As we approached the end of the pilot of Creative Baby! it became apparent to me that the offer for Early Years really needed to grow along with the rapidly expanding Early Years audience we’d attracted. The response to Creative Baby! had been overwhelmingly positive, however as many of the babies approached their first birthday, I was keen not to lose them: these Creative Babies needed something to graduate to, and so Exhibition Explorers was born.
Exhibition Explorers for 1 and 2 year olds begins next week. It’ll be different from Creative Baby! in many ways. Most strikingly, it is much more overt about its ambition to foster a cultural shift within families, and to encourage habitual museum and gallery-going. We look forward to welcoming some of the Creative Baby! families and meeting some new ones.
Tickets have sold out very quickly, and we’re looking forward to welcoming a cohort of sixteen 1 and 2 year olds to this project which will last for six months. During this time, relationships will be formed between the families and the Shipley Art Gallery. The sessions will be all about building families’ experiences of engaging with museums and galleries. At the Shipley they’ll join Claudia Knott – who delivered our previous project with under 4s from the local Orthodox Jewish community – on an exploratory journey. This will be about getting to know museums and galleries in general by creating collections and displays and engaging in activities relating to the exhibitions; and exploring the space itself, as we discover that radiators, steps, large open spaces, and gaps between display cases are all fascinating for young children to encounter. There’ll be a wide range of creative activities for families to enjoy together, and we hope over the six months they’ll become really at home at the Shipley.
Through Exhibition Explorers, we hope to build the parents’ repertoire of ways to engage their children in museums and galleries. Our aim is to help people recognise that they can enjoy a visit together whether or not they’re familiar with the subject matter of the exhibitions, and whether or not their child’s more interested in the space, the displays, or some other aspect of the visit.
This blog will become an important part of Exhibition Explorers too. Between each session at the Shipley, we’ll encourage the little explorers to embark on a Family Adventure to a cultural venue of their choice. With their special Explorer Pack they’ll record this experience as a scrapbook page to add to our special Exhibition Explorers Encyclopaedia. I’ll be blogging here about some of the places families discover, so the record of cultural experiences grows alongside the children and evolves into a resource for anyone to dip into for ideas of places to visit. At the sessions, the explorers will share recommendations and reviews. In addition, we’ll be pointing them towards the brilliant Family Explorers to access recommendations of cultural venues.
So watch this space for the adventures ahead, and check back to hear about the Family Adventures we discover: we’re very excited to get started!