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The Future Belongs to the Curious

28 June 2021

Walt Disney once observed, ‘Curiosity, it keeps us moving forward, exploring, experimenting and opening new doors’. Curiosity, or the urge to know, is one of the greatest motivators in learning and in life. It encourages enquiry and experimentation, propels rigorous investigation and stimulates the imagination to discover new ideas and processes. We are delighted to observe the wealth of curiosity that our Arts students exhibit as they research various styles and practitioners, experiment with new techniques and a range of media, and ask endless questions to guide their own art making in directions that are challenging, surprising and fun. This term there were many examples of curiosity directing student enquiry in Drama, Film, Music and Visual Arts.

In Drama, students undertook a range of creative explorations. Year 8 Drama classes engaged in a Storytelling unit, performing children’s storybooks to Year 1 students in dynamic ways. They also showcased their understanding of melodramatic acting styles and made props, sets, puppets and costumes for the performances.

Other highlights included original interpretations of the texts of Andrew Bovell (When the Rain Stops Falling and The Things I Know to be True), explored through the lens of Stanislavsky’s Naturalism in Year 11 and in early rehearsals by Year 12 SACE Drama students for their group production. These imaginative collaborations were inspired by a visit from Andrew Bovell himself, to discuss the writing process ‘from page to stage’. Year 12 IB Theatre students undertook individual explorations of the work of theatre practitioners Adler, Grotowski and Berkoff, which culminated in three entirely unique solo performances. Another highlight was a range of excursions to the Adelaide Festival of Arts and Fringe made by students in Years 9–12. From the experimental physical theatre performance of Pulse to a new working of Medea live-streamed from Holland and Belvoir Street Theatre’s wildly popular musical Fangirls, students had the opportunity to see theatre at its best and to analyse and discuss the diversity of artforms that contribute to theatre-making. This culminated in a visit by designers Wendy Todd and old scholar Ailsa Paterson who discussed their processes of designing the set and costumes for State Theatre Company’s recent production The Boy Who Talked to Dogs. This interaction with industry professionals is pivotal to inspiring student engagement and enquiry.

In Film, Year 12 students undertook individual enquiries into a range of film movements, genres and practitioners as diverse as Alfred Hitchcock, Hans Zimmer and Roger Deakins to inspire their own film-making. Year 11 Film students discovered the history of film, experimenting with techniques used by George Melies’s 1902 film Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon) in creation of their own work. They were also privileged to be visited by New York Film Producer Kieran Altmann whose recent film Shiva Baby! has taken the festival circuit by storm. Keiran inspired students with his journey from Adelaide to New York and with stories of his work in the industry.

Music students worked with enthusiasm towards their first live concert for some time, presenting Jazz Cabaret to an enthusiastic crowd in DY Hall. They were privileged to be guided in their exploration in rehearsals and classes by industry professionals Marmalade Trio, led by Head of Jazz Performance at the University of Adelaide Mark Ferguson, a consummate Jazz pianist whose enthusiasm for improvisation and invention inspired all. Ferguson discussed the nature of his work as a composer and arranger. Year 9 Music Studies students undertook their own creative challenges, arranging the Beatles’ Yesterday for small ensembles, using the original melody while experimenting with original chord parts, bass lines and counter melodies. They also explored how the choice of instrument informs the writing process and how the timbre of different instrument combinations changed the overall sound of their arrangements. Senior School Rock Bands took their music to the Middle School in the first-ever Pembroke Jam. Students were also privileged in assemblies to hear music as diverse as string quartets, the Jazz Choirs and the Chinese Orchestra as Pembroke’s musicians, inspired by Music Captains Emil Smith and Gwyneth Kang, revelled in the opportunity to share their music with others.

In Visual Arts, student exploration ranged from co-curricular forays into Life Drawing, Ceramics and Textiles to class studies of Shadow and Light in Year 7, Life Drawing in Year 8, and exploration into Framing the Landscape in Year 10. Students learn early the value of theoretical study in providing a context for their own creative experiments. Excursions were another highlight. Year 9s visited Old Watulunga, where the rich landscape of the natural environment provided inspiration, subject matter and materials to foster enquiry. Ngarrandjerri Artist-in-Residence Mr Cedric Varcoe welcomed students to his ancestral land before sharing his journey and stories as an artist. Ms Bliske observed that ‘Cedric told us how his artwork reflects his deep connection to place, and shared his working practices, sources of inspiration and extensive knowledge of natural plants and their uses with the students’. In a cyanotype workshop with Ms Bilske students collected materials from their surroundings to make contact prints on paper and fabric, with a focus on composition. In a nature journaling workshop with Mrs Cowell students honed their skills in observation and notation, working with watercolour and fine liners to record what they noticed in their sketchbooks. Lucy Yang observed,

Cedric Var­co taught me to appre­ci­ate the land we occu­py by find­ing beau­ty in our sur­round­ings. We sat down at a spot in the gar­den and paint­ed what we saw and liked using water­colour. It ranged from branch­es and flow­ers to chick­ens in the coop’.

Year 12 Visual Arts students also enjoyed an excursion to exhibitions held during the Adelaide Festival of Arts. Highlights of the day were the Clarice Beckett exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia and the Adelaide/International exhibition at Samstag Museum of Art.

Globally the Arts as an industry was hit hard by COVID-19 in 2020, and yet everywhere artists rose to the challenge and found new ways to deliver their work online and in socially distanced venues, to provide inspiration, solace, connection and entertainment to millions of people worldwide. Similarly, Pembroke artists continue to be excited by new challenges. They do not sit still. They are excited by the fact that knowledge is ever-changing and that the key to success is innovation and persistent enquiry. They are willing to take risks, try new things and discover new ways of seeing and understanding the world. They know that the future belongs to the curious.

Julianne English
Head of Arts