Chesterfield pupils partner with artist on mermaid sculpture for first Burning Man exhibition in UK

Pupils at a Chesterfield school are partnering with a Californian artist to help create a sculpture for the UK premiere of an art exhibition from the Nevada desert.

Tuesday, 17th May 2022, 9:27 am
Updated Tuesday, 17th May 2022, 9:31 am

Children from Spire Junior School have joined forces with San Francisco-based sculptor Dana Albany and her team for the Radical Horizons – the Art of Burning Man exhibition – held at Chatsworth House.

Running from April 9 to October 1, the exhibition will feature existing sculptures from the Burning Man collection and new sculptures, including a mermaid piece called Coralee created in collaboration with Spire Junior pupils.

The process for building the sculpture will mirror that which takes place at Burning Man – an annual Nevada desert event which focuses on community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance – with the artwork being made from objects found and collected by the children.

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Spire Junior School pupils are partnering with Chatsworth Burning Man artist Dana Albany to create a sculpture. Pictured, Dana and pupils are holding recycled glass like that which will be used for 'Coralee'

Janet Stock, Art Coordinator at Spire Junior School, said: “Working with Dana, the children are going to build a land mermaid. They’re going to be going out to visit Dana at Chatsworth. We’ve got several trips lined up for every year group to go.

"Half will spend time with her rolling the glass, making it safe, creating the scales and doing the mosaic sea at the base of the mermaid. The other half of the class will spend time in the house because we did a whole project on Chatsworth before Christmas, then they’ll swap.

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"Flash [Dana’s partner] has also built a giant treasure chest which the children are going to decorate and put items in.

Spire Junior School pupils creating mermaids in art class as part of work around the Burning Man sculpture project

"It’s about bringing art into the every day… and also touching on the fact that Dana is into using recycled items. We’re a big school for that.

"Having that linked into it as well again just shows children that link between real life and art.”

The Coralee sculpture is said to take inspiration from the folklore of Mermaid's Pool, situated just below Kinder Scout in the High Peaks of Derbyshire.

It will feature a body sculpted out of recycled metals, such as spoons, and a mermaid tail complete with fish scales made from recycled glass.

Spire Junior School assistant headteacher Alex Bramley added: “It’s really nice to give the children that authentic outcome; their actual artwork is going to be on display for members of the public so they’re doing it for a purpose.

"It’s also about working with the artist. You talk about, say, Pablo Picasso but they never actually get to meet that artist, ask them questions and talk to them about their work.

"It’s nice for them to see how relatable an artist can be and how they’ve got into it, so it’s raising aspirations for our children and gives them a job prospect.

"Here at Spire we’re all about wider opportunities for our children. They may not leave remembering an English lesson or their SATs test, but they’ll remember a mermaid they’ve made at Chatsworth and taking the family to see, that’ll be a memorable experience that they’ll talk about with their children.”

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