Artplay Melbourne - ©playDucation 2011

Art for kids in the heart of the city

exploring: Artplay in Melbourne
engaging: with art and artists
learning: free spaces boost free minds

01. April 2011 by Bea Beste

Today I want to think back to Australia and present you a place of playDUcation that I believe could be a model for any metropolis in the world: Artplay in Melbourne. Simon Spain is its founder & leader and an artist whose greatest ambition is to playfully educate kids & families to use art as an integral element of their livelong learning.

Artplay Building ©playDucation

The Ark in Dublin was the world's first children's art centre. The City of Melbourne embraced the idea of creating a similar centre and ArtPlay was born: It resides in a big loft in the heart of the city, on the bank of Yarra River and right next to Federation Square. (Thankfully the square has a free public Wifi that I was able to use.)

What happens there? Basically workshops (or should we better call them playshops?) run by artists — painters, sculptors, media designers, dancers, musicians, and so on. The setting and Simon’s leadership are attracting some of Melbourne’s most recognized artists to be part of Artplay. Children up to 13, sometimes together with their families, or as school groups, are attending.

When I visited on a Sunday afternoon there was a group learning about to create a presence on the web: how to set up and maintain a blog, how to spread the word through social media.

Artplay Inside ©playDucation

I really like the space. The openness and scale of the building make people feel they can create on a large scale, as Simon shows me. The huge open spaces and warm, bright natural light convey a feeling that anything is possible. Materials are brought in, used to create – but as a principle, the spaces are kept wide and clean, ready for new creations.

Artplay Inside ©playDucation

So what happens when you have some artists playing with kids? Artplay’s impact is subject to research: In 2007, ArtPlay began its own formal investigation into its role as both children’s educator and creative outlet. A three-year research program was established in partnership with the University of Melbourne and the Australian Research Council. Their results are online:

One of the findings: “There was evidence of the development of cultural citizenship. For example, a sense of community was evident in programs that provided opportunities for children, artists, parents/carers and ArtPlay staff to engage in the co-construction of art and play. And workshops encouraged children to take responsibility for their own choices and subsequent learning outcomes.” In short: It works!

Artplay Book ©playDucation

And what’s Artplay’s business model? It’s a non-profit. Most of the workshops come with a participation fee, but this doesn’t cover the full cost. ArtPlay is owned, established and run by The City of Melbourne. Artplay receives funding from the City of Melbourne and several other partners, such as the Sidney Myer Fund and the Australia Council for Arts.

playDUcation Mac Apple

The last picture from Artplay is dedicated to Klaas Hammer (HSD) and Dr. Mihai Cikala (Apple)!

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