Still time to enter the Fourth Plinth School Awards
Susannah Moore, Head of Art at at Finton House School, tells us why she encourages students to enter the Fourth Plinth Schools Awards.
The deadline for entries for this year’s Fourth Plinth Schools Awards is next Friday.
When did you first hear about the Fourth Plinth Schools Awards?
I first heard about the awards about 6 years ago when I saw a poster. Since then, we have entered our pupils four times and have been lucky with the results. We had a winner last year and, in 2016, two children were also awarded prizes – The Borough Prize and the 8-11 Age Group winner – which was phenomenal!
All children have been ecstatic to see their work on show at City Hall. It’s an impressive building and they feel the prestige. The whole morning is a wonderful experience for them; walking through Borough Market to get to the event, meeting the Deputy Mayor and shaking hands with famous artists like David Shrigley.
Why is the competition important to you as a teacher?
It’s a perfect way to introduce a conceptual art project into the curriculum for 4-to-11-year-olds. What I love about the Fourth Plinth is that it’s a modern art exhibit space in the heart of London right by Nelson’s Column – an easily recognisable iconic figure, which the children know.
They love public art at this age, art that is outside and accessible to all. They also love the cultural element of the project as they really do class themselves as Londoners.
The teachers pack is also a fantastic resource. It’s comprehensive, beautifully compiled and has everything you need to quickly bring the brief to life.
What do you think of the prizes?
The Cass Art gift bags are gorgeous – filled to the brim with art materials and inspiring books. Almost as big as our Year One borough winner last year, who struggled to carry it off the stage! His face was sheer delight as he unpacked all his treasures, a lovely prize.
Mark Cass the owner comes from a family of patrons who have raised millions to support British art and his father runs the Cass Sculpture Foundation in Goodwood, West Sussex, a charity set up in 1992 to finance and commission new works. They even provided a very generous voucher for the Teacher’s Award, which I received last year. A lovely curve ball, which took me completely by surprise.
I must say that as a teacher it’s unusual yet pleasing to be recognised for our planning and dedication.
Do you have a favourite Fourth Plinth commission?
Funnily enough, yes. Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson's – Ship in a Bottle, with its sailcloth made of traditional sail canvas, hand-sewn and hand-printed by the artist in batik designs – an absolutely stunning piece! When I share it with the children I think it ticks every box: it's dynamic, beautifully crafted, multicultural, global, and deals with political issues.
Yinka was a guest artist on my MA course at Goldsmiths. He’s an inspiring artist so to see his work on the Fourth Plinth was really moving. I also like Antony Gormley’s One & Other. It was great bringing the public into that space, encouraging them to act, react and interact – clever work!
What do you like best about teaching in London?
The city is such a brilliant classroom. It’s so inspiring for students. I love London and its endless supply of creative stimuli.
Whether you're interested in history, experimental art, architecture, craft or design, or the latest tech, London has it all. What inspires me the most is the eclecticism. So many different styles, people – it’s a world in itself.
Any advice for a teacher thinking about entering the awards for the first time?
Do it. It’s an amazing competition and such a good experience for the students. You might even end up with a winner.
Like anything in life, especially in the artistic world, it’s so subjective. That’s what I really love. Sometimes I’m surprised, sometimes I agree. You really do never know.