Valley celebrated

Artist Jenny Dawson with Nyanda Smith. Photo by Peter Zuvela

CHILDREN’S impressions of flowers, leaves and wildlife from their local environment will adorn the side of White Gum Valley Primary School for years to come as it winds up its 120th anniversary. 

Last year Fremantle artist Jenny Dawson conducted an art residency at the school with assistance from art teacher Catherine Henderson and photographer Peter Zuvela. 

During 20 workshops, the school’s 278 students produced two ceramic tiles. 

One was used to create a wall artwork on the exterior of the school’s undercroft and the other they got to take home as a keepsake.

The resulting wall artwork was recently unveiled.

The project, funded by a Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries Covid recovery grant and Lotterywest, provided an opportunity for students to explore their sense of place through art. 

Students were provided guided exercises to create designs and drawings that were translated into clay tiles. 

Art techniques were selected to match the age level of the students and included collagraph printmaking, stamps, collage, drawings, glue and string pictures, and printing using found objects.

Ms Dawson is a Fremantle artist whose public ceramic artworks are found across Western Australia. 

For over two decades she has collaborated with the leading Nyoongar artist Sandra Hill on projects including the Elizabeth Quay Water Park. 

Originally a primary school teacher, Ms Dawson explained that young people are highly responsive to learning art-making skills. “The opportunity to work so closely with the students to produce their own unique designs and drawings was very rewarding,” Ms Dawson said. 

“Seeing the students’ enjoyment of the process of working with clay, and their freedom and spontaneity was also most refreshing.”

School principal Glenn Rondoni said the project was a meaningful way to engage the whole school on a shared project.

“It was really exciting for all of the students to work on the art project together,” Mr Rondoni said.

“With the school celebrating its 120th anniversary in 2021, the project was a special opportunity for our community to honour the school site.”

Student Iris Luscher said she enjoyed being part of the art project.

“It was an amazing learning experience going to Jenny Dawson’s art studio. It is so cool that I was part of something that is going to be at my primary school forever.”


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