Art Enthusiasts Badge Progress

Our Inflatable Museum Support Assistant, Mattie Davies (they/them), shares progress on developing a new session for Scout Groups and Guide Units, exploring artists’ works at Manchester Museum and applying their creativity. This is part of a series of blogs about Manchester Museum’s offer for Scout Groups and Guide Units. To find out more, see our previous blog about the Animal Friend Badge.

One might imagine that the Artist Activity Badge might focus on drawing and painting, but not necessarily. Cub Scouts (aged 8-10.5 years) can pick activities three from a list of ten options that, alongside photography and model-making, also includes visiting an art gallery, designing book covers, and imagining events, characters, and scenes. Scouts (aged 10.5-14 years) can choose between “Artist” activities such as drawing, painting, or illustrating, and “Art Enthusiast” activities; the focus of our most recent pilot session for Scout Groups.

To earn their badge, Scouts must:

  1. Choose a favourite art form or artist to take an active interest in.
  2. Describe two visits they have made that are connected to their interest.
  3. Make a list of major events, exhibitions or venues with their chosen subject.
  4. Show that they know a lot about an aspect of their interest.

We ran our first pilot with our friends at 465th Manchester Scout Group, starting with a virtual tour of artworks at Manchester Museum to go towards requirement 2 of the badge. The tour focused on the museum building and its architect Alfred Waterhouse, Kate Eggleston-Wirtz’s assemblage Insect Hotel, Helen Musselwhite’s paper craft Winter Wonderland, and the Singh Twins’ triptych Jallianwala: Repression and Retribution.

The next activity involved the group selecting the work of one artist as the focus for independent research (with support from museum staff and their Scout leaders). The idea was to find out more about their chosen artist or artform and where they could see more examples, completing requirements 1 and 3 of the badge.

Finally, we asked the Scouts to share what they had learned in the form of a museum display case, completing requirement 4 by creating replica artwork, copying out quotes, and writing labels describing the items and where to go to see it or why they thought it was important.

It was exciting to support the group to work more independently and to give them the opportunity to use their own initiative. Nevertheless, there were things to be learned from the first pilot, which the leaders at 465th Manchester were really helpful in sharing. For example, launching straight into the tour of artworks wasn’t as interactive we would have liked, so at the leaders’ suggestion, we introduced a scavenger hunt activity. This also led nicely into a conversation about what art is and allowed us to personalise the session a little further.

For our second pilot, this time with 2nd/241st Manchester Scout Group, we started by setting the Scouts the task of finding ‘art’ from their own homes, and to tell us why they considered it was art. The Scouts came back with an assortment of items from paintings to photographs to sculpture, and together we explored the definition of art. We also shored up some of the framing and instructions of some of the other activities, and we introduced a fifth artwork to listen to in the background whilst we did independent work: Harry Ovington’s soundscape Wild Chorus.

Whilst there are still a few little wrinkles to iron out, we found that the second session was a huge success. Once again, a very big thank you to the Scout Leaders and groups who have supported our pilots and been so generous with their feedback and time as critical friends.

If you’re a local Scout Group or Guide Unit interested in being critical friends and helping us improve our new sessions, please get in touch at museum@manchester.ac.uk.

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