September 2013 / Bielefeld

Art Goes To School

When art changes course

The basic idea of this newly developed project is to introduce children and youngsters to art in a quiet, unobtrusive, incidental way. The emphasis lies on aesthetic perception. Aesthetics as the doctrine of beautiful and purposeless design is a value in itself, independent of any economic usability. This too, is an educational mandate: to take time to appreciate purposeless beauty. Every child, every youth needs time to himself or herself for the essential human need of time and place to be free of any purpose or duties in the midst of a hectic daily routine that is more oriented towards efficiency. This essential need is what our project wants to address. 200 years ago the writer and poet Schiller recognised: “Man only plays where he can be human in the full sense of the meaning, and he is only fully human, where he can play.” (Friedrich Schiller, Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man (1795), 15th Letter).

Almost everyone remembers a picture from their childhood – be it in the home of their grandmother or a neighbour – which has won their heart and which they remember in every detail. The fact that people automatically take in their immediate surroundings can be utilised to give children the opportunity to become familiar with paintings.
And in this case they do not have to visit exhibitions or a museum, but instead, art changes direction and comes to their school. They can look at the details of a picture by Monet or Klee, while they are waiting for their teacher in front of the music room or whilst standing in the queue in the canteen.

The target group of this project are schoolchildren from year one until graduation of all types of school. The aim is to provide an opportunity for them to become familiar with well-known works of art from the last centuries, from classical works to contemporary art.
In the long term the children take in the art, recognise it elsewhere, develop an interest and lose any reservations they may have had. In the short term the school environment benefits from the design and improvement of the surroundings by displaying the works of art. The paintings might even win a place in their lives and in their hearts and encourage the children to engage with things and topics beyond their daily routine, which is characterised by high speed and effectivity in our age of information- and media-technology. Maybe here too, a change of direction in another sense?
We are very pleased that Christiane Heuwinkel from the Kunsthalle Bielefeld agreed to cooperate with the Foundation on this project. She was enthusiastic about the idea right from the beginning and kindly supports us by putting her expertise at our disposal.
We started the project with four schools in Bielefeld in the school year 2013/14 with marvellous ceremonies as grand openings of the respective exhibitions. These include the Stiftsschule in Schildesche, the Westkampschule LWL-Förderschule (a special needs school for deaf children, those with hearing-impairments and learning difficulties) in Senne, the Comprehensive School Rosenhöhe in Brackwede and the Max-Planck-Grammar School in Bielefeld-Mitte.
The Andreas-Mohn-Foundation provided each of the participating schools with a thematic collection consisting of a set of six framed art prints which will be loaned to each school for the duration of one year.
We discussed the choice of paintings with each school and jointly found the ideal settings that would best showcase the paintings and also make them accessible to as many pupils as possible.
At the end of the year each set of prints will be moved on to another school. The ensuing blank places on the walls are part of the concept. The intention is to prevent stagnation and encourage the development of creative new ideas and engagement with art.

In the long term perspective the aim is to promote the idea of the project all over Germany and thereby facilitate an easy access to art for as many children as possible. We are therefore hoping to include further partners for cooperation on local, state and federal levels.
We are particularly pleased about the open and spontaneous enthusiasm for the project which we encountered from everyone to whom we introduced the idea of Art goes to School.
Let us show children and youngsters, that there is more to life than just effective, economical functioning in everyday life and that there are people who care about them, take them seriously and want to make their world better and more worth living, simply more humane.
We are already curious about the next round of participating schools – there too, we expect to encounter a new and surprising choice of pictures. No school is like another and every picture in this project is unique, just like the children and youngsters, for who this project is intended!

Project management
Gudrun Donicht
since September 2013
In Cooperation with
Christiane Heuwinkel, Kunsthalle Bielefeld