Conference 2013 – Still life with Fruit

The 8th Annual Art Teachers’ Conference came to end on Saturday 21st of September. The conference was a great success. We sat 155 people for lunch on Saturday afternoon. It was a fantastic turnout, a little more than we had anticipated. It’s great to see so many Art Teachers supporting the Association. I have to acknowledge all the hard work put in by our National Committee, Cork Branch and all the teachers that gave a hand on the day. 


Friday night got off to a great start with approximately 60 teachers joining us for the evening’s events. As teachers arrived they were greeted by a fantastic display of over 300 student artworks gratefully loaned to us by teachers from all around the country. A fantastic resource for teachers in attendance and a great way to see what students are producing around Ireland.  

The first scheduled event was a talk by Nadine Mc Donogh, entitled ‘Kicking and Screaming’. Nadine, as always, provided us with a range of pragmatic teaching methodologies and resources that we can bring back to our own classrooms, ranging from student created podcasts to fascinating Youtube clips. Nadine’s presentation will be posted in our resources section in the coming days.

A fantastic Junk Kouture fashion show followed, displaying ten finalists’ outfits from this year’s Junk Kouture competition. Thanks to Emile from Junk Kouture and all the brave students who gave their time to show us these fantastic creations. 

The Friday night of the conference would not be complete without the Arty table quiz. I have to give a great big thanks to the Cork Branch committee for their work in both putting the quiz together and in running the quiz on the night. I don’t think we’ve ever had a quiz quite like it. Nobody was safe from the keen wit of Catherine Hennessy of the Cork Branch at the helm of the podium mic, certainly not the President of the Association : )

The finale of the evening was of course the Art Teacher Fashion show. Inhibitions somewhat quenched perhaps by the odd glass of vino. Teachers were presented with a bag of odds and ends, ranging from sellotape, plastic bags, polystyrene cups, black markers, sheets of paper and lots of other random items. Working in groups they were challenged with the task of creating a high fashion outfit inspired by ‘Pop Art’. Teachers certainly rose to the challenge creating some of the most striking health and safety hazards seen on any cat walk : ) The Hdip students stole the show with their creation which I felt was perhaps more likely inspired by the random placement of the contents of their bag of items as they poured it onto the table : )

The night finished up at about 11pm after prizes of chocolates and wine were presented to the victorious Art Teachers of the evening. 

Saturday’s events kicked off early with some eager teachers arriving even before the 08:30am registration time! It was great to see such enthusiasm. Teachers were registered, workshop tickets were chosen, a welcome cup of tea and coffee was had with friends perhaps not seen since last year’s conference.

Our first speaker was Dr Anne Looney CEO of the NCCA. Dr Looney’s address was entitled ‘Getting outside the frame – Art Education for the 21st Century’. Dr Looney gave a fascinating talk, examining what drives teacher to become teacher and how it’s certainly not a wish to become institutionalised. She also discussed how technology is changing the way teachers can engage with each other to discuss teaching methodologies using social media. Long gone are the days of the solitary Art Teacher. She touched on future developments for Art Syllabi and what constitutes an adequate Art Education syllabus. After her presentation Dr Looney answered questions from the audience. Teachers expressed much dissatisfaction with the current Leaving Cert Syllabus and disappointment at the pace of reform. There were many questions left unanswered as time did not permit but if you log onto our members forum there are two topics open for members to carry on the discussion relating to Junior Cycle and Senior Cycle reform.

Paul Ginnis followed Dr Anne Looney’s presentation with a fantastic two hour long hands on workshop exploring new teaching methodologies. Paul Ginnis who wrote ‘The Teachers’ Toolkit’ is an educational trainer from the UK and as always brings such enthusiasm and energy to his workshop. Paul had the entire conference literally jumping out of their seats, working in teams, reinacting scenes from a 1940s photograph. He even suggested an Art room currency as a means to motivate your students. His workshop was truly inspiring.

After Paul’s workshop the conference broke for a delightful lunch served in the hotel restaurant. Many conference delegates decided to skip their dessert for some extra time with the Art suppliers and perhaps a chance for some extra goodie bags. The main suppliers at the conference were Specialist Crafts, Cregal Arts, Cork Art Suppliers, Tara Art suppliers and Gill and MacMillan. Thanks very much to them for all the wonderful goodies they provided.

The conference then reconvened in the main hall for an exhilarating presentation from the Fresh Film Festival organisers. They shows a range of brilliantly crafted films made by young people as part of the festival, ranging from playful stop motion animations to hard hitting anti peer pressure films.

The conference then moved upstairs to split up for our series of afternoon workshops and some more time with our generous suppliers.

There were 4 one hour workshops taking place on the afternoon running twice with some minor variations. Teachers could attend two of these. The options were;

The Zombie Workshop – here teachers learned the craft of Zombie special effect make up from Miriam Garcia Mortell. The workshop was brilliantly tailored to suit the classroom setting. A range of techniques were demonstrated using some very simple materials ranging from latex to rice crispies! Miriam has created a fantastic resource to accompany the workshop. This is available in the resources section of the website under the tag ‘make up’.

The NAPD workshop was hosted by Vanessa O’Neill and Aine Andrews. They presented and discussed two fantastic ICT projects funded by the NAPD’s Creative Engagement programme.

Margaret O’Shea and Maria Moore of the PDST facilitated a workshop exploring Renaissance Art History with a focus on literacy. They explored some great practical teaching methodologies for the Art room. Teachers left here with tonnes of ideas for the classroom.

The final workshop for the afternoon was the Portfolio Preparation workshop kindly facilitated by Mike Fox (NCAD), Theresa McKenna (LSAD) and Trish Brennan (CCAD). Here teachers were able to pick the brains of 3rd level Art and Design Course tutors, asking what they are looking for in our students when it comes to preparing a portfolio.

The day came to an end with a huge raffle of donated prizes from our kind sponsors and Art suppliers. Some of the prizes raffled were a sewing machine from Specialist Crafts, an Ipad from Tara Art Supplies, a full sized easel with books from Cregal Arts, a 100 euro voucher from Cork Art Supplies, a number of books from St Patrick’s Cathedral, Gill and MacMillan and many more.

The conference closed then with a very short speech from a somewhat ragged and tired ATAI President zombie.