Inspired by…2014

The Inspired By… competition was set up at the V&A by Eithne Nightingale some fifteen years ago. When Eithne started working at the V&A, she was struck by how many beautiful objects in the V&A galleries linked with work made in adult education classes – jewellery, ceramics, fashion, photography, fine art, furniture and sculpture. Linking with NIACE, the National Institute of Adult and Continuing Education, she set up a competition encouraging adult learners to make objects inspired by the V&A collections.

When entries started to roll in, V&A staff were impressed by the quality of the submissions. This was not surprising. Adult and continuing education is truly the jewel in the crown of education in this country, often giving people a second or third chance: encouraging creativity and opening up doors for people from all backgrounds.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Inspired By… grew from strength to strength. Some of the most memorable work over the years has been full of humour and pathos, combining colour, media and texture in innovative ways: delicate rings inspired by the Chihuly chandelier; ceramic pots inspired by Vivienne Westwood’s platform shoes; textiles inspired by the Indian miniature paintings; illustrations for children’s books inspired by the Theatre Collections and screen prints inspired by the dolls’ houses at the V&A Museum of Childhood.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

At first the objects were installed in cases in the V&A entrance. Sometimes they were displayed in the same case as the object which inspired them. In the last few years they have been displayed in a dedicated space along with telling or moving quotes from participants on how they have been inspired by the collections or benefited from adult education. We were delighted when museums across the UK and abroad developed their own Inspired By… competitions, linking with adult education centres within their areas.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Everyone benefits from the annual competition. Students are inspired by magnificent art from across the world; they gain enormous confidence from participating and, of course, winning or being displayed at the V&A. There are many cases of participants progressing onto further or higher education, of exhibiting with others or on their own and of selling their work. Winners from all walks of life have shouted with joy at the awards ceremony – bankers, nurses, antique dealers, supermarket cashiers, pensioners or prisoners. Many tutors have planned their curriculum around the competition and brought students to the Museum, sometimes for the first time.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Visitors have also liked the displays of work.  The objects are reinterpreted and brought to life with creativity, skill and often humour. The art of making becomes more accessible. It asks visitors, “If students with little previous education in art can make such impressive work, then why can’t I?”

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

We are delighted that Morley College are taking on this initiative, displaying the work in their amazing gallery space. We hope that the competition will be re-energised reaching new students and tutors but at the same time maintaining its link with the V&A. We wish it every success for the future.

The closing date for entries is 5pm on 21 March 2014.

For further information on the 2013 -14 competition, please visit the Morley College site here.

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