Don't spoil its beauty. It's subtle, it's a classic shape, any more would make it garish." A group of GCSE art students from St Marylebone School for Girls, London, were discussing the sculpture they had made as part of a cross-arts project organised by the Serpentine Gallery.
The art room was alive with a buzz of activity and discussion while downstairs in the gym as part of the same project GCSE dance students were working out routines round one of the sculptures.
Following a lottery award, the Serpentine Gallery is closed for refurbishment. The education department meanwhile has launched an outreach programme designed to show that the arts do not exist in a vacuum. In the words of education organiser Vivien Ashley, "The idea is to show that the arts need not be compartmentalised. They can enhance each other."
For this project, the Serpentine has called upon the Union Dance company and two professional artists. The team is working with GCSE art and dance and GNVQ performing arts pupils in two schools - St Marylebone and Pimlico - with a total of more than 60 pupils involved.
In each school, art and dance sessions have been held twice weekly over five weeks. The starting point was a demonstration by Union Dance with a slide show of sculpture showing approaches to the overall theme of movement. Trigger words such as floating, hanging, meeting, greeting, balancing, pushing and pulling were then introduced to stimulate ideas that would be appropriate for both sculpture and dance.
All the groups will come together for a grand finale next Tuesday evening when a performance will be staged in Pimlico School. Initially the sculptures will form an exhibition in their own right, later turning into set and props for the dancers. The lighting will be carried out by four St Marylebone School drama students under the tuition of a member of Union Dance.
A collaboration of this nature involves a lot of hard work so what are the benefits? First and foremost the St Marylebone students I saw were working hard and enjoying it. Working in teams from preparatory drawings, and using inexpensive materials they had made some impressive large-scale abstract structures and were enjoying a sense of achievement.
Peter Jordan, head of Art at St Marylebone School, valued "the opportunity to work with professional artists, to learn about working in teams." Another gratifying aspect was that "the sculpture was much more imaginative than anything the students had first thought they could produce."
For details of the Serpentine's Outreach programme contact education organiser Vivien Ashley on 0171 823 9727. Union Dance company education officer Sarah Dekker: 0171 734 3262.