Creativity, kids and 750 free events: The unique Irish initiative that’s the first of its kind
Fine art and children are two things that usually don’t mix. When we think of historic art galleries across Europe, we don’t automatically picture tiny tots running around inside. The works of Renoir and sticky fingers don’t mix, after all.
For centuries, the art world has been dismissive of children and their importance but some innovative initiatives are trying to rectify the situation.
Take the Creative Ireland Programme, for example. The organisation’s mission is to ensure that every person in Ireland will have the opportunity to reach their full creative potential. But they’re not just focusing on adults; they’re putting children at the forefront with their Cruinniú na nÓg initiative.
750 free events across Ireland
Cruinniú na nÓg is a day of free creative activities for children and young people that takes place on Saturday, June 15. There will be over 750 events taking place nationwide. Ireland is the only country to have a national day of free creativity for younger people so it’s breaking new ground in this area.
The Ark, a cultural centre for children based in Dublin’s Temple Bar, will be holding numerous different events to celebrate. Their festival entitled ‘Right Here, Right Now’ will include baby raves, a rally and various different theatrical performances.
One of the highlights will be ‘Put Yourself in the Picture’, an exhibition of 146 portraits of children created by some of Ireland’s biggest artist names like PJ Lynch, Blaise Smith, Vera Klute and Alison Pilkington.
"For us, that’s a big deal because it’s very rare that you would go to an exhibition that is entirely dedicated to children," explains The Ark’s director, Aideen Howard.
"The fact that such major Irish artists have drawn these portraits of children is a really nice way to make children visible, in our city but also in visual art practice. We want to give children a platform to really be heard, which is a really big deal for us.
"For years children have not been at the forefront of artistic consideration" explains Howard. "For us, it's really important that good quality work for children exists. It’s arguably even more important than work for adults because it’s happening at a time when children are still growing and developing."
Getting children involved in creativity from a young age has a whole host of benefits from wellbeing to development. That’s what Cruinniú na nÓg and the Creative Ireland Programme is all about.
"All of the studies are telling us that art and cultural participation is a huge benefit to children in the here and now but also in the future,” she adds.
"Often, we think of children as the future generation when in fact, we should be concerned about children as equal at this moment. Their experiences now are as important as their futures."
Art should not be a luxury
According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, all children should have the opportunity to express themselves creatively, regardless of their religion, background or location. As a result, accessibility was a key factor when organising the event.
"We think that participation in arts and culture is not a luxury but an essential part of every child’s development" explains Howard. "It’s a really lovely way for them to be able to express themselves and to develop, grow and learn. For us, the whole idea of a national day of creativity is a really welcome development."
Cruinniú na nÓg will be held all over the country, thanks to local authority Creative Ireland Culture Teams who have curated special programmes of events for their local communities.
"It’s all about fostering creativity where you are and enforcing the idea that you don’t need to travel to find art or culture. You can do things on your own doorstep and that is an incredibly important message. It puts a value on the local just as much as the national."
Fortunately, all the events at Cruinniú na nÓg are completely free of charge although you may need to book an online ticket in some instances. Howard believes that having free events is a key component in making art accessible to all.
"You can’t deliver children’s rights to art and culture unless you make everything available to everybody and the way that you do that is to remove the obstacle of a ticket price."
This is only the second year of the initiative but it is already a huge event. It is led by local Creative Ireland Programme teams across 31 local authorities, with support from local artists, arts organisations, creative practitioners and community festivals.
Director of the Creative Ireland Programme, Tania Banotti, points out the importance of this festival to the organisation’s wider goals and ambitions.
"Cruinniú na nÓg is a flagship initiative of the Creative Ireland Programme’s work to enable the creative potential of every child and young person,” she says. “Supporting participation in creative activities is vital for children’s development and wellbeing as they face new situations and challenges throughout their lives.
"It is part of a wider Creative Ireland Programme that provides opportunities for children to participate in creative activities both within and outside the formal education system through initiatives such as Creative Schools, the national rollout of Music Generation and the development of a network of local creative youth partnerships."
Cruinniú na nÓg is happening on Saturday, June 15, with over 750 FREE events happening all over Ireland. #Cruinniutocreate
To find an event near you, check out the Cruinniú na nÓg website.