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Orewa College with Richard Mathieson: Bronze Sculpture

"I have enjoyed the opportunity to learn new skills". "I liked seeing other artists work". "I am looking forward to seeing all the works together, it has been a cool experience".

The Art department at Orewa College put in a strong and convincing application for the Artists in Schools project 2008, requiring a sculptor to support their programme.

Richard Mathieson, a bronze sculptor also applied to Artists in Schools and through the process of matching suitability he was teamed up with Orewa as a possible artist who would work well with their suggested programme. This consisted of selected students across years 9 - 12 who had been identified as accelerate students in visual arts to work within a sculpture context. The HOD Art and Richard met and worked with a time frame and outcome, which best suited all parties and detailed plans were drawn up.

A 10 week programme was planned involving 12 visual art students, (selected on skill and attitude by the art staff), working alongside the gifted and talented programme in the school. The plan was to include a motivational visit to a sculpture park in Matakana and Terry Stringer's studio and garden, visits to a foundry and experiences in 2 bronze casting techniques for in-depth understanding of the process before embarking on the students' own design concepts and maquettes for possible future enhancement of the school environs.

Richard was designing and making moulds for his own bronze sculpture for the school at the same time. Additional fundraising and approval by the school principal and the board of trustees had been sought and approved to allow this to happen. It was an excellent authentic model for the students to be aware of and understand for future reference.

The HOD also acted as a mentor and role model to the students as he shared his own experience as a practising sculptor, the motivational ideas underpinning his own work, and the requirements of an artist in setting up a solo exhibition. He went through a similar process of designing and making a site-specific maquette.

While they were making plaster and sand moulds, the students were working in a common outside site within the Art Department, which enabled other students to see and have explained to them the process as it took place. The 12 students then chose an individual site within the school environs and set about designing their own sculpture maquette with support from the HOD and Richard specifically.

The students have been highly motivated and their attendance has been excellent. The only absences were for other subject tests (students had been timetabled out of class for the duration of the project) and one student left for another school.

As an observation, the students have tended to break into age groups to some extent but there appeared to be a crosschecking and camaraderie established across the whole group.

Students were interviewed half way through and at the end of the project to gauge their thoughts and ideas on skills learned, value of the project for them, understanding of techniques and processes and ways forward.

One of the "spin offs" of the research and discovery process has been the need to source interesting and different materials for their maquettes, and the need to learn further skills in the use of appropriate workshop tools, photocopiers, Photoshop etc.

The final outcome was a celebration and exhibition of the HOD and student maquettes in the school library and the unveiling of Richard's bronze sculpture situated outside the school administration building. Parents, friends, teachers and a reporter from the local paper were invited as part of the community involvement.

As money becomes available Richard's bronze sculpture will become a water feature and some of the student maquettes will be constructed to extend enhancement of the school environment and form the beginnings of a sculpture park as an amenity for the Orewa community.

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