ArtPlay, a unique creative arts studio for children and their families, celebrates its 10th birthday this year. We asked ArtPlay’s Creative Producer, Simon Spain, about its origins and how it has changed over the last decade.
How did the concept of ArtPlay come about?
On a visit to Ireland in 2003, Rob Adams (Director, City Design at the City of Melbourne) saw a children’s art program called The Ark. He loved it, and on his return to Melbourne, advocated for the disused railway engineers’ building at Birrarung Marr to be used as a venue for children’s art and play activities.
In February 2004, it opened as a safe space for parents and children to practise art with professional artists. It was such a new idea we basically made it up as we went along.
Who is ArtPlay aimed at?
Originally ArtPlay was for children from five to 12 years. But now we’ve started offering additional programs for newborns up to five years, which have become our most popular workshops.
How many children have come through ArtPlay’s doors?
Over our ten-year history we’ve had 1,000 artists working with over 100,000 children and families. That’s a lot of ArtPlay! The children become artists alongside the professionals; the resulting works are a true collaboration. Children are integral to ArtPlay; they even participate in the funding process with artists pitching their ideas to a panel that includes children.
What’s the future vision for ArtPlay?
I want ArtPlay to become an ideas lab; to take artistic risks. Recently we had a musician and set designer collaborating with children on a play called Rain, which was so successful it is being shown at other venues. We also want to broaden our audience by contacting local playgroups and parents who hadn’t considered ArtPlay before.
How will ArtPlay celebrate its 10th birthday?
We’re inviting past, present and potential ArtPlayers (as we like to call them) to come to our birthday party on Sunday 2 March. There will be lots of entertainment, including Circus Oz workshops, music from MSO ArtPlay Ensemble Grads, DJs and Bollywood dancing to get everyone moving. We’ll also take a massive group photo which we plan to hang inside our foyer to mark this wonderful milestone.