Patrick Verhoeven employs art for the queer community
You're not likely to see Patrick Verhoeven waving a rainbow flag, but he does want to do his bit for LGBTQ acceptance. For his graduation project for the master Education in Arts, he set up a queer image bank; a digital depot containing works of art that can provide a starting point for discussions about sexual and gender diversity in secondary education.
For his graduation project, Patrick gave seven workshops – or artistic-educational interventions – at a secondary school and he still has three to go. Each time he takes one work from the image bank – for which anyone can put forward suggestions – which he projects as a ‘conversation piece’ and which he discusses with young people.
My approach is ‘slow looking’, drawing on particular routines of looking and thinking. If you observe something in a painting, you need to be able to explain what you see. I always try to inform the pupils as part of the discussion. I tell them something about LGBTQ acceptance in the past.”
After the discussion, they work on a collage in groups. “For instance, they get to cut images out of various magazines, such as Volkskrant Magazine, Libelle and National Geographic, in order to create a new image. This encourages them to reflect visually on the discussion and on the work of art from the image bank. They present the collage to the whole class, explaining their perspective on the subject."
Focus on sexual and gender diversity
Does he feel his workshop is having an impact? “Before graduating, I'm going to analyse all the collages and the motivations the pupils gave for them. I don't know yet where that will take me, but I think this kind of workshop has a lot of value in terms of acceptance. You are forcing young people to think about the issue. Perhaps it also generates more empathy. I think a lot of schools could be doing more to highlight sexual and gender diversity."
Connection between maker and educator
Patrick is a mature student. He graduated in textile arts from the art academy in Tilburg in 1999. He spent time working as an artist. Later, he turned his focus to education. He gained his teaching qualification and started working as a lecturer at the art academies in Tilburg and Zwolle. Three years ago, he embarked on the Education in Arts master, a part-time course.
I started doing the master because I wanted to reach greater depths of knowledge. I live in Eindhoven, but I very consciously chose to do the course in Zwolle. Here they make a link between the maker and the educator – you see yourself as an artist educator. For instance, I also make my own collages.
Plus, in Zwolle the focus is on engagement; the course aims to bring about change in others through arts education. For my graduation project, I decided I wanted to do something for the LGBTQ community. I'm not the kind of person you'll see waving a rainbow flag, but I use art to contribute to acceptance."
Even before starting his master course, Patrick had been giving art appreciation workshops, but these have changed. “Back then, it was above all about the pupils’ own experience; I have got better at linking in with contemporary developments and getting them to reflect more on the visual work." He has got a lot out of the master. “I have always been someone who believed in having strong grounds for a work of art. I always emphasised the importance of that to students during the teacher training course. But having to do it myself for the master has made me realise how hard it is. That was quite an eye-opener. What is the right research question and what are the right subsidiary questions? It gave me a different perspective on supporting students." The combination of theory and practice is also very characteristic of this master.
Patrick's own favourite image from the image bank he has set up is Te quiero: a photo of artists Andrés Senra and Félix Fernández from 2004 in which two men are shown holding hands.
“It's a reference to the famous painting Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife by Jan van Eyk,” says Patrick. “A powerful image, there's a lot you can do with it in a workshop. For example, one pupil perceptively spotted that the baby in the photo does not appear in the mirror, which is also shown in the photo. She thought that was a reference to the fact that men cannot have children themselves, but they are allowed to adopt them."
For his finals, Patrick is making a work of art using the data from his workshop series with the image bank. “It's going to be a tapestry, but I haven't exactly decided how and what yet." After graduation, he wants to develop his workshop further. “I’m talking to COC Eindhoven about offering it as an additional sex education lesson. The first lesson pupils get at school is about listening to other people's stories. With the discussion around the image and the collage assignment, the second lesson would go a step further. I may also work as a guest instructor to train other teachers, so that they can also deliver this workshop."And what about the image bank? “I hope it continues to grow. It is an active and participative project. I’m working on turning it into a website. It will continue to evolve while it maintains its informative function."