As her year as The Ark's inaugral John Coolahan Early Years Artist in Residence comes to an end, artist Lucy Hill in her latest blog reflects on her recent Seedlings Early Years visual art workshops and on making connections with a variety of different groups of people along the way .
A number of my workshops and engagements this year have been with groups outside of the regular monthly programming. Thanks to the support of Dublin City Council Arts Office, a group of children came from their pre-school at Darndale Belcamp Integrated Childcare Service (Jigsaw) for the Slime Sensorium workshop. They all arrived together very excited having come to The Ark on the bus! This was a lovely opportunity to work with a group who know each other very well which creates quite a different dynamic. In addition, the educators accompanying the children returned at a later date for an evening workshop of ‘continuing professional development’ (CPD).
During the Slime Sensorium workshop with the children, educators were able to think about and discuss their preferences for the CPD content which was particularly useful. Their thinking was assisted by the presence of the children and watching them interact with the sensory materials. These materials (all biodegradable and vegan) included slime made with chia seeds, ice balloons (with secrets frozen inside!), seaweeds, agar jelly and rainbow tapioca. During their CPD the educators worked with a range of materials in teams, and then presented their creations to each other. I also presented different kinds of art works that relate particularly strongly to children’s creative thinking processes in order to open up ideas about both children and art.
Other workshops involved working with The Ark's project co-ordinator Liam McCarthy to bring early years children living in direct provision to The Ark, along with their parents and siblings. I particularly enjoy the opportunity to work with family groups to create unique spaces for playing together and learning from each-others' creative processes. For this workshop entitled Look! See? We made toys for looking through, such as binoculars, periscopes and ‘looking inventions’ using a wide range recycled plastics. The joy of using plastic is its ability to colour, enhance and distort vision, along with the knowledge that the creations will last. We also used materials such as velcro, elastic, and pipe cleaners so that the inventions could be endlessly adaptable and open to deconstruction and reconstruction. Everybody made their own viewing toys to take away.
The Last Straw
In addition to this we managed to squeeze in time for The Ark Children’s Council to work in the gallery space after our Last Straw early years workshops, to add to our ‘strawing’ installation. It was a treat to have an opportunity to engage with the Children’s Council who have been working hard preparing for their upcoming seminar presentations. We also left the installation intact so that children attending Peat the play could add to it during the launch reception if they wished. And so our ‘Strawing’ morphed and grew, collapsed and reconnected, taking over the gallery as a giant scribble in space.
Lucy's final set of Seedlings Workshops entitled The Mini Museum of Marvellous Stuff will take place on 29 & 30 March.
If you want to hear more from Lucy, she will be giving a free talk for grown ups on Thu 28 March. Called A Year of Early Years Visual Art, the fascinating discussion will include illustrations of key moments and learnings during the residency, the mentoring process, as well as research and ideas in early years and visual arts practice more generally. Thought-provoking for parents, preschool and primary teachers, artists, arts managers and anyone with an interest in art and children. Find out more here.
A visual artist, educator and researcher with particular interest and expertise in the area of early years visual arts education, Lucy has exhibited nationally and internationally and has won several public art commissions and awards. You can see some of Lucy's work at her website: https://www.lucyhill.ie/