Involving kids in large/group artworks

Oct 08, 2018
Artworks by Kirsty Shadiac

Involving kids or groups of people in artworks can bring communities together and give children a sense of being part of something 'bigger' than themselves. It's one of my favourite things to do: get participants to create their own drawings or paintings and then bring them together to create a larger work. Here are my top 7 artwork collaborations, murals or public works.

1. Follow the River Brick Road

This is the largest painting I've ever done; it's a 100 metre long walkway mural at a school north of Adelaide. The aim is to guide guests at the school along a winding river to the Early Learning Centre and Fish Farm. There are four sections which represent the seasons (summer, autumn, winter, spring) and the banks of the river contain images from children within the school, the theme being 'Hope, History, or Happiness'. To acknowledge and respect the land on which we are currently working, there are images of aboriginal canoes along the river with footprints and camping grounds on the shoreline. If you'd like more images, check Instagram hashtag #hfcsmural2018

2. Bottle Top Kindness Tree

We are also creating a bottle top mural called the 'Kindness Tree' at a local school. This is a time consuming but enjoyable process where families have collected bottle tops for us, the Year 7 students have sorted them and now we're bringing them together onto the tree design. I didn't want a mural where the bottle tops would fall off if we stuck them on with glue and I didn't want to hammer nails into a board which was then going to be too heavy to mount. So I've purchased a plastic mesh and UV resistant black cable ties to thread each bottle top (after it's had two holes hammered into it). It's still a work in progress so if you'd like more details check out the Instagram hashtag #epsmural2018

3. Fishing with kids

For my dad's 60th birthday, we wanted to do something special. We decided to get the kids involved and create an artwork with 2 fish, as he'd recently moved to the beach. We put paint on the kids' fingers and they created the fish scales for us! This painting hangs proudly in my dad's house and the kids love telling the story of how they painted the scales for their Papa.

4. Favourite things

This would have to be my favourite piece. It was a major fundraiser for the Starlight Children's Foundation as part of their 5 Chefs event in South Australia. This entire piece was created within the Women's and Children's Hospital. First I painted two kids dressed up in fairy and bee costumes, then I ripped the whole artwork up! Over months we took small pieces of paper around to children in wards for them to draw their 'favourite thing'. Finally, we brought it all together and framed it for auction. Lots of photos of this project can be seen on Instagram using this tag #starlightartistinresidence

5. Captains Starlight!

While we're talking about the Starlight Children's Foundation, here's a project I did with all of the Captains from around Australia! This artwork depicts the Captains taking off from Earth (from the kids' hospital) to venture back to their homeland: Planet Starlight. If you look closely, the artwork is full of tiny individual artworks created by the Captains Starlight. I had the best time creating this artwork with such an amazing group of people. I believe this artwork still hangs in the Starlight Foundations' Head Office, what an honour.

6. Happiness Tree

I must enjoy creating trees, because here's another! At another school in South Australia, I worked with a group of children over 2 terms. We used various canvases to create this tree full of artworks: it still hangs proudly within the school. View the video below (which was created for the students in the school) to see how it all came together.

7. Prince of Wales Hospital

Years ago, when I was living and working in Sydney, I was asked to facilitate the creation of a very large mural in the Radiation ward at the Prince of Wales Hospital (Randwick). Children from the adjoining Sydney Children's Hospital (where I was volunteering at the time in the Oncology ward) would go for radiation treatment and stare at a very large blank wall. I designed and drew the underwater landscape on the enormous wall and with the help of volunteers from UNSW Rotaract, the scene was painted and brought to life. It was a wonderful experience and I hope that many people have enjoyed looking at the not-so-dull-anymore wall!

There are many ways you can incorporate your family, friends or community into an artwork. The process can be thoroughly enjoyable and hopefully the results will be there to make you smile for many years to come.