Published 13.03.2020
by Kids’ Own

Virtually There Exhibition opens at Ulster University, Belfast!

It’s hard to believe our Virtually There exhibition opened one week ago at Ulster University, Belfast! Now that we’ve had time to reflect on a wonderful weekend, we bring you a little rundown of the opening days of the exhibition. 

The exhibition showcases work developed by children, artists, and teachers in eight schools in Northern Ireland over the last three years who participated in Virtually There, a collaborative, virtual arts-in-education project. Though the exhibition focuses on the last three years, the project has been running for thirteen years. 

The exhibition gives real sense of the depth and richness of the project, along with an insight into the meaningful creative processes that children, teachers, and artists underwent together. The exhibition pieces from the eight collaborative partnerships present moments from creative journeys, from experimentation, questioning, looking closely and with new perspective, slowing down, from conversations and communication. The result is a really beautiful, immersive, and thought-provoking exhibition. 

On Saturday 7th of March, we held a special opening event to celebrate the exhibition, and to launch Open Space, the action research report on the Virtually There project by Dr Bryonie Reid. This event also featured a fascinating panel discussion between some of the project participants.

Dr Ali FitzGibbon, Lecturer in Creative and Cultural Industries Management, Queen’s University Belfast, officially launched Open Space. Commenting on the research report Open Space, Ali commented: “One of the most fascinating things raised by this project was the idea of the expert. Who was the expert in this process? Who was allowed to have an opinion that shaped this process? And it’s very clear that this was a project in which the children were guiding and intuiting an awful lot of things but in a collaborative relationship between teacher and artist.” Open Space captures so much of the complexity of the Virtually There project and the careful attentiveness of each of the collaborative partnerships. We think it is a really valuable publication and one which speaks to the potential of meaningful arts in education. 

We concluded our special opening event with a panel discussion entitled “What does collaboration really mean?” This discussion was chaired by Mark O’Brien, director of axis Ballymun, in conversation with some of the artists and teachers from the Virtually There project. The discussion amongst the panel and the wider audience brought important perspectives from those involved in these very particular forms of collaborative partnerships and in which children have a central role. 

This exhibition is a really important one for Kids’ Own, and for the children, artists, teachers, and schools involved.  Sincere thanks to all the children, artists, teachers, and schools involved, to exhibition curator Vanya Lambrecht Ward, and exhibition co-ordinator Bryonie Reid. 

The exhibition opened to coincide with the beginning of Young at Art’s Belfast Children’s Festival, and will run until the 28th of March.