Thursday, 18 May 2017

Creative learning in a Victorian museum

Today is Museum Day. Olwen, a glass artist and tutor here at Richmond Art School, teaches art to students with learning disabilities. Here she talks about an exciting new project at Langdon Down Museum. 

Students standing on the stage of the original Victorian theatre at Landon Down Museum

We have lots of learners with learning disabilities who come to Richmond to take part in art, drama, and skills for life courses. I teach a group of nine amazing students at the wonderful Langdon Down Museum. We’re very lucky to be able to hold our class there, where we can find inspiration from the amazing historical surroundings. 

The museum is in Normansfield, Teddington and was originally the home and institution of Victorian physician Dr John Langdon Down. At the time he had a revolutionary, enlightened approach to caring for and supporting people with learning disabilities.

The museum has some great exhibits with some very interesting historical artefacts. It’s fascinating to see how these institutions used to work. Although, it’s a great feeling to know that institutions are a thing of the past - our students with learning disabilities are now an integral part of Richmond Adult Community College, just like anyone else. 

The museum building also has a Grade II listed Victorian theatre, called Normansfield Theatre. It’s a real hidden gem, and is home to the largest collection of restored Victorian scenery. It’s one of only two theatres in the country with the original scene changing system in place. What’s great is that it is also still in use as a working theatre. 

Students working on their art projects at Langdon Down Museum
Michael, Emily and Anna creating their theatre artwork in this wonderful room with original features

Together, we’ve been working on a project about Victorian theatre and painted sceneries. The outcome of the project is a body of work in mixed medias. 

The class have absolutely loved it! They’ve been creating collages and paintings of the structure of the theatre, and creating their own landscape sceneries including forests, bays and rivers. It’s been amazing to see their work develop.

Anna, one of our students pictured above also works part time at the museum office. She told me, “I love being on this course and seeing my friends!” 

All of our student’s final pieces will be displayed at the museum in the next few weeks, so do pop along and see their hard work for yourself. 

To find out more about the Langdon Down Museum, you can check out their website. If you or someone you know is interested in joining an art course assisted by support workers, please email or visit our website to find out more.