Reflections from a done-in curator

Phew! These last few months the Learning & Access team have been running a race. Not a hundred metre sprint, a marathon.  The Young Artist Award this year has been on the theme of sport and we’ve all been sweating like billy-o to deliver some high quality workshops.  We finished the race on Friday and are we done-in? You bet we are!

Over the last ten weeks we’ve delivered workshops to over 1200 pupils, received visits to MUSA from 31 classes, made nine visits to secondary schools, nine visits to nurseries and done one online video conferencing session through Glow to roughly 80 pupils with the artist Will Maclean.  Today I’ve processed over 640 artworks that have been entered to the competition ready for judging and before the workshops began we spent three months planning the theme, workshops, resources and website.

As you can tell, the Young Artist Award is a lot of hard work.  Here are my personal highs and lows…

The poster for this year's Young Artist Award, featuring the painting by John Mclean which younger pupils examined.
The poster for this year’s Young Artist Award, featuring the painting by John Mclean which younger pupils examined.


  • When two schools turned up for a workshop at the same time.  Thankfully it wasn’t our mistake and the school that had made the error were able to come back at the right time. But that feeling of horror I felt in the pit of my stomach? Never again, thank you very much.
  • Not being able to make greater links to the collections for the nursery and lower primary sessions.  These workshops thought about how we use different colours to represent feelings in our artworks about sport, but the session meant that we only really looked at one painting, an abstract work by John McLean. Next year we’ll definitely have closer links to the objects and artworks on display. After all, objects and artworks are what we’re all about, right?
  • Being kicked by a five-year old who took a dislike to me.
  • The early mornings which our visits to secondary schools required – teachers start early!


  • Having so many pupils take part, nearly 500 more than last year.

    Elergy to Captain Fergusson, one of the Will Maclean prints to which secondary pupils responded.
    Elegy to Captain Fergusson, one of the Will Maclean prints to which secondary pupils responded.
  • The secondary workshops – yes, I had to get up early (5:30am one day!), but the sessions allowed pupils to handle our collections, think about works by Will Maclean and Stewart Carmichael and think carefully about how they use symbolism in their own artworks.  They made excellent use of the objects and artworks that we look after and pupils seemed to get a lot out of them.
  • Seeing the attitude of a secondary pupil towards print making change completely from not wanting to even give it a go to deciding it was her favourite artistic technique.
  • Showing a picture of people doing judo to a nursery group, asking what sport they thought it was and receiving the reply “Tickling!”
  • Finding out about the positive effect the competition can have. I received a letter this morning telling me that one boy’s entry to the competition had been his first piece of art and had motivated him for the first time in months.  Another gained a massive amount of confidence.
  • Seeing the entries for the competition. Some of them really are amazingly good.

The race may now be over but the competition isn’t. We’ve still got to have our judges look at the entries, prepare the winning artworks for their exhibition over the summer and organise the prize-giving ceremony in June.

But do you know what? It’s totally worth it.



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