Art & Wonder: Young Children and Contemporary Art. A collaboration between the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and Macquarie University

  • Britt, Clare (Primary Chief Investigator)
  • Palmer, Amanda (Associate Investigator)
  • Shepherd, Wendy (Associate Investigator)
  • Robertson, Janet (Associate Investigator)
  • Davis, Belinda (Associate Investigator)
  • Lavina, Leanne (Research Assistant)

    Project: Research

    Project Details


    The ‘Art & Wonder: Young Children and Contemporary Art’ longitudinal research project is a collaboration between the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA),  and the Department of Educational Studies, Macquarie University, working alongside children, families and teachers from Mia Mia Child and Family Study Centre and Lalor Park Kids Early Learning (KEL) Blacktown City Council.  Focusing on very young children’s engagement, learning and responses to regular encounters with contemporary art in the museum context, the research is building a rich picture of how young children bring meaning to and make meaning from contemporary art. There is an emphasis on revisiting and returning over time – building connections and establishing relationships with spaces, materials, artists, artworks and exhibitions.

    Layman's description

    How do young children bring meaning to and make meaning from contemporary art within a museum context? What potential might there be for creative reciprocity between artists and young children? Can we create space for intellectually rich, thoughtful, deep and complex early childhood visual arts pedagogy for the very youngest children in ECEC settings and museum and gallery contexts? In what ways can a sense of belonging be created for infants and toddlers (and their families) in large, public cultural institutions? These questions and more formed the foundations for Art & Wonder: Young Children and Contemporary Art - a collaborative research and pedagogy project between the MCA, and the Department of Educational Studies (DoES), Macquarie University.

    Key findings

    Key findings of particular interest in the pilot research project are centred around five themes:

    Belonging: active welcoming and permissions, creating the comfort zone, visibility and movement through the gallery, overcoming barriers to belonging

    Cultural citizenship: very young children’s visibility in a public cultural institution, their sophisticated cultural learning, and their participation rights as cultural citizens

    Embodied aesthetic encounters: young children engaging with contemporary art through embodied responding, complex aesthetic experience and response, the connections between creativity and play

    Reciprocity and relationships: notions of reciprocity, revisiting and returning, actively building connections, establishing reciprocal relationships with artists and educators and materials and artworks intergenerational experience within families, creative reciprocity;

    Reframing creative learning – silences and spaces: pedagogical curation of spaces and materials, reframing creative pedagogy from birth to 5 and beyond, the role of the periphery and unpredictability in pedagogy. Pedagogically, the ways physical and metaphorical open spaces can be created in the context of a large contemporary art museum, within which very young children’s embodied responding to complex aesthetic experiences can take flight in generative, rich and unexpected ways.

    Interestingly, the reflexive reshaping of pedagogical approaches and work with/in infant-toddler and preschool pedagogy has also transformed the ways in which other educational programs with older school groups and adults at the gallery are now designed and facilitated.
    Short titleArt & Wonder: Young Children and Contemporary Art.
    Effective start/end date1/09/171/12/25