Chil. Power.

Illustration: Art Makes Children Powerful, Bob and Roberta Smith, The Butler Gallery, Kilkenny, Ireland

“Art Out Loud is a channel for communication, a place to build ideas, to disagree, and to figure out the role of art in everyday life”

The following is a summary of a gallery based arts and health project which took place during February-April 2014 at The Basement Gallery, Dundalk (County Louth, Ireland) called Art Out Loud: What Art Means to Children. The project combined both an exhibition of contemporary artworks and an installation of children’s assemblages of personal objects. The project was supported by Create Louth: The Arts Service of Louth Local Authorities. 

Art Out Loud offered children the opportunity to talk about their lives while they debated the meaning of a selection of artworks that form part of the County Louth Art Collection. The artworks were selected on the basis of their relevance to the lives of children aged 10-12, and their capacity to provoke discussion, critical thinking and expression. The art evoked themes related to loss, confusion, identity, protest, and gave voice to a variety of inter-personal themes.

Art Out Loud began as soon as children started walking from school to visit The Basement Gallery. Along the way they viewed commissioned graffiti murals which offered an introduction to both street and public art, and to the topic of contemporary art as a whole.

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Photos: Graffiti Murals Viewed by Children on the way to Art Out Loud by artist Barry Finnegan

The children brought along personal objects from both home and school which they de-constructed and re-assembled as part of an installation environment developed by participants in response to the The Art out Loud exhibition. The children came with sports gear, books, craft materials, puzzles, games, stuffed animals, magazines, clothing accessories, family photographs, and toys from early childhood. The children explored how creating a site specific environment can change the appearance and feeling of a gallery space, reshaping it to meet their own needs. The idea of found objects or ‘readymades’ being art materials was a new experience for the participants, who immediately felt comfortable with these familiar and relevant symbols of their lives. The freedom to take objects apart and re-combine them offered the children a liberating approach to art making.

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Photos: Participants from Art Out Loud and their Artworks

Teachers and students were given references to artist websites and information about the project prior to their arrival. Each class also previewed artworks from the Art Collection of County Louth (Taisce Lú) on the Create Louth website http://www.createlouth.ie.

During the course of their visit, each class also received a package of exhibition catalogues showcasing previous exhibitions at the gallery, which would become the basis of subsequent classroom art activities related to contemporary art.

As a context for both discovery and reflection, a gallery offers a supportive structure for considering ideas that impact children’s analysis of both themselves and others. Here the stories of artists connect with the stories of children. As a result children examine their own perspectives. Participants explored how art can be a way to understand what is important to them. A way of sharing childhood experiences, thoughts, and points of view.

The following artworks were included as part of The Art Out Loud exhibition:

Omin-Barry-Finnegan-2009-K’Blamo

Photo: Omin Barry Finnegan, K’Blamo 2009, The Art Collection of County Louth (Taisce Lú)

Hegarty-Brian-2006-Allegory-and-Self-II-e1382626762817

Photo: Brian Hegarty, Allegory and Self, The Art Collection of County Louth (Taisce Lú)

Griffin-Elaine-2004-Untitled-ii-e1382639481407

Photo: Elaine Griffin, Untitled, The Art Collection of County Louth (Taisce Lú)

Hearne-Catherine-1997-The-Ticklish-Sweet-Sensation-i-e1382609885795

Photo: Catherine Hearne, The Ticklish Sweet Sensation, The Art Collection of County Louth (Taisce Lú)

Marron-Breda-1999-Inner-Sanctum-i-e1382626169431

Photo: Breda Marron, Inner Sanctum, The Art Collection of County Louth (Taisce Lú)

Each student generated a symbolic ‘tag’ for their identity as an artist, which they included in their collaborative installation. The tags also included comments by the children about the exhibition and their experience making art from personal objects. Students called Art Out Loud “crazy and epic” an “interesting and exciting place” and a space where they were “so happy”.

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Photos: Art Out Loud Tags Used by Children, Incorporating Code Names and Feedback 

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Photos: Art Out Loud, Deconstructed and Re-Created Personal Items

An art gallery offers the potential of new knowledge, the possibility of reflecting upon identity and well being. It is a place to find one’s bearings, to gather thoughts, and to make sense of the world at large. Art offers a springboard for communication; it is a way to connect with others, to discuss points of view, and to disagree. Art Out Loud participants described contemporary art as a way of making something out of nothing, of building thoughts with materials, and learning about life in different ways.

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Photos: Art Out Loud

Responses from Principals and Teachers

“My teachers said it was amazing”

“The pupils responded to the pieces of art in a way which far exceeded my expectations. The explanations and insights provided for each piece of art were great and thought provoking”

“The facilitation was excellent, each child was listened to, and the artwork was very varied and suited all tastes. An exhibition like this is very beneficial for teachers who may feel that they do not know enough about art to facilitate a lesson with students”

“The exhibition and the work the children made were really thought provoking. The children really responded to the artworks on display and enjoyed making their own installaton. They made some really fascinating work!”

“The children connected with the contemporary artworks. The children absolutely loved the day and enjoyed the sense of freedom from doing their own art. The exhibition showed how accessible contemporary art can be for children”

“A great experience seeing art work locally, very enriching. The children really engaged with the art pieces and made some deep comments! I think we might have some future artists among us”

“I was delighted to see how animated and involved the children became. This exhibition and workshop will help them understand on a practical basis that art takes many forms”

“It was a very rewarding experience for the class to see art in action, to be able to express opinions regarding what they liked or disliked. Looking at contemporary art, graffiti, sculpture, and understanding how they became art was a new experience”

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