Monday, May 27, 2013

Art Garden 2013 at SAM at 8Q

Two years ago, after we went to Art Garden 2011, I (and Richard) wrote a scathing post about how it did not live up to its proclaimed intention to be "interactive" and children-centric. An anonymous reader described my post as a "damn bitchy entry" and said that I should have tried to "explain to my offspring the point of it". I was so pleased to see that comment! It highlighted exactly the point of what my post was about - that the children's experience was limited to standing in front of the exhibits while their parents explained the exhibits to them. That was all they could do.

I brought Ryan to the exhibition in 2011 because it touted itself as being "interactive". My idea of "interacting" with the exhibit was something more than my son nodding his head while I espoused the values of art and creative technique. In addition, my "offspring" was two years old and would not have taken kindly to me going on and on about the artist's vision and intention, motives and message. Let's not even harbour hope of my son entering in dialogue about the exhibits - he had yet to string a sentence together at that time.

We had just returned from USA where we'd visited a children's museum, where all the exhibits were interactive. Ryan thoroughly enjoyed himself there. In contrast, the exhibits at Art Garden 2011 did not engage him. They did not even interest him. I would not have been honest if I had minced my words when I reviewed the exhibition. It was so far from what it should have and could have achieved. I was frustrated and annoyed - the artists could have been more sensitive to their target audience and I felt as if they didn't bother to do any research on children's museums or children's art.

Art for children, especially very young children, needs to be interactive, accessible, tangible and tactile. In those areas, Art Garden 2011 scored zero for most of its exhibits. In addition, I felt that there was little understanding of how children learn and experience things. I do know *a little* about early childhood education so I'm not talking out of my arse.

This year's Art Garden? Without a doubt - TWO THUMBS UP! I wholeheartedly recommend that you bring your little ones there. If you attended Art Garden 2011 and you also thought that my post was "damn bitchy" and "unappreciative", please, please go to Art Garden 2013. You will understand exactly what I meant when I wrote that 2011 post. It's only when you know the standards that can be attained that you will realise how far short Art Garden 2011 fell and how much improvement could be made. And Art Garden 2013 is indeed a vast improvement.

Ironically, there is no mention of the exhibition being "interactive". Yet it absolutely is. And the children love it! In stark contrast to two years ago, all of the exhibits in Art Garden 2013 are touchable, feel-able and absolutely accessible. There is nothing to explain - the children get it straightaway. The evidence is right before your eyes - the children are engaged, keen and happy.

I won't go into the details of the exhibits here because you can read about all that on the website. I'm just recording our visit and sharing with you how happy Ryan was. You can compare the photos we took at the 2011 exhibition and see the difference! In 2011, he asked to be carried through the exhibition. Here, you can see him playing, touching and being absolutely engaged. Brilliant.

Ryan's drawing being screened on the Mirror Mirror on the Wall.
There was plenty of opportunity for the children to make their own art. Unlike in 2011 where they were given paper fruit to fold (which could only realistically be accomplished by older children and adults), this time, the art was accessible to all. Ryan came away with a kaleidoscope and a mask, both of which he proudly made himself.

We bumped into one of Ryan's classmates at this station, where the children were colouring and making kaleidoscopes.

All of us had a great time. Although geared towards children, adults aren't left out. The experiences will appeal to people of all ages. I found myself eager and looking forward to the next station. Ryan was very keen - he would excitedly call out, "Let's go over here!" when we approached a new station.

This was an interesting room - the sound room. You speak into the microphone and the graphics on the walls change according to the changes in the tone and pitch of your voice. Cool stuff. Ryan danced around the room and then gamely went up to the microphone and sang a song. He was intrigued and amazed at the moving and changing graphics and patterns on the walls.

So, I have all praise for this year's Art Garden. The students at Republic Polytechnic did an outstanding job. Great show - thoughtful and simple, unpretentious and educational, inclusive and respectful, and fun, fun, fun. Do attend if you can!

The exhibition is on till 1 September 2013. Admission is free for Singaporeans, PRs, senior citizens, full time NSFs, local students and teachers, as well as all children 6 and under. Visitors can also enjoy free entry every Friday from 6pm – 9pm and on Open House days.


Anonymous said...

2010 and 2011 and I was not all that impressed. I am (after looking at the pictures and various bloggers accounts) keen to go this year. It looks fun fun fun!

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