Artp l ay
Surround yourself with lucky charms in this weekly family playtime at the MCA
WHEN WE VISIT the Bella Room, tucked away inside the National Centre for Creative Learning at the Museum of Contemporary Art, a three-year-old child picks up a friendly-faced cushion and says “strawberry” – and we can see why. The anatomical heart cushion is painted eggplant purple with a Chinese symbol that looks like a cheeky face and a green leaf, like a beret, which makes it look botanical (and also a bit French). The heart is one of 11 cushion designs created by Melbourne artist Kate Beynon, who has filled the corner room with 600 colourful, squidgy shapes in a work called ‘Room of Lucky Charms’. “People bring their own associations to the room,” says Beynon. “It’s great how these symbols, which have personal significance to my artwork, generate discussion.” ‘Room of Lucky Charms’ is the sixth work to be commissioned for the Bella Room, which was created as part of the galler y’s commitment to being an accessible space for people with disabilities. It’s a work of art that is also for children and their families as part of the weekly Artplay sessions. Every Wednesday, kids under five kick off their shoes and pounce around on the soft sculptural artworks in a twohour drop-in session. We crash in on Siobhan’s tummy-time with her ten-month-old daughter: “It’s a sensory overload. It’s good to interact with all the mums, dads and grandparents, too,” she says. Jaya, who is a psychologist from Westleigh, is with her three year old and a friend’s one year old. “I’m a working mum, so when I have a week off I make the effort to have a city date. I like the way [Artplay is] unstructured and structured, so you’ve got storytime but also lots of tactile play.” Each of Beynon’s lucky charms was hand painted then digitally printed on cotton canvas by Next State and made into hundreds of pillows by the Social Studio – a non-profit organisation in Melbourne that employs refugees and new migrants. “They were able to replicate my samples beautifully, retaining the feel of the watercolours,” Beynon says. Sixteen larger cushions were made by Beynon, who sewed them at home and tested them on her 18-year-old son Rali for optimum stuffing feel and lounging comfort. As the artwork will be on display for 12 months it needs to take some serious cuddling.
Visitors, however small, can engage with the space in any way they choose. If you want to learn more about the Chinese characters painted on the back of the cushions there’s a key to the symbols on the wall outside the Bella Room. The art educators at the MCA worked with Beynon to expand on her designs, creating playful resources like felt cutouts that you can peel off and stick on the furniture, or Velcro shapes that you can rip off colourful cubes and spread all over the floor. There’s also a colouring-in sheet, stacking blocks, stamps, ribbons and rattles that all incorporate the theme of the Bella Room, but also of other artworks in the MCA.