Falmouth Art Gallery has an outstanding collection of over 2,000 artworks ranging from Pre-Raphaelite and British Impressionist paintings to contemporary prints, photography and a children’s illustration archive. The collection includes the largest contemporary collection of automata in a public museum and they regularly commission new ones. This collection provided the inspiration for a series of writing and art workshops exploring the theme of a dystopian future specifically aimed at improving boys’ literacy. This theme – along with character development – was also part of the students’ coursework at the time and the project was designed to support the school in delivering this.
Sessions were held in the gallery space so that the boys could explore different examples of automata. The cleverness of the mechanisms could be observed first hand, and were used to help the boys design their own creations through the use of cams and pulleys. The resulting sculptures recycled from old materials quickly took on imagined characteristics and functions as the students worked in groups, making and discussing their ideas as the shapes began to form.
The works of Patrick Woodroffe was hung in the gallery at the time and these provided an additional stimulus as his paintings contain elements of the fantastical, such as the blending of the biological and mechanical.
The boys developed their own science fiction tales based around their own creations and discussions with their class which were later published in a book – Road to Automata.
View Road to Automata (PDF)
The MaxLiteracy project helped convince Cornwall Council to devolve the running of Falmouth Library to Falmouth Art Gallery who are now planning further literacy interventions with their collection.