As educators in visual arts, we are often trying to encourage adult and young learners to switch off their analytical brain and move into a way of connecting with and making art that is driven by intuition, imagination and spontaneity. In short, to think and respond like a young child.
We have recently immersed ourselves in the world of early learning and had an opportunity to perceive the everyday through the eyes of some of the children we met. We considered how to invite young children into this world we call contemporary art, wondering how we engage them when they are already approaching art appreciation and making with uninhibited and open minds.
A short time ago, children from Northern Nursery, Mosman and Chippendale Childcare Centre took part in a number of Art Escapade adventures. Through these visits, we tried out some of our new strategies and ideas for young visitors. The children (and their teachers) enjoyed learning new words in the Sydney Aboriginal Language and bringing their own stories to exciting artworks in the MCA collection.
One of the experiences the children enjoyed most was responding to artworks by making their own sounds. They created sounds with paper cups in response to the flashing lights of Fiona Hall’s The Price is Right and made a soundtrack using musical instruments to the passing of time in Todd McMillan’s By the Sea.
In the creative studios, we worked with children to create open ended, collaborative installations using a variety of unusual materials, like sticky vinyl as well as everyday materials, like fabric and colourful elastic. Our approach to art-making favours process over product and tries to offer participants an experience they wouldn’t necessarily have in their early learning centres. This also allows room for play, experimentation and self-directed learning, all important elements in early childhood education.
As part of our research and development, we had a chance to spend time at the Northern Nursery, Mosman and the Mia Mia Centre at Macquarie University. We are grateful to their staff for supporting us with valuable insights into working with young children.
Through our collaborative process of research and development, we have managed to create a rich program that introduces contemporary art and its wonders to an early learning audience.
Written by MCA Artist Educator, Nicole Barakat. Learn more about Art Escapades here.
Nicole Barakat is an artist who works to unpick the borders of art and life. She makes her art with love and patience and experiments with contemporary drawing and textile practices. She also collaborates with local communities to create artworks and exchange experiences, knowledge and skills.