources

Explore other case studies

York Art Gallery

Key Stage 3 (ages 11 – 14)

An evocative statue of a bleeding young boy is the starting point for year 9 students to explore storytelling, poetry and playwriting through drama and wordplay.

  • creative literacy
  • empathy
  • five senses
  • role play

Manchester Art Gallery

Key Stages 3 & 4 (ages 11 – 16)

A historic painting acts as the visual stimulus to help secondary pupils develop confidence in meeting the challenges of the new English GCSE.

  • art literacy
  • GCSE
  • National curriculum

Falmouth Art Gallery

Key Stage 3 (ages 11 – 14)

A collection of automata encourages year 7 boys to explore the theme of a dystopian future and write their own science fiction book.

  • art
  • automata
  • boys' writing
  • dystopia
  • literature

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