Children & Culture

The Ark was founded on the principle that children, as citizens, have the same cultural rights as adults. We work with key players in the lives of children; seeking to influence and share our specialist knowledge with teachers, parents, artists, community workers, cultural organisations and policy makers. This is our way of helping to ensure that all children in Ireland have access to high quality cultural experiences.

Documenting Early Childhood Arts Practice

In 2013 The Ark was awarded a grant by the Arts Council to participate in an early year documentation project.

The purpose of the film, created in response to the Arts Councils brief, was to inform the development of an Arts Council Policy on Early Childhood Arts development in Ireland and to document and disseminate examples of good practice in this area through our early years programming at The Ark. Artists Thomas Johnston [music], Joanna Parkes [drama] and Orla Kelly [visual arts] led workshops at The Ark in early 2013, during these programmes we interviewed the artists' response to the work in terms of impact, experience and a critique of their own practice. The documentation also focused on the process, methods, interactions and collaborations employed by artists delivering the work. Children, parents and teachers also participated in the filming.

The video was filmed and edited by Siobhan Perry and the workshop sessions were filmed by Francesco Bistoni. Special thank you to interviewees Jane Appleby, teacher at Central model Infants school, Dublin and Asha Zmuda (parent).

Mapping the Territory

Mapping the Territory was a round table forum organised by The Ark, the Irish Museum of Modern Art and The Heritage Council, which took place on Thursday 5 October 2006, in celebration of International Museum’s Day. The forum was aimed at encouraging ongoing dialogue and contact between professionals working with children from the museum, arts and education sectors, with an interest in stimulating collaborative practices across disciplines. This lively and productive forum was attended by 60 delegates.

Download the Mapping the Territory report

Mapping the Territory 2

Following the success of the initial Mapping the Territory forum, The Ark, the Irish Museum of Modern Art and The Heritage Council convened a second forum on 29 May 2007, supported by The Arts Council. The second meeting offerred a broader base of professionals working within the museum, arts and education sectors the opportunity to address the feasibility of a national network as a means to achieving meaningful dialogue and collaboration on cross-sectoral practice for children and young people.

Download the Mapping the Territory 2 report

Arklink Report

Funded by The Ark Trust, ArkLink sought to establish links with children living in disadvantaged communities and to bring The Ark and the arts into these communities in a meaningful way.

The key aim of the six-year project was to work in the community of Fatima Mansions, Dublin, a community that has historically experienced multiple disadvantage, in partnership with Fatima Groups United, to prioritise and deliver on the creative needs of children living in this community.

Following the successful pilot phase, The Ark worked together with Fatima Groups United and The Fatima Regeneration Board to sustain ArkLink until it was transferred into community ownership in 2006.

Download the Arklink evaluation report

On the Block

On The Block is a documentary made by children from the ArkLink Fatima Mansions Film Club, produced for the RTÉ Young Peoples Department by Macalla Teoranta.

The ArkLink Fatima Mansions Flim Club was founded by documentary filmmaker Katie Lincoln and ArkLink project manager Bernadette Larkin, supported by Anne-Marie Kenny. Over a three year period (2003–2006), the Film Club opened its doors each Saturday morning to children living in Fatima Mansions.

The Club nurtured the children's creativity and gave them the confidence to film everyday events in their local community. On the Block is the culmination of this work and is a genuinely remarkable documentary which creates a true, but rarely seen, picture of childhood seen through the eyes of young filmmakers as they recorded the rebuilding and transformation of Fatima Mansions.

On the Block has won the prestigious 2007 Prix Danube International Children and Youth Festival prize in the documentary programmes category and was awarded the Prix Jeunesse Heart Prize 2008 in Germany, awarded to the programme that touched the hearts of most delegates. On the Block also scooped the award in the Young People's category at the Celtic Media Festival, a festival which celebrates excellence in broadcasting and film talent in the Celtic countries.

On the Block has been screened at INPUT, a major annual public broadcasting conference in Johannesburg, and was also selected to represent the European Broadcasting Union Children and Youth Group at the EBU Common Focus Day in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Consultation Symposium

This working symposium took place on 12 September 2008 at The Ark, and focused on building a culture of consultation with children within artistic policy and practice. The symposium was jointly organised by The Ark Children's Cultural Centre and Children’s Books Ireland.

The symposium was specifically designed for those creating and delivering arts projects interested in consultation with children (age 3-14). Consultation is increasingly recognised as an essential process for understanding the needs of our audiences, and the aim of this event was to explore methods of successfully consulting with children as a means to truly enriching their cultural lives. Delegates from all over Ireland filled each of the 80 places at the symposium, representing all areas of the arts, including theatre, museums, galleries, libraries and community arts.

Speakers included Liam O’Dwyer, Chief Executive of the Irish Youth Foundation followed by the symposium Chair Sheila Greene, Director of the Children’s Research Centre at Trinity College, who set the context of the day with her address Consulting with Children: How and why?

The symposium also included presentations of inspirational international projects where children have been actively involved in artistic policy and practice development. Liz Moran, Artistic Director of the macrobert in Scotland, who developed a young consultancy scheme to involve young people directly in the decision making of macrobert, was joined by Charlotte Kelly, who has been a Young Consultant with the arts centre for the past seven years. Karen Bertrams, from ProBiblio in Holland, presented The Library of 100 Talents, a ground breaking project which developed new library spaces for and with children. Adam Graham, Programme & Production Manager of Leeds Young People’s Film Festival, which has operated a young consultancy scheme for the past seven years, was joined by Ruby Lloyd-Burman, a Young Consultant for the festival.

The presentations were followed by practical workshops, providing participants with an opportunity to up-skill in this valuable area. These workshops were delivered by Playtrain, a UK based provider of hands-on training, creative consultation and action research for organisations working with children.

This symposium was generously supported by The Irish Youth Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies and The Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

Download the post-event resource pack

NCTE Case Study

An Evaluative Case Study of The Ark’s outreach workshop programme with musician Robbie Perry, prepared for the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE).

The six week workshop programme with artist Robbie Perry was conceived as part of Earth Explorers, The Ark’s multidisciplinary art project running from May to August 2009. Earth Explorers aimed to encourage children and families to engage creatively with the environment and explore the impact we have on our surroundings through a range of fun, inspirational and imaginative arts activities. Workshops ran weekly from Thursday 14 May to Thursday 18 June in St Peters NS and The Ark.

This specific element of the programme was devised to address the needs of children with learning and autistic difficulties and in doing so enabled The Ark to continue to prioritise this key aim (ie working with children with individual needs) within The Ark’s four year strategy. The programme proposal offered a second opportunity to work with students taught within the special teaching unit and mainstream classes of St Peter’s National School, Greenhills, Dublin 12, whose first encounter with The Ark had been during The Artist In Residence workshops in the 2007 programme. The Ark was eager to work with and build on relationships with St Peter’s NS Involvement in this subsidised project enabled 32 students from the school to experience an enjoyable and meaningful workshop programme for free.

The workshops were designed to engage students in the exploration of sounds, vibrations and self-expression using melodic, percussive and electronic instruments made from existing and recycled materials. Through the processes of free improvisation, creation of instruments, composition and performance the children developed new skills and grew in confidence and creative expression.

The workshops received great praise from students, teachers and the artist, demonstrating that they had been engaging, beneficial and enjoyable for those involved. The workshop programme in turn proved the potential for ongoing development of the artist’s specific work with new technology to support the curricular learning and musical appreciation of children with individual needs.

The workshop programme demonstrated a creative application of new technology through a relatively cost effective media that the artist had constructed himself. The benefit of the instruments which utilised new technology was that all students regardless of their age or ability could produce a range of unique sounds, strengthening their capacity to express ideas, feelings and experiences through music and composition.

This project would not have been possible without the support of The National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE) and The Community Foundation for Ireland.

Download the evaluative case study

Audience Development

A Primary Schools Audience Development Project conducted by The Ark, Children's Cultural Centre in association with the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

The Ark, Children's Cultural Centre and the Irish Museum of Modern Art undertook an audience development research project focusing on the relationship between both venues and their primary school audiences. The project investigated the expectations, needs and issues facing principals and teachers in primary schools and how these can reflect in their capacity to access cultural venues. As the present challenging economic climate exerted increasing pressure on school resources, this project set out to explore how cultural venues can better prepare for the possible negative impact of the current economic crisis on primary schools’ engagement with the arts.

Under the guidance of a project team consisting of representatives from each cultural venue, the project conducted a forum and two Focus Group meetings involving a total of 16 practising principals and primary school teachers during April and May 2010. The 16 schools represented were mostly from the Dublin area with an even split between city centre-based schools and those in the outer reaches of the county. They included two girls’ schools, one special needs school, alongside two rural schools based in County Meath and County Wicklow. More than half of the primary schools involved in the project are designated as disadvantaged under The Department of Education and Skills Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) plan to address educational disadvantage throughout the public school system.

The different groups were selected based on their present or past relationships with both venues and all identifying information about the participants has been removed from this report to preserve their anonymity. The Teachers’ Forum group was made up of a group of principals and teachers whose schools have an established relationship with one or both venues, regularly accessing events and utilising resources. This meeting was followed by a Focus Group with teachers who have lapsed in their attendance to events at one or both venues. The final Focus Group met with teachers from schools that have never visited The Ark or IMMA or have not done so for a period of at least seven years.

Alongside the documentation of the findings from these meetings the project also sought to gain insight into the different experiences of Irish primary teachers through a series of one on one interviews with arts and education specialists. The project team met with representatives from the Primary Professional Development Service (PPDS), Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) as well as a lecturer from Froebel College of Education and an artist and facilitator with extensive experience of working with school groups.

The Ark and IMMA have produced this audience development research project as part of Arts Audiences “Build Your Audience” pilot scheme. Arts Audiences is a partnership initiative of the Arts Council and Temple Bar Cultural Trust.

Download the full report