Cultivating Creative Thinking
Young people explore, experience and engage with art and ideas at Art Gallery of NSW
1 June 2016
Behind the elegant 19th-century façade of the Art Gallery of New South Wales is a 21st-century art museum attracting young people and their teachers to the state’s most important visual arts resource, with an array of opportunities for students to explore, experience and engage with art and ideas – and think about their world in new ways.
As this year’s ARTEXPRESS closes, having again attracted record numbers of visitors to the showcasing of outstanding student artworks from the NSW HSC examination in Visual Arts, schools from across the city, greater Sydney and regional NSW continue into the Gallery to participate in new primary and secondary school programs.
Heather Whitely Robertson, Art Gallery of NSW head of learning and participation, said the Gallery’s new education programs are designed to cater for young people by cultivating their creative thinking, inspiring their curiosity and igniting their imagination.
“We support both the Australian curriculum that recognises critical and creative thinking as a key capability that will assist students to live and work successfully in the 21st Century, and the NSW curriculum that provides foundational learning in the visual arts from kindergarten onwards.
“One of the unique strengths of the Gallery’s new education programs is that they combine the experience, enthusiasm and vast institutional knowledge of our volunteer children’s guides with the innovative approaches of our artist educators who model for young people ways to think like an artist – that is, to be curious and ask questions; to be observant and to consider new ways of thinking with a creative lens,” Whitely Robertson said.
David Gonski, President of the Board of Trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, has long been a proponent of students being encouraged towards originality of thought.
“Everyone benefits when young people learn a true spirit of thinking and questioning. The Art Gallery of New South Wales is a key player in the creative learning space, offering innovative education programs that build on the Gallery’s longstanding and deserved reputation as a place that welcomes, and engages meaningfully with, young people,” Gonski said.
“Importantly, the Gallery’s education programs reflect the development of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) to STEAM which highlights the potential of arts education to inspire innovation,” Gonski added.
The Gallery’s new education programs, providing both free and paid sessions, were offered in Term 1 as a pilot program, allowing the Gallery to receive feedback from school educators and consult with its volunteer children’s guide body of 65, and its 15 artist educators.
“School educators have provided fantastic feedback and our guides and artist educators are really hitting their stride this term. The beauty of our programming is that the interaction between our guides, artists, students and their teachers has been designed to be holistic and enjoyable for everyone involved,” Whitely Robertson said.
The Gallery also works closely with teachers to provide professional learning programs, all endorsed by the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards NSW (BOSTES).
“Our annual Koori Art Teachers’ Day as a recent example saw a rich program of talks and workshops led by Indigenous artists, curators and educators for 70 public primary and secondary teachers from across the state,” Whitely Robertson said.
“So too our Art Pathways Program provides creative learning opportunities for students and teachers in Western Sydney specifically, allowing them greater access to the Gallery’s collection and resources, both at the Gallery and in classrooms,” Whitely Robertson added.
With a background in museum redevelopment projects in Australia and the UK and a focus on transforming visitor engagement experiences, Whitely Robertson is now working with Gallery staff towards the realisation of the Sydney Modern Project.
“The Gallery is at capacity for school visits, currently catering for between 90,000 and 100,000 school students annually. The Sydney Modern Project will allow the Gallery to welcome many more school students than that, offering new, expanded areas designed as vibrant, innovative spaces that will enhance the experience of young people at the Gallery.
“Art museums and galleries help us to explore the world, our cultural heritage, and our contemporary life. In the coming years I hope to see as many young people through the door of our much-loved 19th-century entrance as through the cultural plaza entrance of our new building,” Whitely Robertson said.
Heather Whitely Robertson available for interview on request.