Art & Design 2021-2022 Review

Any old cynic could tell you that art is a subject that only thrives when creative spirits are free to roam the various natures of this world. Over the past two years, the freedom essential to the creative process was stifled (for reasons with which we have all become far too familiar). Art departments were forced to adapt to an impossible situation, though few were able to do so as successfully as the Royal School Armagh.

Despite the unfortunate circumstances of the 2021 Hilary term, pupils were still able to fully embrace the practical nature of art. All the materials and resources were in place to make the next few months as productive and enjoyable as possible. While year eleven to fourteen students were adding finishing touches to their GCSE and A-Level projects, those in key stage three worked on key skills and enjoyed art as a creative release between more theoretical subjects. In the words of Ms McDowell (Head of Department), the idea this year was to ‘keep learning valuable and concrete so students could apply themselves as individuals.’ And apply themselves they did. Throughout the course of the term, year eights were taught vital artistic techniques and year nines applied themselves to the study of portraiture (the works of Butler, Picasso, Kahlo, and Modigliani being only a few of the many examined.) Pupils investigated mixed media to find their own style, discovered the wonders of printmaking with Miss Flemming, experimented with stitching and textiles with Ms McDowell. At the end of the term, every single piece created over the course of the year was brought into the classroom. Each student left that day with a collage of their own work, celebrating their diligence over an extremely challenging time.

Perhaps the most heart-warming projects to emerge from lockdown 2.0 were the illustrated comic books from the year nine students. Their goal was to ‘embrace portraiture and its key components of mood, emotion, expression and feeling’ with a theme based on the #BeKind movement. Established to kickstart a positive culture change, the #BeKind movement is a community-driven initiative based on the pillars of trust, empathy, honesty, and courage. Every single pupil engaged in this initiative with enthusiasm, bring forth stories about the dangers of cyberbullying and social media and the importance of community during a crisis. While the finished comics sculpted tales of unity, some students, in particular, took the project to heart. These pupils performed completely voluntary tasks within their communities, delivering items to the elderly and providing crucial comfort to those in need over the course of the lockdown.

Along with the personal accomplishments inside our school, there have been a number of external victories for the RSA throughout 2021. In the Credit Union Art Competition, four Royal School pupils came out triumphant: Tony Xue placed first in the 17-year-old- adult category, Emily Dunwoody earned a first in the 11–13-year-old category and placed second at the next level of the competition, Luke Crawford received a second place on the 11–13-year-old category with Ella Hunter following in third. Incredible work guys!

All in all, 2021 has been a remarkably successful year for students of the RSA Art Department. They oversaw a trying term with grace and commitment to their subject, emerging with new skills and a fair few paint stains. Congratulations again folks and all the best in the new year.

Rebecca Dorman, 13A