Fantastic Creatures

As you’ve driven by the Gateway building on your way out of St Andrews for the last week or so, you may have noticed a new banner hanging out front emblazoned with the words ‘Fantastic Creatures’ with just such a creature underneath.

This sign marks the opening of the 2012 MUSA Young Artist Award exhibition. The MUSA Young Artist Award, now rounding up its sixth year, is a competition that aims to recognise and support creativity in schools. Pupils from around Fife are invited to visit our museum for a workshop before returning to school to create an artwork inspired by their visit. A record number of students visited this year, 865 in total!

The theme for 2012, as indicated by the banner, was fantastic creatures. This year’s workshops were held in the Bell Pettigrew Museum of Natural History where over 3,000 specimens are on display. During the workshops students explored the collections, which include whole wet and dry specimens from around the world as well as individual body parts. Pupils had the chance to handle a selection of animal artefacts, guessing what animal each was from and what purpose it served for that creature. Some of the older classes discussed animal symbolism in artwork from around the world and created their own ‘animal self-portraits’, made up of animals that represented aspects of their personalities.

Students also pretended to be early explorers discovering unknown skeletons and learned how some early myths and legends developed from those sorts of discoveries. Narwhal tusks, for example, were long believed to be unicorn horns. Queen Elizabeth I once paid £10,000 to acquire one, roughly the cost of a castle in those days. Elephant skulls were, for a time, believed to belong to deceased Cyclopes due to the trunk cavity which looks like it might be one large eye socket. Dinosaur bones helped spur on myths of griffins and giants, amongst other creatures. All of these animal bones can be found in the Bell Pettigrew Museum, and it was from these myth-inspiring animal parts that many of the students drew inspiration for the artworks; a good proportion of the winning artworks depict imaginary creatures. A special study day attended by P7s from Greyfriars R.C. Primary School and S3s from Dunfermline High School was held at the end of February, during which pupils had the chance to work with local artist Kevin Blackwell to create animal sculptures out of willow, twine and garden wire.

Every workshop finished with an opportunity to create an artwork inspired by the Bell Pettigrew collections. Once back at school, teachers and pupils got very creative with their art. The fabulous imaginations of our young artists shone through in the incredible creatures created with paint, pastels, collage and other techniques. All in all we had 682 entries, up from 421 in 2011.

Judging took place in Parliament Hall (we needed all that space to spread so many entries out in!) and the panel of judges consisted of Annette Carruthers (Senior Lecturer in Art History and Museum & Gallery Studies), Dr Martin Milner (Senior Lecturer in Biology and Curator of the Bell Pettigrew Museum) and local artist Kevin Blackwell. First, second and third prizes were awarded in each of six categories and twelve additional commendations were awarded.

The winning artworks are now on display in the Gateway Galleries until 25 August 2012. In amongst the artworks are some of the animals that inspired the artists, along with a few pieces of art from the Museum Collections. The talent of young artists across Fife is incredible, and well worth a look! All the winning entries can be viewed on the MUSA Young Artist website.

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3 thoughts on “Fantastic Creatures

  1. Gawd that takes me back MANY years!
    As kids my brother, sister and I used to wander around there in sheer amazement, without any accompanying adult, or even asked why we we were there!
    I used to go to the Gatty Marine facility too, the techs there were always helpful and encouraging.

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