Engaging with Art

Australian Art Education Vol. 33, No. 2, 2010

Five Reasons to Take Young Children to the Art Gallery and Five Things To Do When You Are There

Role playOne aspect of this sequence was the assumption of the persona of pictorial figures by dressing up in character. Dressing up as the characters they saw in pictures, adopting their facial expressions and stance, encouraged close obsen/ation, but engaged children also in imaginative or empathetic interpretations of the experiences, feelings and lives of the figures represented in the works. In one museum setting children explored the impacts of war through displays developed around the ANZAC theme. They dressed up in period costumes, military and school uniforms and work clothing. They engaged in role play interactions and posed for photographs.

Developing role-play dramatic interpretations of art works encouraged playful, imaginative and inventive engagements. Using prompt questions like – What if? What has happened to make this person feel this way? or What happens next? – educators encouraged children to think beyond the picture itself, to visualise and act out contexts, extensions and interpretations that re-framed their appreciations in ways relevant to their own lives and experiences. Other educators use other questions: “If you could jump into this painting, I want you to think about where you would be and what you would be doing” invites children to construct new made-up narratives, imaginative relocations and extended dialogues about what they have viewed in pictures (Eckhoff, 2008, p. 468). These are playful and enjoyable ways to close looking and child-centred learning: Children love to dress up, they love to role-play and pretend, they love to build, they love to climb and explore. Children’s museums provide opportunities for children not only to choose between all these sensory and intellectual treats but also to decide which aspects they will engage in. They have permission to start when they want and stop when they want (Falk & Dierking, 2000, p. 186).”

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