Drawing Mountains from Memories

8 December 2023 - 16 May 2024

Drawing Mountains from Memories recognises the belief that a person is born with an innate creativity and a lifelong need to let their imagination play. It remembers the contribution Marilynn Webb made to ensuring a generation of New Zealand children experienced the joy of creating freely, by including a number of her recognisable motifs in this activity-based exhibition experience.

Following the dark years of the Depression and World War II, the Department of Education in Aotearoa New Zealand had a newfound emphasis on creativity that would see classrooms across the country alight with a ‘blaze of colour’.

Committed to the belief that art was not just another curriculum area, but instead as something fundamental for all learning, Director of Education Dr Clarence Beeby tasked Gordon Tovey, who was later joined by Pine Taiapa, with establishing a national system of art advisors to introduce Māori and Pākehā arts and crafts traditions to schools. Advisors travelled the country delivering workshops for teachers, providing demonstrations in classrooms, and encouraging teachers to have the confidence to teach art using a variety of media and materials that they would supply.

This revolutionary time in the classroom respected and prioritised every child’s innate ability to create. The curriculum stepped away from the traditional pre-vocational ‘skill and precision’ copyist approach that focused on accurate representation and moved towards a more intuitive child-centred method that encouraged self-expression, reflection, and imagination.

In Marilynn Webb’s second year of teacher training in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Tovey invited her to join the next cohort of art advisors and complete a third year at the Dunedin Teachers College.  Following this in 1958, Webb joined the Department of Education as a specialist art adviser in Tāmaki Makaurau and Te Tai Tokerau Northland where she would spend years supporting the creative experiences of hundreds of children while honing her own craft. From the late 1950s through to the early 1970s, Webb and many other teachers, artists and craftspeople were convinced that arts education in Aotearoa was amongst the best in the world.

Drawing Mountains from Memories considers art’s power to make connections between people’s lives and their worlds. It acknowledges a time when children were encouraged to make their own personal meaning from their making.

Drawing Mountains from Memories extends an invitation to our audience to get lost in their own creative process, free from instruction and interference. It celebrates and values your own expression.

For the support Drawing Mountains from Memories has received from the Marilynn Webb Estate we are grateful.

Where will your imagination lead you today?

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