When I work with children one of my ambitions is to create new opportunities for them to develop and explore a sense of self. An objective of Playing with Art and Architecture allowed the children to explore elements of who they are and how they expressed themselves through a visual language. We had many interesting conversations with the children in how symbols, emojis, objects, text, materials and textures say or do not say what and how (they wanted) to communicate to others. As the children’s artworks were nearing completion they became better able to make clearer choices of how best to simplify their ideas or present a suggestion or offer something more ambiguous to the viewer rather than provide all of the answers.
For our final session we revisited The LAB on Foley Street. We were based in one of the very large studio spaces on the top floor. This was a practical hands on session that enabled the children to complete their work whilst being observed by parents, siblings, DCU’s CTY staff, a representative from the Matheson Foundation (who supported the programme) and The LAB’s art’s team. The latter led the observers through the exhibitions in The LAB prior to joining the children who were busy at work in the workshop space upstairs. We used the term observed to allow a more informal manner that would assist casual conversations to develop. I felt it was more beneficial to allow the observers to wander throughout the room and talk to the children as they worked rather than inviting the children to present their work.
In parallel to the completion of their individual artworks I invited the children to create a new artwork together as a group. They had to design and build a structure from specific materials together. This would be a group piece that would challenge what the children had learnt about construction and form whilst responding individually to their experience of the six weeks. As they created the piece the observers were also invited to respond to what they saw in the room by adding to the piece.
I felt proud of what the children had achieved and how they had engaged in the process. At the beginning the process raised a few skeptical comments even if was just in the form of a raised eyebrow from the children. It challenged their ideas of contemporary art and demanded that they had to think through a concept rather than starting with a drawing as they were used too. The children worked diligently through the six weeks and all of their ideas were completely unique to them. I hoped that the children took from the course a sense of their capabilities and enjoyment of their uniqueness as well as a new appreciation of contemporary art. It is also very important to recognize that the level of work could not have been achieved without the ongoing support of Natalie from The LAB and Roisin from DCU. Their practical assistance and ability to communicate with the children was crucial. When the sessions took place in The LAB gallery the Arts Team engaged with the children that in reflection gave the children an understanding of the importance of how The LAB sees and works with children.
Playing With Art and Architecture was set within a programme of specially designed course for children across different subjects at the Centre of Talented Youth in DCU. A few weeks after the course finished the children were invited to receive their certificates from Dr. Colm Oâ€™Rielly and Dr. Leo Varadkar TD at CTYâ€™s Celebration Event in DCU along with their parents and almost 300 other children participating on other courses.