What Makes Sunnyhill Tick? DOLPH and Sunnyhill Primary

Last year DOLPH were approached by the staff at Sunnyhill Primary School to come up with a project as part of their Art Week at the end of Term 3. As the idea developed, a week became a term, and the project expanded to involve the whole school – 500 children from Reception to Year 6, culminating in an exhibition of the finished work. 

DOLPH founders Tash Kahn and Paul Cole set the children a brief similar to the one they give the professional artists in their programme. The premise was: “What Makes Sunnyhill Tick?’ and the idea was that each child would make a piece of artwork that described how they felt about something they liked. Not only were they asked to describe information about their chosen subject in their artwork, but they also had to communicate an emotion.

The viewer had to get a sense of how each child felt about ‘it’ and why ‘it’ was so important to them – just by looking at the work. The children’s inspiration or ‘something they liked’ could be a thing, a person, an activity, an ambition, or a hero, and they could make anything – from a painting or a sculpture, to a photograph or a film. Its finished form had to relate to their inspiration in some way. This was a tough brief for the children because it asked them to make sophisticated decisions, but the children, led by the Sunnyhill staff, embraced the project wholeheartedly.

The project began with an assembly, in which Tash and Paul showed the children examples of how other artists used colour and shape to describe emotion, and encouraged them to do the same. The children then made mood boards in class, brainstorming their ideas onto paper. A week later, DOLPH returned to view their results and talk about how they could translate these ideas into a final work.

At the start of February, DOLPH held a series of practical workshops at the school in which selected children were asked to experiment with different materials and techniques, and play with different ways to communicate their feelings for whatever idea they were focusing on. 

On the final day of term the school hall became a gallery for the day with the finished artworks exhibited to a huge crowd of family and friends. The children came up with some amazing and diverse pieces: One built a magical guitar, another a domestic scene with friends/sisters doing handstands in the living room. One child presented data he had collected on his friends with a series of pie charts, while others had made footballers and robots. Dancers symbolized joy; a fish symbolized freedom; Donald Trump, anger; home, being safe and relaxed.

The Public now have a chance to view the children’s fantastic pieces at Wandsworth Oasis during the Streatham Festival.
DOLPH would like to thank the staff at Sunnyhill Primary School for their fantastic commitment to the project, and of course the children, for sharing their amazing ideas.

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