In October, after six long months, Birmingham Hippodrome opened its doors to the public once again for the UK premiere of Van Gogh Alive. This immersive exhibition digitally showcases the very best of the much-loved artists work, accompanied by a stunning score, creating a truly up close and personal experience.

Our Learning and Participation Team have been working away behind the scenes to produce a fantastic project to run alongside the experience – the Van Gogh Alive Education Package. This package invited schools to not only visit the exhibition, but receive a pre-recorded digital introduction, digital ‘have a go’ tutorials, a visual arts workshop in school with a professional artist and the opportunity to submit their students’ artwork to a digital exhibition.

We caught up with Hippodrome Education Network (HEN) school, Harborne Academy, which saw over 50 students and staff visit the exhibition in October.

What did the teachers think?

We spoke with Mandeep Dhillon, an art teacher at Harborne Academy:

 For those considering visiting, how would you describe Van Gogh Alive?

Amazing! There is so much going on at the same time, the music, the images; it really is a play on the senses. A whirlwind of images flash around the auditorium, making your eyes dance around the room. The music is so closely connected and perfect for the images. It’s very emotional.

How did it benefit your pupils?

The group that I took were studying Van Gogh so I was able to link to their studies. The students were able to see the images oversized therefore they could see the richness of each individual brushstroke.

Has Van Gogh Alive prompted any further work in school?

The exhibition itself came at a great time as we were actually looking at Van Gogh as a whole school through enrichment. This tied in nicely with what we were already doing. The best bit about it was that due to what we had done in school, the students were familiar with some of the images that they saw and were able to discuss the work in depth.

What did the pupils think?

We spoke with some of the Year 9 students at Harborne Academy who visited Van Gogh Alive:

How did the experience compare to a traditional gallery?

Aliyah: In a gallery, usually the only words are captions or the titles of the artwork. The fact there were screens linking with Van Gogh’s own words with his artwork gave a wider perspective of the artist himself.

Amir: Everyone got “lost” in the art at different times and you fell into a world of your own. I think because it was digital it also appealed to our generation as well.

Andreja: You weren’t restricted in the same way that you might be in a traditional gallery – you could choose where you wanted to be in the space.

Aliyah: It was far more memorable than seeing a piece of art on a wall in a frame.

Did the experience give you a new understanding of Van Gogh?

William: You could definitely relate to him more, both as a person and an artist

Andreja: We learnt more about him as a person whilst seeing his work, which made the art more meaningful.

Aliyah: You see his work progress and as you look around you become almost overwhelmed by his life and experiences.

Ilham: The music set the tone and allowed the audience to envision various points of his life and how he might have been feeling.

What was it like to return to Birmingham Hippodrome after its closure due to COVID-19?

Amir: It was like seeing the building with a new set of eyes!

Ilham: It was refreshing to see the building being used in a different way.

Andreja: They made sure that it was a really creative experience.

By donating to The Big Give Christmas Challenge, you can help transformational projects like this continue. To donate, click here. 

Tickets for January 2021 dates for Van Gogh Alive are on sale now, click here to find out more.