HEIN, Jo (text) Victoria Collings (illus.) My Asian Art ISBN 9781741740943; My Australian Art ISBN 9781741740936; My World Art ISBN 9781741740950 Art Gallery of NSW, 2014 unpaged $22.95
Gone are the days of stuffy art galleries and museums with unfriendly wall text or dusty uninspiring exhibits. We now know there is a whole psychology behind visitor experience and behavior. For these institutions to exist in a meaningful context in the 21st century they must appeal to their public in a different way from the past. Public art galleries and museums are now mindful of providing this meaningful experience for all ages through a variety of activities and media; interactive programs and workshops for children, lectures, tour guides along with well presented and thoughtful interpretive wall/text panels and websites.
It is not surprising then that the Art Gallery of NSW has produced a series of children’s books, exploring such genres as World, Asian and Australian Art, that applies this knowledge. Drawing from their research into visitor experience along with a knowledge of good pedagogical processes, these books aim to inspire the young reader/budding artist to become involved in the creation of an artwork along with the opportunity to discover more about art past and present.
These beautifully produced books are a child-friendly size: Their lovely hardcovers with cloth spines are pleasing to look at and to hold. Each book has a short introductory page explaining its focus followed by a brief investigation of a theme – ‘circle’, ‘colour,’ ‘divine’ or ‘delicious’ – drawing on particular artworks as examples. The child is then invited to make their own image on the following page, inspired by the artist’s work. Each book finishes with a website leading to the gallery of NSW’s collection and a series of brief questions to help the child explore areas of interest in greater depth. The notion of a ‘collection’ is also explained, providing a context to the artworks as part of something greater.
In an age of ‘bites’ of information and our growing knowledge of meaningful learning experiences, these small books tick all the right boxes to encourage and inspire young minds into the wonderful world of art. Highly recommended, 5-10 years. Meredith Capp