Children and cultural citizenship

Year: 2019

Author: Piscitelli, AM, Barbara

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The appetite for arts and cultural experiences in Australia is pervasive, with 98% engaging in the arts ‘more frequently and with much greater breadth than they realize’ (Australia Council, 2017). Arts and culture play a big role in children’s lives, with 71% of Australian children participating in creative practice outside of school: dancing, singing, painting, drawing and playing instruments; using public collecting institutions; attending performances; and working with artists (ABS, 2012). There is a steady growth in participation in museums, galleries, libraries and performing arts centres by young audiences (ABS, 2012); all kinds cultural organizations feature robust programs for young audiences and it is usual to see children with families and schools in museums, galleries, performing arts centres and libraries. This is cultural engagement at its most democratized level with culture for all, built on sustainable practice for more than a generation. Though children are regularly engaged in cultural life and the arts, their ideas are rarely seen and heard outside of home and school. Drawing and painting are very important tools for giving shape and form to ideas, and children use these tools readily in their early lives. Over 40 years, I been have collecting and exhibiting children’s drawings and paintings. In kindergartens, child care centres, schools and studios in Australia, China and Vietnam, children from 12 months to 12 years explored their identity, their environment, their rights and their futures through drawing and painting, The children’s work always attracts conversation during exhibitions. Two key challenges face the cultural sector in Australia. The first challenge is to provide resources to broaden and deepen cultural engagement and participation, especially for children living in outer suburban, rural, regional and remote communities. Though there are few galleries and performing arts venues outside of Australia’s cities, most communities have libraries and some have museums where it is possible to generate cultural programs for children – to tell stories of the past, the present, and to dream about the future. The other challenge is the sector’s willingness to feature children’s ideas and artefacts in the collections, exhibitions and public programs of galleries, museums, libraries and performing arts centres. Very few organisations have collections of children’s creative work and daily life, yet every day children are drawing, painting, writing and creating.