By Lilly Blue, AGWA Learning and Creativity Research Manager
AGWA Gently is a creative play project for young children (and for all of us needing gentle ways of being with the world right now).
s l o w p l a y
s h a r e d l a u g h t e r
d r a w i n g b r e a t h
q u i e t c o l l a b o r a t i o n s
d e e p l i s t e n i n g
l e a r n i n g s o f t l y
small ideas for BIG IMAGINATIONS
AGWA Gently was born in a moment of overwhelm as an artist, educator and parent navigating the early days of COVID-19. In my role as Manager of Learning and Creativity Research at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, like many, I felt an enormous pressure to respond, to create online content and to transition much of what the gallery offers in immediate, face to face experiences to remote online resources and digital workshops. I found myself grappling with questions:
How do we now offer children opportunities for slow connected practice, embodied presence and contemplative moments without immediate live arts experiences in the Gallery’s shared communal spaces? How can we bring the sensorial open-ended explorations that are central to AGWA Learning into a digital world, while also offering a visual online pause that might provide a moment of rest in a fast-growing world of content, content, and ever more content?
AGWA Gently aims to offer creative inspirations and ideas that might spark children and families to leave their screens and play with the world for a while.* The suggestions are heartfelt, while knowing that for some families this time might not be gentle at all, that there is enormous loss for some, and time to play is a luxury for many. Our hope is that for those families who are spending time online, these thoughts, words and images might act as a breath.
Each week a new idea will be posted on Art Gallery of WA Facebook and Instagram pages, with an invitation for you to share your creations with us via #agwagently, or in the comments on Facebook. The activities are grouped loosely into themes that offer gentle explorations into the elements and principles of art and design, and some additional sensorial and poetic frames. The ideas are really invitations to carve pockets of time in the day to slow down and tune in to sounds, textures, colours, shadows, shapes and rhythms. There are no downloads or videos to watch. No links to follow, No worksheets to complete. Each idea draws on a simple invitation for genuine connection, presence, listening and play. Even if the ideas don’t lead to actual play, the images and words might allow for a moment of quiet wonder. A reminder to breathe, to feel, to listen, and to go gently with the world.
As an artist and educator my role is to create environments where the natural energetic states of children can thrive unencumbered, they can follow beyond innate curiosity and learn to trust their existing embodied knowledges. The physical experience of shared experimentation, collaboration, and open-ended conversations lead not only to unexpected creative outcomes but also emotional experiences that impact learning. These are not things that translate easily to online spaces. They are subtle, nuanced and improvised ways of navigating the complex dynamics of groups and curating environments that are conducive to experimentation and discovery. They rely on the development of relationships, real connections and the opportunity to be together.
So, at a time when we cannot gather in real time and space, we go slowly into this digital world reaching though screens to the spaces where children are actually living and playing. We offer a few small seeds that might spark some shared discoveries in being with the world, a reminder that less can be more, and an invitation to slow down and go gently for a few moments.
Take care in these new days.
Learning and Creativity Research
* This work is born of many years research and practice, the methodologies drawn from an ongoing collaboration with Dr Jo Pollitt beginning with BIG Kids Magazine, and more recently a partnership with ECU School of Education, Conversations with Rain, exploring young children’s innate relationship with the environment as a way of revisioning climate futures.