Artp l ay

Sur­round your­self with lucky charms in this weekly fam­ily play­time at the MCA

Time Out (Sydney) - - THINGS TO DO - Emma Joyce

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.

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