Drawing on their changing world

A Queensland project is helping to capture the artistic side of infrastructure growth and changes to the local environment through the eyes of kindergarten children. Journalist Fiona Stutz looks at how an artist in residence program is transforming the way children and educators increase their engagement with arts and culture.

A state government funded program, Arts in Residence, provides arts and education funding to kindergartens and schools seeking to increase their engagement with arts and culture through partnerships with artists, arts organisations or arts facilities.

Toowoomba’s C&K Vera Lacaze Memorial Kindergarten and Preschool (pictured) recently received funding as part of the program.

The Kindy-Connect Project, a collaboration between the kindergarten and a group of professional artists, helped kindergarten children discuss and document regional infrastructure growth in the Toowoomba region and then share it with the local community.

With assistance from professional painters, sculptors and musicians, kindergarten children went on excursions to local construction sites to witness first hand the construction and local environment changes going on around them.

Kindergarten Director Bridget Kings (pictured) said involving professional artists in the program allowed the children to observe methods of expressing ideas and developing skills within a variety of curriculum areas.

“The artists exceeded our expectations as they worked with the children. They were able to embrace our philosophy of allowing the children to experiment, explore the mediums and ways of representation, and to avoid prepared material for the children to simply copy or just ‘fill in’,” Bridget said.

She said the centre decided to become involved in the project as an opportunity to extend upon the experiences of the kindergarten children, increase their skills and exposure to varied art forms as well as observe, interact and learn from recognised artists in their particular fields.

Back in the classroom, artists and teachers worked with children to explore their feelings and thoughts about the construction, growing urbanisation and changes to the natural environment, through a variety of art genres including painting, sculpture and photos.

“Teachers noted a significant increase in student’s ability to express themselves creatively across different art forms. The children’s willingness to explore and participate in all the activities allowed them to develop skills and the confidence to take risks with the arts in order to increase expression and representational skills in many forms.”

The skills the children at the kindergarten developed were also extended to the educators.

Art extension

“We saw the opportunity to extend the knowledge, skills and understanding of a broad range of art forms and expression so as to develop our own professional skills and ability to support arts in the kindergarten context.

“The educators improved their artistic skills, learnt new ways of teaching and engaging children as well as discovering different methods of using the arts.”

The work resulted in a book showcasing the infrastructure growth and changing local environment in the region through the eyes of the children.

Bridget said as a further result of the project, a number of the artists have visited the centre to continue their work on a volunteer basis.

“Some of the children are now also attending classes by the artists as extra curricular activities.

“We have also set up a partnership with the airport where we aim to bring children for special visits each year.”

She said the centre has also been awarded another grant for their next project, Embracing our Diverse Community, in 2017.

Create funding

According to the Queensland Government, which funds the program, its objective is to support implementation of the Australian Curriculum – The Arts and the Early Years Learning Framework through high quality arts education initiatives while fostering new relationships between kindergartens and the arts and cultural sector.

Applicants can seek funding from $5000 up to $20,000 and must take place in a recognised Queensland school or a Queensland Government approved kindergarten.

Another centre, The Joey Club in Brisbane, was also funded under the program. Collaborating with Scale Free Network, an Australian art/science collaborative made up of two artists and a microbiologist, the centre helped deliver the Little Laboratory Project, an art/science laboratory.

The interdisciplinary workshops and interactive installations focused on observation of the micro scale as a source of inspiration and wonder, combining drawing processes, sculpture and microscopy as tools for visualising, exploring and learning about ‘invisible’ worlds.

The children used technology including a microscope camera to find objects and artworks that could be projected.

A theatrical light play space allowed the children to make and interact with large projections and capture video and photographs.

An exhibition showcasing the variety of drawing, painting, sculpture, video, photography, collage and assemblage was also produced by the children.

‘The Lab’ has now been set up as a permanent space at the centre, and is available for other groups in the centre to experiment with technology, equipment and art materials.

Centres are encouraged to apply for future funding and can read more about other centres’ projects and application guidelines at http://www.arts.qld.gov.au/case-studies/investment-program/569-artist-in-residence-program