Published 15.12.2015
by Kids’ Own

Virtually There: New Partners

New partners

by Ann Donnelly, Virtually There Project Curator

The crux of successful work is a strong partnership between artist and teacher.”
-Orla Kenny, Director of Kids’ Own at VT Artist and Teacher day, Ulster Museum

Acknowledging this crucial partnership at the heart of the online work, Kids’ Own has looked for ways to support and sustain that relationship, starting at the beginning – a really important moment. This phase of Virtually There sees three new schools coming on board: St. John the Baptist P.S. in Andersonstown, where teacher Joanna Harriot is working with artist Vanya Lambrecht Ward; St James’s P.S. in Whiteabbey, where teacher Stella Cross is working with artist Naomi Draper and Sacred Heart P.S. in North Belfast, which sees the pairing of teacher Natasha Harriot with artist Julie Forrester.

New partners - Stella and Naomi

New partners – Stella and Naomi

An artists and teachers day in the Ulster Museum introduced the three new artist-teacher partnerships to the project, to the technology, and, most importantly, to each other. Each of the three artists has their own creative practice. Each has worked with Kids’ Own on a range of projects and they all have experience of working online from previous phases of Virtually There. All three teachers for this phase made contact with Kids’ Own by submitting expressions of interest following a call out through the McCord Bursary, a charity that supports professional development training for teachers. A follow up visit to the three in their schools confirmed that they all want to challenge themselves and are willing to take risks in order to develop their teaching practice: they have varying levels of experience with online technology. Through a mix of discussion, presentation and ideas exchange, the day highlighted the idea of communication, particularly the importance of listening and planning.

It also investigated methods of documentation and looked at the role of the project journals. Vanessa Patton, teacher from the Virtually There project in Strandtown P.S., contributed valuable advice. It is useful for teachers to have another teacher’s perspective and Vanessa, as a seasoned participant, was able to give an insight into the realities of how the project works within the classroom. She described the project as: “…a space where you’re not confined by the constraints of the curriculum.” The group looked at a video of a child from Strandtown talking about his experience within Virtually There. It is worth remembering that the reason that Kids’ Own support this foundation work is that it underpins and enhances the child-artist-teacher relationship later in the project.

New partners -Natasha and Julie

New partners -Natasha and Julie

Eamon McAteer from c2kni was there to talk about Collaborate, the platform that is generally used for online work in schools in Northern Ireland. He reiterated the idea that listening to each other was the crux of a successful project. c2k have supported the teachers and the project since its inception and, while the concept of working online can be challenging, it is reassuring for the teachers to know that they have technical expertise on hand.

Sharing ideas - Orla, Vanessa, Natasha and Julie

Sharing ideas – Orla, Vanessa, Natasha and Julie

Hushed conversations, starting slowly

Hushed conversations, starting slowly

The atmosphere suddenly intesified

The atmosphere suddenly intesified







With this in mind, each artist had brought materials to instigate a session with their new teacher/partner as a way of opening up the creative conversation. Although the suggestion was that the two should “play”, the atmosphere in the room suddenly intensified as ideas were explored. Conversations became hushed and then increasingly animated and then the experiments began. Some experiments far exceeded the artist’s expectations for the session. What was really important is that there was a sense of openness and artists and teachers were willing to be influenced by each other.

There is no wrong way - Joanna and Vanya

There is no wrong way – Joanna and Vanya


Unexpected directions

Unexpected directions


Breaking points - Natasha and Julie

Breaking points – Natasha and Julie

Today was so exciting I just want to get going.” -Stella

Despite this understandable enthusiasm, Kids’ Own are encouraging the new pairs to shadow existing projects and take time to become comfortable with the technology – and each other – before embarking on the work. When the technology works, the communication and creativity can take centre stage.  Follow the development of the new and existing partnerships on the project journals over the coming months.

Sugar cubes, droppers and dyes - Natasha and Julie

Sugar cubes, droppers and dyes – Natasha and Julie