From Spring 2022 at Guildhall Art Gallery, London EC2V 5AE
This is a proposed exhibition to celebrate the 200 year anniversary of the death of John Keats, the poet. It will explore cultural diversity through time, engaging school children from the City of London in drama, role play and creative writing, brought to life through interactive workshops, all to celebrate the odes and letters of John Keats, keeping his legacy alive.
For the first time, contemporary African art will be exhibited alongside the Guildhall Art Gallery’s world class Victorian collection. Seven artists from Africa are set to take part, each one tackling one of seven themes that underpin Guildhall Art Gallery’s permanent display of Victorian artworks. These themes are; Love, Imagination, Home, Work, Beauty, Faith & Travel. Two artists will embark on a short residence at the gallery where they will install a few pieces, the centre piece being a 3 metre high portrait of John Keats made from recycled clay pieces. Children will participate in the exhibition by attending workshops and engaging in creative writing expressed directly on the clay pieces. These will then be used to create the 3D hanging portrait installation.
A number of participating children are also set to take part in a ‘Fishing for Plastics’ environmental expedition with the charity Hubbub in a bid to recover waste from the Thames that will be used by artist Tejuoso to recreate the most imposing piece from the Guildhall Art Gallery collection – John Singleton Copley’s Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar (1783-1791).
Seven primary schools have confirmed an interest to take part. The schools are; Prior Weston, The Aldgate School, St. Peter & St. Paul Catholic Primary School, City of London School for Boys, The Lyceum Preparatory School and Richard Cloudesley School (junior & senior), two outstanding schools for children with physical disabilities and additional sensory needs.
One planned aspect of the exhibition will be the production of a mini documentary, exploring the inter-relationships between artists, children, climate change/ sustainability and the legacy of John Keats. A theme running through the centre of the story will be the challenges faced by a young, keen, aspiring disabled artist from Richard Cloudesley School as he confronts his fears and engages with the two key artists to help them create their installation pieces. The unfolding relationship and accompanying dialogue is sure to answer some questions about diversity and inclusion. The documentary will be partly produced by children empowered by the entire exhibition experience.
The aim is to encourage an active dialogue between the art, schools and visitors to the Gallery – themed on the legacy of John Keats.