Students from Windmill Hill Primary School
Students from Windmill Hill Primary School modelled as Cézanne’s card players and took photographs in preparation for further art activities

The Learning Centre at Somerset House is operations base of the Joint Education Department. We are run from the Courtauld Institute but our mission is to provide high-quality programmes of learning about all the collections and buildings at Somerset House, including the Courtauld Institute Gallery. The aim of the programmes, through our committed and passionate teaching staff, which now includes several Courtauld graduate students, is to provide fruitful encounters between works of art and the public. We hope these will inspire visitors to want to find out more, perhaps eventually even to study at the Institute. As distinct from the Institute’s degree courses, we offer a range of learning opportunities which might be as short as a 15 minute lunchtime talk in front of a painting in the Courtauld Institute Gallery, an hour’s tour of an exhibition for a school, a four-session course on a current exhibition or a family workshop visiting an exhibition and then working on a practical activity in the Learning Centre. We provide a first or linking step for learners of all ages and educational backgrounds, some of whom will be visiting a gallery for the first time.

The new Learning Centre with its well-equipped studio and seminar spaces opened informally in September, but we celebrated its official opening on 5 February. We decided to make the evening the culmination of a project with four schools, one primary, two secondary and one special school. Each school visited the galleries or buildings at Somerset House on three occasions in the Autumn term, working with Education staff. The visits were followed up by work in the classroom. Teachers and students demonstrated what rich sources of learning works of art can be, and the results can be found in our three beautiful booklets: Fresh Visions, Learning at Somerset House. Finally, the young people involved in the project (ages 10 -18) acted as guides for the guests, taking them round the buildings and collections and speaking with great confidence about paintings in the Courtauld, architectural details and history of Somerset House, and objects in the Gilbert Collection. Speeches were made by the Rt. Hon. Chris Smith MP, Director of the Clore Leadership Programme, and Quentin Blake, whose retrospective exhibition was then on show in the Gilbert Collection. I was very pleased with the positive feedback from guests, the young people and their teachers, all of whom would like to work with us on future projects, and one 11 year-old said she now felt 'really at home’ in the Courtauld Institute Gallery.

Ghislaine Kenyon
Head of Learning, Joint Education Centre