As we all say a thankful farewell to 2020, we welcome 2021 with open arms, albeit from a distance of 1.5 m. The new year ahead, like most new years, presents us with opportunities, challenges and the potential to engage with our audiences as never before: 2021 will see the revitalisation of AGSA Education, as we augment our offerings for both students and teachers to keep them engaged with the Gallery and its collection amid so much uncertainty.

This last year has taught us many things. We learnt new skills, particularly in relation to technology, while terms such as ‘unprecedented’, ‘pivot’ and ‘social distancing’ were added to our vernacular. We also realised that probably not everyone was washing their hands as thoroughly as we thought they were! We rediscovered old hobbies, learnt to live within our means, mastered working remotely and delivered virtual programs for teachers. All in all, it was a tremendous learning curve.

As we broadened our programs to include virtual and outreach workshops, as well as increased our online presence and established an online student gallery, AGSA Education thrived. These innovations have been integrated into our 2021 program, which will endeavour to engage more teachers regionally and take full advantage of recently developed AGSA expertise.

New to 2021 is Curators and the Collection – a four-part series of curator talks with a focus on the permanent collection and designed specifically for teachers. While our Educator Briefings will remain for temporary exhibitions, we identified the importance of highlighting works of art that are widely distributed throughout the Gallery spaces. These curator talks will cover such themes as the South Australian artists represented in the collection and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.

Visiting the Gallery was challenging for schools in terms 3 and 4 of 2020, as they navigated their way through new government Covid guidelines. In response to this, AGSA Education initiated a number of outreach programs, with these engaging 1,500 students across the state. Our trained facilitators visited schools to deliver full-day workshops with a focus on drawing, portraiture, landscape, dance and movement, and still life. These outreach workshops will continue in 2021, with the addition of a new program, AGSA Art School in a Box – goes on the road. Centred on the new education resource, AGSA Art School in a Box, this workshop will highlight works in the Gallery’s collection and model alternative ways by which students can respond to works of art.

The new Online Student Gallery features works created by students who have either reacted to works of art in the collection or in contexts where their teachers have used activity suggestions from our resources as a basis for their lessons. This online gallery is not only a great depository for showcasing student work, but it also supports and inspires educators as they develop authentic art lessons. Guidelines for submitting work are given on the website and we encourage educators to contact the Education Team if they have student work they would like to share.

One of our virtual professional development courses, Come draw with us, proved to be an extremely popular online session. Forty-seven educators joined us from Whyalla, Townsville, Nuriootpa, Balaklava, Clare Valley, Aldinga Beach, and Manila in the Philippines. The broad reach of this workshop testifies
to the importance of continuing to deliver online events that enable regional, interstate and even international teachers to engage with AGSA. In 2021, Come draw with us will be the foundation of our online workshops, with four virtual sessions offered during the year. This workshop will include hands-on components facilitated by artists and will focus on different approaches to observational drawing.

The reconfigured and revitalised teacher and student offerings for 2021 will ensure that all of our visitors remain in touch with the collection in a plethora of ways. Irrespective of whether they are at the Gallery in person or zooming in from a thousand kilometres away, there is something to cater to everyone’s interest.

Kylie is Education Officer at AGSA, a position supported by the Government of South Australia through the Department for Education. This article first appeared in AGSA Magazine Issue 41, 2020.