Art committed

Making imagination visible through the Visual Arts

Holly B.F. Warren reflects on how teachers and parents can collaborate to explore and celebrate the role of imagination in schools.

Visualising childrens’ ideas

What brings us to celebrate, jubilate and honour educational beliefs? How do we stand when we want to share by making visible what might be partly known and at times taken for granted?

Teachers, students, and parents have different perspectives about where they see and experience learning, mentoring, and guiding. However, these perspectives come together in the desire to showcase the journey.

As a teacher/Atelierista I am always fascinated by the ideas that emerge when talking to my students.

As I throw a pebble in the lake, ripples of thoughts, questions and considerations form beautiful patterns of imaginative and creative designs.

So much of this goes unseen, because documenting it would be an 8848 experience that might not so much attract our attention as create a visual outcome that demonstrates the sense of awe that catches our breath when we jump from idea to realisation.

Think Tank Exhibitions: making imagination visible

Shhhh….imagination at work.  Step inside and join us entering the unseen. This was the notice on the wall of what became known as our ‘Think Tank’ exhibitions at school.

Think tank

How did this happen? How was our Think Tank approach designed? Who was involved? How long did it last?

It started with a question

“Holly, your classroom looks amazing how do you come up with ideas?” My classroom was just a few white walls, a few windows and loads of mental space to move around it with the superlative addition of the schools trust in my work with the students. A mum suggested creating a committee that, rather than monitor would celebrate the students’ work. So far so good, but this wasn’t really innovative or beyond the usual boundaries of a dedicated school. Our approach had to be extraordinary. Adding the extra to the ordinary. Simple and easy, the extra was going to be showcasing what the students saw, imagined, recounted and invented. What to an adult has been lost through the years.

How it grew

We sat down with the first mum and scribbled a few notes. Then and there I was both a teacher and a mum. Two perspectives coming together fuel pride, passion and love for what I did.

This found fertile ground and the school opened the doors to an adventure that lasted over 16 years exploring childrens’ imagination.

One mum became two, then four and then eight and one dad became two. This group came together spontaneously like threads that weave a strong fabric of relationships.

It is true to say that these parents believed in my work with a curious and respectful attitude knowing my passion and enthusiasm in the visual arts using recycled and repurposed materials where nothing was left to a random decision but architected in rendering the best possible illustration of the learning journey.

Art Committee

We became the Art Committee, committed to the art of hard work, resilience, invention, sustainability, adventure, flexibility, joy, and laughter.

Shows and art exhibitions became an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of stage design, costumes, props, and soundtracks. Not an ordinary show but the SHOW. When something didn’t look good enough we would start again and again. This could take months, weeks and sometimes we started again a few days before the show. Our mission was to allow our audience to experience what imagination is to a child and the child inside us.

Each member of the committee was self-regulated. She/he shared their best ability/propensity/skill expanding it. Stretching boundaries and stepping onto the unknown where results would be trophies or disasters. Each member intertwined their contribution like sections in an orchestra. Each had its own place and played beautifully. What we reached was a symphony of parts that came together with one great vision, love of learning for all.

May these images speak of our work.

Video installations

Light Narratives

I’ve got a feeling



Holly Warren Self Portrait

Holly Warren is an atelierista, or art studio teacher, working in an international school in Italy. She is the creator of Think Tank – a new project environment that links the creative process of art with Montessori, Steiner and Reggio Emilia educational methodologies.



FEATURE IMAGE: Our thanks to Holly – ‘Folded Memories’

Every end is a new beginning.


This is what was left of my current exhibition as an atelierista, a bundle of used card. As I placed it on the floor I saw a new artwork unfold. “Folded Memories.”

When the mind wanders it always lands on an idea.

Ends are never ends but moments of reflection and introspection. Pauses.  Inspirations. Time frames. Beginnings for us or for others.

Support Images: Our thanks to Holly – ‘Extending the Boundaries of Imagination’ & Tove from Pixabay – ‘stone throw’