Paintings & special schools

Explore it!

The Nativity by Piero della Francisco.

A collaboration with pupils of Village School and the National Gallery, this recording was made during a two day project, following our visit to school on day 1 in which we looked at the Piero della Francesca Nativity on a white board and created responses in sounds and songs. This recording was made at the start of day 2, in a teaching space at the National Gallery, with white board projection of the Piero della Francesca painting. The pupils were revisiting the sounds and songs from day 1, just before we visited the actual painting in the gallery.

“Just to say it was absolutely magical – to see how the painting became alive through the careful selection of detail and then interpreted through music, singing and movement and back to painting – all of it was wonderful ! I met one of the pupils yesterday and she was talking to me about “the baby” ( signing actually). the speech therapist that she was with said the class team said it was the best trip they’d been on”

Deirdre O’Flanagan

Deputy Team Leader – Expressive Arts
The Village School
London Borough Of Brent


In Sense it! and Explore it! workshops at the National Gallery, musicians and music can be used to help SEN pupils to:

Engage with and explore the paintings

  • Assist pupils in focusing in on elements in the paintings.
  • Help SEN pupils “read” and recognise elements in the paintings.
  • Enchant the children so they enter into the paintings using their imagination, to bring the paintings to life.
  • Evoke the atmosphere of a painting, either by the playing of the musician, or by the creative responses of the children to the painting.
  • Creatively to respond to a painting using sounds, words and music.
  • Inspire pupils to express elements such as, humans, animals, plants, buildings, rivers.
  • Inspire pupils to move like elements in the painting using dance and movement.
  • Create, perform and listen to, soundscapes, in order to further immerse the children in the painting.
  • Repetition creating sounds of a painting and performing and recording, and of listening back, can build the confidence of individuals in developing a knowledge of their own creative potential.
  • Recording and playing back a soundscape can increase the enjoyment of looking at a painting.

Engage in art activities

  • Support art making activities, helping to create a productive atmosphere through use of tempo, style, mood and dynamics.
  • Interact with the the art making, using improvisation, responding to what is being noticed and created.

Assist the artist workshop leader

  • Add another dimension to experiencing the paintings (using all of the senses)
  • Give the artist leader a moment to do things they may need to do.

Project process

  • Responding to paintings, and creating sounds for different elements in a painting and building a soundscape can build a familiarity.
  • This sense of “ownership” of a painting through music can become, imaginatively, a safe place, psychologically, for children to play and explore throughout the different settings in the process – school, creative space and in front of the painting.
  • Songs and sounds can help the children to feel orientated and safe in the different spaces.
  • Help pupils in the transition between outreach to school and visit to Gallery.
  • Recordings of the children’s music can be used when we are not present so participants can continue to explore the painting further.
  • Sound and picture presentations can be created to assist the teacher to explore follow up ideas in between and after sessions.

In relation to the children’s needs music can:

  • Extend our multi sensory approach.
  • Communicate with non verbal children, and/or children with limited speech and/or movement.
  • Support, respond to, interact with, and extend the children’s experience, of the gallery and the paintings.
  • Encourage creativity and play through improvisation using sounds and songs.
  • Develop a dialogue with children through improvisation
  • Support children’s cognitive needs and frameworks of communication.