Why a Gallery for Children’s Art?

 Article published in Pedagogy+ Magazine Issue 04 Sept/Oct 2018

The Gallery of Children’s Art (GoCA) is Australia’s first public gallery dedicated to developing and presenting curated exhibitions of children’s art and associated programs.

GoCA values and respects the voice, ideas and creativity of children, and their right to contribute to the cultural life of our community. The gallery is a long overdue validation of children’s creative agency, and recognition of young people as active cultural participants.

Adult work by Gordon Bennett. Photo Carl Warner.

The way we respond to the products of children’s creative expression is inseparable from a long history of social marginalisation. After thousands of years of human development, it wasn’t until the early 20th Century, with pioneering figures like Piaget and Freud, that a clear understanding of childhood development began to emerge. The insight that the very notion of a child is determined by history and culture is relatively very recent. The broad acceptance that childhood experiences significantly effect adult behaviour is relatively new. As a consequence, the instrumental notion persists that the value of childhood art can’t be intrinsically good, but good only for helping form a good adult.

So even today children are rarely granted the status of cultural producers and decision makers. And in so-called progressive democratic societies, we often still struggle to see children as fully human, with needs and rights as valid as adults’.

In the art world, institutions often relegate children to the periphery. Even galleries with children’s programming position young children primarily as learners, and separate from adult’s experiences. When they’re not ignoring them, museums are “othering children with child-friendliness”. Not to mention a stubborn denial of their role as artists, which of course has a lot to do with what can and can't be commodified for the art market.

GoCA accepts that children’s ideas and voices are valid, and that the products of their creative expression are as worthy of public display, discussion, and research as adult artists.

Childhood and adult work by Patricia Piccinini, and her son Hector Hennessy. Photo Carl Warner.

The first stage of the project presents the inaugural exhibition, Starting Young, a world first, showing an artist’s work from their childhood and contemporary practices side by side. It features leading Australian artists Patricia Piccinini, Judy Watson, Ross Manning, Luke Roberts, Vernon Ah Kee, Madonna Staunton and Gordon Bennett.

It demonstrates directly and convincingly that artists don’t merely emerge after graduation from Art College, but instead usually begin as children with a practice that evolves over a lifetime. And the fact that something similar hasn’t been done before (to our knowledge) is revealing in of itself.

Childhood and adult work by Vernon Ah Kee. Photo Carl Warner.

GoCA has been established by a group of passionate, like-minded individuals who recognise children as legitimate artists who bring a unique perspective on the world. The GoCA exhibition and public program is being developed and delivered by a curatorial team guided by Dr Barbara Piscitelli AM, focusing on diversity of art by children in early and middle childhood, and art by children in public and private collections (internationally, nationally and locally). In this first stage GoCA is relying on public donations and volunteers for support. To contribute to Australia’s first gallery of children’s art, go to galleryofchildrensart.org.au


Jason Grant

GoCA Director and Curatorial Group Member