What a year, what a year! As the wild world swirled and whirled around us, my little family hunkered down even more than usual, as we welcomed our second baby in April (and, oh my goodness, was I tired and ill in the months leading up to that). Artsploring, in many ways, became more of a challenge with a newbie in tow, so looking back, I wasn’t sure if I’d find that we’d done much at all. But, even being a little more homebody than usual, it seems that we still managed to make our arts adventures something of a priority. I also remembered that exploring the arts doesn’t necessarily mean leaving home, as we had some real moments of discovery right in the living room.
I’ve chose ten family arts highlights for our 2017 wrap up (as I did last year, as well). Here’s what we loved.
1.Yabun Festival, Australia Day – Instead of sausage sizzles or the Ferrython for Australia Day, this year, we headed down to Camperdown for the Yabun Festival, celebrating Indigenous culture. There were kids crafts and entertainment, but the thing we loved the most was seeing the Aboriginal dance performances.
2. Ballet Class – You could have knocked me over with a feather when the 4 year old Mini Artsplorer said she wanted to take ballet class. She’s usually more rough & tumble than plié & piroutte, but when the request continued over a few weeks, I was happy to let her have a try. I found a class where she could wear anything she wanted, and some weeks it was a tutu, and many weeks it was a superhero cape. We only stayed on for two terms, but I love that she gave it a go, and now has some ballet knowledge and terms for future dance appreciation. (Read more here)
3. Diary of a Wombat – When I booked tickets to Monkey Baa’s Diary of a Wombat, I intended it to be a “last hurrah” date for Mini and me before the birth of her baby sister. But, on the day of the show, I found myself in the hospital, being poked and prodded, so it was Dad to the rescue for a special theatre date with big sister the day before we became a family of four. Months later. she still tells me, “you should see the Wombat show sometime. It was SO funny!”.
4. Audio Stories on Kinderling Radio – With a new baby at home, the Mini Artsplorer’s TV consumption really went off the charts. I just didn’t have the time or energy to entertain her like I used to, and I often couldn’t make myself available to set up new activities. I downloaded the Kinderling Radio app after reading about their audio stories, and it’s been brilliant. They have a section devoted to Australian children’s books and stories, as read by the author or a narrator. I was actually surprised how captivated Mini has been by listening to these stories. A handful of favorites have emerged for many repeated listenings (Why Can’t I Be a Dinosaur? by Kylie Westaway, The Wimben Luben and the Sausage by Angie Who, and Miss Mae’s Saturday by Justine Flynn are a few), and we’re always finding new ones. I much prefer her to engage her imagination with audio stories than to spend more hours in front of the TV.
5. Vivid Festival – We look forward to Sydney’s Vivid Festival every year, and we’ve loved how it keeps branching out into more parts of the city. The baby was only a few weeks old when this year’s festival came around, but thankfully Mr. Artsplorer was game to take Mini out for a few evening adventures to see the displays at Darling Harbour and Circular Quay. And, the little one was kind enough to sleep through the better part of our whole family outings to Taronga Zoo and Chatswood (she even slept through a very enthusiastic pre-school performance on the giant octopus drum!). It delights me that our city goes wild for public art every year.
6. Sculptures at Barangaroo – Further adventures on the public art front saw us spending an afternoon at Barangaroo for the annual sculpture event. We were out of the country for all of Sculpture By the Sea, so I was glad that we at least got to experience this smaller event in a similar vein. It also has none of the crowds of its Bondi cousin, so is easily managed with children. I liked the range of style, and a number of the sculptures were a real invitation to imagination and exploration for kids and adults, alike.
7. The Center for Puppetry Art, Atlanta – As I mentioned, we were away for part of the year – 6 weeks, actually, visiting family in both Europe and the United States. My family is based in Atlanta, which is the home of Scarlett O’Hara, Coca Cola, and the fantastic Center for Puppetry Arts. We saw a charming production of Charlotte’s Web, and how lucky we were to score a backstage tour with a uni friend who is a puppeteer (see, there are perks to being a theatre major!). It was fascinating to see how the different puppets are constructed and operated – so clever! We also toured the Center’s museum, which has a section of puppetry around the world, as well as an extensive Jim Henson collection, which I find so moving.
8. Discovering a love of drawing – Up to this point, and especially in the past year, Mini has been a rather reluctant drawer and colorer. She’d usually rebuke my suggestions that she try more than one color, and had minimal interest in any drawing prompts I offered her. While we were on our trip, we bought her a few new things to help occupy her down time, and one was a female superhero coloring book. Perhaps it was a case of “right theme, right time” because she set out to working on the Wonder Woman page with a concentration and skill I’ve never seen from her. That page was just the boost she needed, and it’s opened up a whole new world of art to her. She’ll spend an hour on a coloring page, and is bursting with ideas for her own drawings. Her confidence and enjoyment in creating has grown by leaps and bounds, just in the past few months.
9. Museum Tours – This year, we tried both the Art Safari program at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Tours for Tots at Art Gallery of NSW. Both are designed for pre-schoolers, and offer a combination of art appreciation and art making on an age appropriate level. I love so much that museums are offering such substantive programs for very young children, giving them tools to appreciate art even before they start school, and making them feel like welcome guests.
10. Pipilotti Rist: Sip My Ocean – Speaking of child-friendly art exhibits – oh, my glittering stars, I am still swooning over the MCA’s Pipilotti Rist: Sip My Ocean. It’s completely immersive and viewers of any age can get lost in the experience. We went on a Sunday when the family space was open with related activities, which added to the fun. My full review is here. If you haven’t been, make it your New Year’s resolution to go!
I’d love very much to hear your family’s arts highlights from 2017!