Miranda Kindergarten Director and CELA member Jenny Hind is a strong advocate for the power of arts in the early years. Together with 15 other members of the Sutherland Shire Preschool Alliance, Jenny submitted an application to have children’s art displayed in the community space of local gallery Hazelhurst Sutherland Arts Centre late last year. After months of creativity and preparation, the exhibition launched this month.
We speak with Jenny about the exhibition and how art can provide a great way to collaborate with your local community.
Engaging with the community and connecting with local organisations
When the opportunity to showcase the art of children from Sutherland Shire Alliance preschools came up, Jenny and other members of The Alliance saw it as a way to engage with members of the wider community, showcase the wonderful work of the children at their centres and allow the children to connect with a local organisation.
The exhibition displays the skills and abilities of the children as they explore a variety of mediums and techniques using the seven elements of art: line, shape, space, value, form, texture and colour.
“We were informed that our application was successful in late November last year,” recalls Jenny. “Each preschool started planning a project this year to act as a focus for their contribution to the exhibition. It took several months to bring it all together.
“Art experiences are an incredibly valuable part of the daily early learning program for children. Engaging in creative arts is how children express how they see the world. Children learn to use their imaginations, problem solve, develop concentration and pride in their abilities and learn how to use writing tools and develop fine motor skills.”
This early engagement in art builds artistic and communication skills and offers an opportunity to participate in a process that is achievable and enjoyable for everyone.
Artworks showcase the interests of children
Descriptions of each artwork displayed in the gallery highlight the process that evolved as children were inspired to explore ideas, practice skills and create a finished piece that displayed their creativity and knowledge.
Inaburra and Jannali preschools used their Quality Learning Environment grant to engage local Indigenous artists to assist in the art process, while other artworks evolved based on the children’s interests, favourite books, or local issues such as pollution.
Gymea Preschool had created a transient art experience in their preschool based on loose parts play.
Transient art, by its name and nature, is an art that’s moveable. Put simply, it’s the use of multiple materials to create a picture, pattern or structure; a process of creating evolving and non-permanent art with loose parts; a way of creating both indoors and out whilst incorporating many elements of learning.
The children place a frame on the ground and use man-made materials (such as keys and tiles) or natural elements to create a picture within the frame.
Jenny says that bringing the exhibition together was incredibly enjoyable for members of The Alliance and the families and children who were involved. Most satisfying was developing exhibition pieces based entirely around what the children were interested in.
Families were also involved in helping the children to collect items for some of the artworks. The image below shows a grandmother of one of the preschool children who collected sticks from a fallen tree in her yard for an art project. She was incredibly moved after seeing the piece in the exhibition and had her photo taken with the artwork because she saw it as a lovely reminder of her fallen tree.
The Alliance used money from a joint fund to cover the cost of engaging the gallery’s installer to fit out the space. This enabled the preschool teams to focus on ensuring that the artworks were delivered to the gallery on time and that the exhibition was promoted to parents and the wider community.
A sense of pride for all involved
While the gallery was unable to host an opening event due to COVID restrictions, the exhibition has been a huge success and has been proudly visited by children and families.
“While waiting in the queue at the gallery café, I overheard patrons saying how vibrant the exhibition was and how they were amazed with the ability and knowledge of young children these days”, says Jenny.
4-year-old Rosie, who attends Grays Point Preschool, had the following to say as she walked around the exhibition:
“This is my fish and it’s the best I’ve ever drawn. I love it so much”
“I love the rainbow because it has lots of colours. My brother did that picture. It’s really clever I think”
When asked which picture she liked the best Rosie replied: “I like this one the best because it has beautiful colours of the earth”
Feedback from families has also been incredibly positive, with many words of thanks flowing through to educators.
“We just visited Hazelhurst and were wowed by the artworks. We can’t believe our beautiful children and teachers created these. Isaac was very proud of his involvement with the worry dolls artwork. Very grateful to be part of Miranda preschool.”
“Loved seeing so many beautiful pieces of art from our little ones. Lucas was very proud of his contribution and we were super proud.”
“The artworks were outstanding! Estelle was so excited to be on display at Hazelhurst like a real artist!”
About the Sutherland Shire Preschool Alliance
The Sutherland Shire Preschool Alliance was formed in 2016. The Alliance brings together 16 preschools in the Sutherland Shire with an aim to work together and support each other in a variety of projects.
CELA’s expert child care and early education service consultants have helped many new and existing providers across Sydney and Australia-wide to achieve success.
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