In this presentation, I respond to the provocation of this conference’s central theme: what is art for?, by considering the ways in which art may be central to research methods, as well as central to the topic of inquiry within a research project. I unravel overlapping threads of two projects that research with art and research in art. The first case explores the use of arts-informed methodologies in researching young children’s shared understandings of the place of their school in inner-urban Melbourne, Australia. The second case illustrates a collective biography workshop with final-year early childhood teacher education students in Sydney, Australia, constructing shared memory stories and collaborative artworks based in their own moments of creativity and ‘making’ as young children. Through these two cases, I illuminate the possibilities offered in using Arts-Informed research methodologies such as photography, drawing, poetry and sculpture, as well as the memory telling, writing and reading involved in Collective Biography work to explore the complexities, uncertainties and subtleties of these shared understandings of place and creativity. Interestingly, these two research projects share important points of intersection and overlap: both highlight the central significance of connected, inhabited and embodied natural places in both lived and remembered early childhood. Both projects suggest the significance to young children of constructing stories and storylines of creativity and belonging through building connections with specific natural places, engaging the heart (Orr, 1992) and body (Thrift, 2000; Somerville, 2006; Grosz, 2001) in emotional and physical caretaking. In analysing these points of overlap, I also explore theoretical links with Gruenwald’s (2003) critical politics of ecological ‘reinhabitation’ through nuturing, caretaking, connectedness, awareness and situationality; and bell hooks’ (2009) ‘cultures of belonging’ and building ‘beloved community'.
7th International Art in Early Childhood Conference