Mak­ing gallery-go­ing child’s play

Sarah Un­win Jones shares her tips on where to take your mini-crit­ics

The Herald - Arts - - VISUAL ART - Ed­in­burgh Art Fes­ti­val: Art Early/Chil­drens events run un­til Au­gust 28. The Ed­in­burgh Art Fes­ti­val Kiosk is at 2 Blair Street. www. ed­in­burghart­fes­ti­val.com

TAK­ING very young chil­dren to art gal­leries can be a lit­tle bit tricky. The amount of art you see is di­rectly de­pen­dant on your choice of show, but in my ex­pe­ri­ence, you can never sec­ond guess what the kids are go­ing to like un­less it in­volves run­ning around chas­ing each other and eat­ing cake. Very few art gal­leries smile on this com­bi­na­tion, par­tic­u­larly if the works aren’t nailed, very high up, to the wall.

One of the gal­leries my minia­ture art critic will gladly romp around is the Fruit­mar­ket, per­haps be­cause of early mem­o­ries of Jim Lam­bie’s Zobop a few years ago, in which the en­tire floor was cov­ered in multi-coloured tape. An ex­hi­bi­tion in which it was OK, pos­i­tively en­cour­aged even, to crawl across the floor. He’s also good with In­ver­leith House, but that’s prob­a­bly be­cause they told him there’s a choco­late fac­tory in the base­ment.

The Ed­in­burgh Art Fes­ti­val, along with many in­di­vid­ual gal­leries like the Fruit­mar­ket (which pro­vides ex­cel­lent draw­ing sheets and clip­boards for chil­dren to take round each of their ex­hi­bi­tions), are keen to get young peo­ple into gal­leries to ex­pe­ri­ence art.

In this vein, the for­mer have this year started their free Art Early scheme, the day­time counter to their Art Late tours for adults. Keen to see what the fes­ti­val had to of­fer, my troop of mini crit­ics joined a two hour “mys­tery” tour start­ing at the Fruit­mar­ket, which pig­gy­backed on the gallery’s Lit­er­ary Lit­tles group for the first ac­tiv­ity of the tour.

The Fruit­mar­ket is cur­rently show­ing Damian Ortega’s thought­ful ce­ram­ics, re­viewed on this page a few weeks ago. Ce­ram­ics and chil­dren may seem a ter­ri­fy­ing match, but if you can keep small hands from pick­ing up the floor­bound ob­jects, this ex­hi­bi­tion, with its sus­pended, moulded and play­ful pieces should be a hit with kids.

The day starts with a book read­ing – Miroslav Sasek’s clas­sic This is Ed­in­burgh – and then the kids are en­cour­aged to take as much plas­ticine as they wish and sculpt an Ed­in­burgh mon­u­ment.

wMuch free-wran­gling of plas­ticine re­sults in some im­pres­sive de­pic­tions of the Forth Rail Bridge, the Daz­zle Ship and “the rocks around a wa­ter­fall by a lake” (clearly a free thinker), and then we set off on foot for Dove­cot and the Scot­tish En­dark­en­ment ex­hi­bi­tion, where the chil­dren sit and draw moon­scapes in­spired by Jock McFadyen’s Cal­ton Hill (2014) with its vast moon.

Much ex­cite­ment, too, as UV torches are handed out and the chil­dren search for se­cret code mes­sages hid­den around the gallery. The kids con­cen­trate on the hunt, but at times you hear them notic­ing the art, too, not least a jolt as a cou­ple of them spot Kerry Stew­art’s “The only so­lu­tion was to…”, a life-size fac­sim­ile baby in a car seat placed on the floor as if some­one has left it there. “I thought it was real!” one boy says, and he grins, re­lieved.

It’s just a short walk to Tal­bot Rice Gallery, where a ret­ro­spec­tive of Alice Neel (re­viewed be­low) is show­ing. Amongst the bright painted por­traits, the kids gather with their par­ents to draw each other, hold­ing up card­board frames to see what should go in­side their pic­ture. There is a ques­tion­naire, too, which cer­tainly en­gages the older chil­dren in look­ing specif­i­cally and in de­tail at the pow­er­ful gaze and pos­ture of Neel’s por­traits. But my three year old has had enough by then, and so we pick up the tasty pic­nic pro­vided and go out­side to the uni­ver­sity’s Old Col­lege Quad for lunch – or, as it tran­spires, run­ning around and eat­ing cake.

There are other, of­ten free, events for chil­dren go­ing on in the Art Fes­ti­val else­where, too, and the Kiosk on Blair Street is the best place to find out more. Near to Ciara Philips’ won­der­ful Daz­zle Ship in Leith is the Daz­zle Ship hub at Ocean Ter­mi­nal, where chil­dren can go and make all things daz­z­ley. The City Art Cen­tre is run­ning a wa­ter­colour land­scape work­shop for fam­i­lies on 27th Aug (2-4pm).

Or you could head to the Scot­tish Na­tional Gallery of Mod­ern Art for the rather in­trigu­ing-sound­ing Sur­real Sto­ry­telling (28th Aug, 2-4pm) for sto­ries and a “fun and in­ter­ac­tive” tour of the show. Or sim­ply go for a slide in the sur­real ad­ven­ture play­ground out­side.

Ginny and El­iz­a­beth is part of the Alice Neel ret­ro­spec­tive at the Tal­bot Rice Gallery. Pic­ture: cour­tesy of the es­tate of Alice Neel and Vic­to­ria Miro

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