Starting with Art is an inclusive and interactive creative program that connects primary and secondary students with disability or access requirements with art and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Explore the Art Gallery's collection and exhibitions through guided tours and making workshops. These guided tours and artmaking experiences foster self expression, independence, communication and relationships and are led by Art Gallery educators and staff.
Teachers are invited to discuss the needs of their students with the bookings team or prior to booking.
History and development
Starting with Art is an inclusive education program created for students from Kindergarten to Year 12 with physical, intellectual, behavioural and sensory disabilities. From its inception in 2009, the aim of the program is to create a journey of discovery and adventure through the Gallery’s collection to stimulate curiosity, imagination and creativity.
The Starting with Art program provides an opportunity to engage directly with original works of art. Through stimulating workshops, discussion, role-play and the use of sensory materials, the program is designed around visual, auditory and tactile learning experiences. The use of tactile support materials to touch, hold and smell, allows students to form personal connections with art. The program overcomes barriers to participation and engagement.
Reflection is an important aspect of the program and students are given the opportunity to exhibit or present their ideas and artwork to the rest of the group, ensuring a sense of achievement.
Students with disability should have the same opportunities and choices in their education as students without disability. We encourage collaboration with teachers to make this a unique and fully engaged experience for participating students and educators.
The program aligns with the New South Wales Department of Education’s excursion policy.
The Starting with Art program offers a range of high-quality professional learning opportunities that can resource teachers and support staff to meet the educational needs of the diverse range of learners in their classes.
Removing barriers to participation
Starting with Art aims to impact students by allowing students to express themselves through art. Students can give opinions and discuss responses in a supported environment, responding directly to original artworks.
Starting with Art was the lifeline Emma so badly needed. Before Starting with Art there was nothing for her anywhere, her isolation was all consuming, she was unable to even attend school … Emma is now an artist and exhibiting member of MAANZ (Mosaic Association Australia & New Zealand). None of this would have been possible without the Starting with Art program.
Dallas Price, Emma’s mother
Being responsive to students’ access needs
Gaining a deeper understanding of each students’ needs allows for tailored experiences, including creating artworks with materials that are familiar and fun to use. We aim to achieve a positive experience which considers all abilities.
The kids were welcomed and engaged. The hands-on activity was pitched at a perfect level (no doubt because the (Gallery learning team) took the time to liaise with school staff prior to the visit to find out about the students’ abilities and needs). We loved that ‘mess’ was not only ok but encouraged – the creativity was flowing.
Kirsty Sydenham, Teacher, Ashfield Public School
Creating normalcy by supporting students to visit the Gallery creating inclusive learning experiences.
Starting with Art encourages social engagement, the development of life skills, and learning through visual and sensory experiences. The program builds on students’ prior knowledge to build confidence and self-esteem.
We often find that the parents of students with disabilities find it difficult to go to places like the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The environment can be overwhelming for their child, there is often a lot of noise and the space is overpowering for the sensory needs of the child. The program enables the students to experience the gallery with their peers.
Sonya Honey, Teacher, Condell Park High School
Programming open-ended experiences that spark joy and create moments of pleasure.
A unique excursion experience helps build confidence and self-esteem by inspiring responses from students in a supported environment. The ‘moment of pleasure’ stays with them. The program helps alleviate the trauma of sensory issues, such as over stimulation, allowing students to engage.
This creative learning approach seemed to engage the participants more as they could express themselves through art. A particular stand out for me was how music was incorporated to help the kids express themselves.
Pearl Quintana, Program Term Leader, Holdsworth Community Centre
Administrative support can better prepare and assist teachers in bringing students to the Gallery and developing outreach opportunities. The support includes risk assessments, Art Sets, program details, sending teachers images of artists, organising/ordering appropriate materials, advising on building restrictions/facilities and generating program evaluations to ensure the program caters to the needs of students and teachers. The Gallery aims to increase professional development for teachers in the field. This has begun by introducing a Teachers Collective and inviting prominent teachers to advise and collaborate.
I have learnt so much from the educators at the Gallery, I feel that not only are my students benefiting, but it is like professional development for us teachers and I have certainly become a better art teacher as a result.
Margriet Shaw-Taylor, Teacher, St Edmund’s College