Art Anectdote

Art Anectdote


Having had the privilege of teaching Art at the Newcastle Bridges School  for  many years now, I've learned to rely on unofficial, annual events to add some light to dark, difficult days. Of these unofficial events, by far my favourite are the yearly telephone calls from former students requesting a visit to collect their student artwork. Not only is it an opportunity to reconnect with NBS alumni and hear how their lives are progressing, but it's also a chance to reflect on the past and measure just how far the young people have come.


One of this year's unexpected calls came from a very talented former student who had left some years ago. She wasn't with us very long, but she accomplished a great deal in a short time in our art studio room. Many NBS students find themselves thriving in Art, no doubt due to the improved concentration and therapeutic benefits of creative practice. The vast majority of students who stay with Art through key stage 4 successfully obtain well-deserved and hard won qualifications for their tireless efforts.


I remember clearly that this particular student wanted to concentrate on one single large piece of work, and work only on that single piece for however long it took for her to be satisfied with the work. She chose to do a new version of a famous oil portrait by the great Spanish master Valesquez done of Pope Innocent X. She was determined to succeed, and as weeks turned into months, it was clear that her determination would win the day. 


The completed piece was displayed on the art room wall immediately after she completed it, and there it remained as an example to all new students of what was possible when determination, patience, and hard work all find a safe space within which to blossom. Most students and staff upon entering the room would inevitably ask about the drawing and the artist behind it. Newcastle Bridges Benfield moved to Newcastle Bridges Kenton, and so did her work, where it would inspire even more students years after her departure.


When the call finally came that the person who was once a student now wished to return to collect a small piece of her past success, it felt as if the culmination of a long journey. With substantial pride and some sadness, I took the drawing off the wall and began to pack it up. The next moment, a colleague showed up with a new student who wanted to see the art room. I relished the chance to show the drawing one last time.  Proving once more that no matter how difficult things have already been, with professional support in a nurturing environment, a young person can do anything.