MCA and Macquarie University launch new publication celebrating young children’s creative learning within the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

MCA-Art-&-WonderThe Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) announces the launch of Art & Wonder: Young Children and Contemporary Art.

Art & Wonder: Young Children and Contemporary Art is based on the initial findings of a collaborative study between the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) and Macquarie University, working with children, families and teachers from Mia Mia Child and Family Study Centre, and Blacktown City Council.

What potential might there be for creative reciprocity between artists and young children? Can we create space for intellectually rich, thoughtful, deep and complex early childhood visual arts pedagogy for the very youngest children in Early Childhood Education and Care settings and museum and gallery contexts?

In what ways can a sense of belonging be created for infants and toddlers (and their families) in large, public cultural institutions? How do young children bring meaning to and make meaning from contemporary art within a museum context?

These questions and more form the foundations for the publication which shares findings from the pilot phase (September 2017 – March 2018) of the five-year Art & Wonder research project.

Phase Two of the Art & Wonder project began in March 2019. Throughout Phase Two of the project, the MCA and research team has continued building on the relationships developed with Mia Mia Child and Family Study Centre during the pilot phase of the research, while expanding Art & Wonder to include a new partnership with Blacktown City Council Kids’ Early Learning.

The theoretical and methodological approaches taken in this research project are grounded in respecting and listening to the child: foregrounding children’s participation rights. The research is also concerned with children’s rights to beauty, wonder and complex aesthetic experiences, and how this is developed in non-traditional places of learning.

Since the collaborative research and pedagogy project began in September 2017, the MCA has been working with very young children (aged from babies under one, to children five years of age), and their families and early childhood teachers and educators.

Through a series of regular workshops with MCA artist educators, the Art & Wonder program supports meaningful engagement with MCA exhibitions, practising artists and the MCA’s National Centre for Creative Learning (NCCL) featuring the Creative Studios and interactive Jackson Bella Room.

This long-term study also informs the MCA’s creative learning programs for early childhood education and care groups.

“At the MCA we have always believed that very young children can benefit from access to creativity at such a critical time in their lives and this research program provides the evidence,” said MCA Director, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE.

“We are committed to our ongoing collaboration with colleagues from the Early Childhood sector and are thrilled to welcome thousands of children, their teachers and families to the Museum, each year.”

“I would like to thank Suzanne and Anthony Maple-Brown, Patrons of Art & Wonder: Young Children and Contemporary Art, and The Medich Foundation, Major Benefactor of MCA Early Learning programs for their support,” said Macgregor.

Macquarie University School of Education Dean, Professor Mary Ryan says the initial findings of this collaborative study are incredibly important for how we all should approach early childhood education.

“In the first three years of life children develop more connections within their brain then they’ll ever have at any other time in their life, so allowing them to explore contemporary art in various forms is a fantastic way to encourage their development,” said Professor Ryan.

Macquarie University is thrilled to be part of this research project, which advocates for the inclusion of the youngest members of our community in rich, learning environments such as the MCA.”

Key findings of particular interest in the pilot research project are centred around five themes:
• Belonging: active welcoming and permissions, creating the comfort zone, visibility and movement
• Cultural citizenship: young children’s visibility in a public cultural institution, their participation rights as cultural citizens
• Embodied aesthetic encounters: complex aesthetic experience and response, the connections between creativity and play
• Reciprocity and relationships: establishing reciprocal relationships with artists and educators; materials and artworks, intergenerational experience within families
• Reframing creative learning – the ways physical and metaphorical open spaces can be created in a contemporary art museum, within which very young children’s embodied responding to complex aesthetic experiences can take flight in generative, rich and unexpected ways

Art & Wonder: Young Children and Contemporary Art is available from the MCA Store.

Image: A gesture is significant when you are 13 months. Georgia (aged 13 months) and Cara, MCA Artist Educator as part of the Art & Wonder pilot project, 2018 – photo by Anna Kucera

Pipilotti Rist, Kleines Vorstadthirn (Small Suburb Brain), 2001, video installation with sound: projector, player, sound system; The Innocent Collection, 1985–approx. 2032, different unprinted white packing materials; Meditation for Suburbbrain, 2011, single-channel video installation: projector, player;installation view, Pipilotti Rist: Sip my Ocean, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, 2017, image courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Luhring Augustine © the artist