ArtPlay: Behind the Bright Orange Door

ArtPlay is a permanent home for children’s art and play, and makes an important contribution to the artistic, creative and cultural development of the City of Melbourne. Open to children aged 3-12 years, it offers a wide range of artist-led programs across diverse art forms and age groups.

A partnership between the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, the City of Melbourne and the Australian Council for the Arts resulted in an Australian Research Council Grant that began in 2007 with $527,000 funding. The focus of the research was to map and interpret how children and families respond to the ArtPlay workshops, what they gain, and what supports engagement, learning and cultural citizenship.

The study involved 63 artists, 691 children, 70 parents, 12 teachers, 15 ArtPlay staff, 5 City of Melbourne staff, 8 researchers, and 39 workshops.


Principal Investigators

Associate Professor Neryl Jeanneret, Professor John O’Toole, Robert Brown

Key Findings

  • Children are highly engaged at ArtPlay. Key to this engagement are:
    • workshops that are practical, well-planned and responsive to the children’s interests and emotional needs,
    • workshops that involve children in playful exploration with goal-orientated and practical challenges,
    • workshops that emphasise creative learning, co-creation, negotiation and community connectedness
    • the supportive relationships between the artists and ArtPlay staff, and
    • the unique physical and organisational environment of ArtPlay.
  • These workshops develop confidence, creative learning, group skills and arts knowledge.
  • Parents value the opportunities to play alongside their children and observe how their children interact and respond in a public space.
  • Children are enabled as cultural citizens through critical encounters with the arts and artists at ArtPlay.
  • Through participation in ArtPlay workshops children develop confidence, creative learning, group skills and arts knowledge.

Outcomes

This research has:

  • stimulated the development of a research-informed culture at ArtPlay that has generated continuous improvement and development
  • provided a reference for professionals and policy makers involved in developing public arts and recreation programs for children and families, e.g. Leeds City Council, UK
  • provided a multi-faceted representation of artists working with children that fills an identified gap in the research
  • generated a model of a mutually beneficial research partnership in the arts
  • generated knowledge about engagement, learning and cultural citizenship in the arts, and the conditions that support such constructs
  • generated tools for observing and interpreting engagement that are now been trialed in other City of Melbourne public programs
  • generated additional grants totaling $600,000+
  • generated over 30 presentations (many invited) in six Australian states, one territory and six countries.