The Ark Strategy 2017-2020

On 17 November, in front of a gathering of friends, supporters and colleagues, we officially launched the strategy document that will inform and shape the work that we do for the next four years.

This document lays out our strategic objectives for the years 2017-2020, so that our audiences, partners and supporters can join us on the next phase of The Ark’s journey. The Ark was born of a deeply-held belief in children’s right to art and culture as equal citizens within our society. That radical vision was informed by the principle that all children have the right to artistic and cultural participation just as they have a right to play. Our role is to create opportunities for children to love and discover art as a fundamental part of their childhood, no matter what their background or gender, and our reward is witnessing their boundless capacity for imagination, innovation and fun.

Much has changed in Ireland for children, for the arts and for our society since our establishment in 1995. We have welcomed many new citizens and, despite subsequent emigration, we have seen our young population grow such that recent Department of Education and Skills projections predict a peak of 574,000 children of primary school-going age by 2018, the highest since the founding of the state. Research about the significance of early childhood development has also brought about changed emphasis in our education system and curriculum and in artistic practice for young children. This is evidenced in primary school practice where there has been an increased emphasis on art across the whole curriculum.

Through all that change The Ark has been constant in making and sharing great art for children in the faith that art can transform our understanding and experience of the world. The Ark’s twenty first year represents an opportunity to look again at our founding principles, to reaffirm our vision and mission and to consider how best to achieve them over the next four years. This strategy statement is the result of such deliberation with The Ark Board. It has been informed by consultation with key external stakeholders: our principal funders, our members, teachers and regular attenders as well as by processes of internal engagement with the board, The Ark’s Children’s Council and staff.

We have considered and sought to align our strategic priorities with those of the Arts Council in Making Great Art Work and contributed our thinking to Culture 2025. We welcome the publication of Arts and Cultural Participation among Children and Young People: Insights from the Growing Up in in Ireland Study which will inform our work. Equally, we embrace the rights-based framework of the National Strategy on Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision Making 2015-2020 and the city-wide aims of Dublin City Council’s Arts Plan 2014–2018. After these deliberations and consultations, we have identified four clear areas of strategic priority for The Ark over the next four years, namely: excellence, engagement, sustainability and advocacy. Each has a distinct goal and set of objectives to deliver on that goal.

In essence, as we journey to 2020, we will affirm The Ark as a vibrant centre of excellence in terms of child-centred arts practice and creative provision and we will focus our efforts on extending who we engage with and enhancing how we engage with them. In addition to attracting our regular attenders, we will seek to reach and get to know the children closest to us, in our local community, at an early age. We will amplify our voice and work with others to progress the cultural rights of children as well as providing a forum for children to be heard too. We will work to build the infrastructure and capabilities that will enable us to deliver on these ambitious goals.

There is so much to be proud of in The Ark’s achievements to date. With this spirit and the clear focus and intent of this strategy, I look forward to leading the organisation into the future as we continue to work with and for children.

A downloadable copy of the strategy can be found here:

Aideen Howard