Our Connection with Places

Sep 26, 2021

During the CoVid-19 pandemic, our homes have at times become our world. Whether by choice or, more likely, restrictions we have become more acutely aware of how our place looks and feels, and the facilities it offers us when we can barely go anywhere else. This connection with Place may give a sense of sanctuary, but can also become strained when the choice to leave is taken away.

However, for many this has been an opportunity to improve, renovate and extend what we have. For some, it has been a time of re-evaluating where we live. Being close to family or cut-off from family can make a world of difference.

If you ask your kids where they feel happiest or safest, what might be their answer? Probably, home with family. Home is usually where the heart is, where we are surrounded by those we love. This grounds us and connects us with a place. To hold on to these experiences, we often take photos. Children record their memories and feelings by drawing. Let’s consider some of those opportunities for art activities. 

Geography - what does a place look like? 

In education, we study the nature of places and the relationships people and societies have with these physical environments. Geography considers both physical and human elements of places. Why do we live in a certain place? Invariably this has been influenced by our parents’ cultural background, their employment circumstances, then our own work situation. It could be in a densely-populated city; a large, sprawling, rural town; a quaint, historic village; a community hub based on shared values and beliefs; a crop, sheep or hobby farm; maybe an isolated station or ranch. Whatever the setting or location, there are so many variations on what the house can look like. This will be influenced by the lay of the land, climate, vegetation and resources available in that place. Then what is feasible, affordable, desirable and practical to use in its construction.

Opportunities for Art Activities

  • Painting scenes and landscapes
  • Drawing urban or rural settings
  • Designing gardens and nature play areas
  • Investigating how contour maps work
  • Creating diagrams of land features 

Architecture - how is my home structured? 

If drawing houses becomes a passion, architecture can be a field of study to develop these skills. This is the only other career I considered when still at school, besides teaching. I think it started when I was little: creating cubby houses; constructing miniature buildings from cardboard, wood, Lego or whatever I could find; then, later, sketching my dream home, beach house or granny flat. When the technology became available, my digital design layouts could then become 3D plans that I could virtually walk through.

Artventure has many lessons that can help children draw houses - some like their own but others from different eras, cultures and geographical locations. For older students, Art Eye Deer has more advanced lessons for creating artworks of varying architectural designs but also examples of artistic and abstract representations with a technical flair.

Opportunities for Art Activities

  • Painting homes of people we know
  • Drawing a street of different housing
  • Designing a backyard cubby house
  • Drafting plans for a house layout

Our Place - how is this different from others? 

For young children the focus is on their personal world - their own home, their yard, their belongings; and places they visit regularly. Gradually there is a shift to community spaces, resources and people who help and look after us - beyond family. Comparing our own communities with close neighbours, then more distant cultures and countries expands and enriches our awareness, understanding and appreciation of where we are and what we have. This includes developing insights into the diversity of communities including the Country/Places of First Nations Peoples. How have the First Nations Peoples used drawings and art to share their connections with Country?

As students’ thinking evolves, they are encouraged to inquire into sustainability and conservation of their own environments and those of other places around the world. They develop a more global awareness while maintaining a connection to the local relevance of issues and concepts.

Opportunities for Art Activities

  • Drawing diverse houses from other countries and cultures
  • Designing a sustainable house
  • Researching house designs through the ages 

Holidays - what places do I like to visit? 

Then there are places we’d like to be, but perhaps not live. This could be to see family, to have a holiday or just to explore. If family-related, the places we visit may well be similar to our own home.

However, holidays are often a chance to stay in a place that is different from our home. If we live on the coast, we may like to explore the inland, the outback, the mountains, the rivers and lakes. The focus of these places is more about the natural environment rather than the buildings or accommodation.

Having said that, there are many choices for where we might sleep and eat. Perhaps the temporary home is a tent, a caravan, a cabin, a rental house, a hotel or motel, or a resort. The choices we make could well be based on what our home doesn’t offer. A chance to try something different. A change can be as good as a holiday.

The activities available for the kids at the holiday destination can also influence decisions. Are there rock pools or bushlands to explore? Are there walking, hiking or biking trails? Ski slopes, a swimming pool, a playground… What facilities are there for adults as well…?

Opportunities for Art Activities

  • Creating maps from one place to another
  • Painting favourite destinations
  • Drawing a family holiday ‘home’
  • Sketching holiday activities 

Resources - where do I need to go?

 It could be through necessity that we go to another place: to get food, shelter, medical aids, clothing, education… Or we may need to see a professional like a doctor, a dentist, a hairdresser… There are places and buildings set up to accommodate these people and resources: hospitals, supermarkets, salons, schools… Adults ‘go to work’ - children can think about all these ‘offices’ and how they are similar or different. What do people need in their ‘workplace’?

How do all these work environments differ from culture to culture, from country to country, from the past to now? There are many choices to be made even when the home place is the same. For example, parents who are homeschooling have similar and different needs to teachers setting up a formal classroom for 30 students. Doctors attending to children on remote cattle stations may use the Royal Flying Doctor service travelling hundreds of kilometres to provide medical help. Businesses growing and processing our food have adjusted as technologies have changed, streamlining production.

Opportunities for Art Activities

  • Drawing local businesses or work environments
  • Painting community workers in situ
  • Designing a town plan that suits our own needs 

Borders and Boundaries - what places can’t I go? 

We put walls around our private spaces, fences around our properties, and then gates and doors to allow movement in and out. These enclosures may be to protect what we see as ours (buildings, materials, our gardens, our people) from accidental or intentional damage. Defining boundaries can serve many purposes not the least being a sense of ownership. Sharing, and who with, is an evolving attitude affecting behaviour: trickiest as a two year old? We have a sense of personal space and how comfortable we are with people stepping into this. We learn to share our belongings, our homes, our resources and our country. How do we feel about this and why might we think like that?

We see signs saying NO ENTRY, Trespassers will be prosecuted, PRIVATE, KEEP OUT… With the effects of the CoVid-19, there are even more restrictions. At times people cannot leave their own home, cross borders or visit other countries. Our connection to Place has changed. How has this affected relationships with family and friends? Personal space has a new meaning: keeping at least 1.5m apart. Hugging and kissing can be dangerous! How do we access places that provide our basic needs? Crowded, shared transport can be a health hazard. How have our travel plans been affected? Our attention has been turned to exploring our own ‘backyard’: destinations within the limits of the set boundaries, not venturing too far in case there are sudden lockdowns which would prevent us from getting back to our own place, our home.

Being restricted to our own property, we are doing more for ourselves - or trying to: growing veggies; creating exercise spaces and facilities; reusing, recycling and revisiting things we already have. Homeschooling is not just a choice but a necessity, at times, for all families. Drawing on our creative skills can be useful but also therapeutic. Devising a project or focus can help shift our attention.

Opportunities for Art Activities

  • Investigating why we have fences and the different purposes/styles
  • Drawing diverse door and gate designs - decorating our own
  • Planning how each room could represent a place in the community
  • Sketching plants and animals sharing our home space
  • Designing in-house orienteering or obstacle courses 

Virtual places - where can I go without leaving my place? 

Sadly, many people and families are separated and isolated due to CoVid-19. However, we are fortunate in this day and age to be able to connect our places through digital technologies. Without leaving our places we can ‘see’ and talk to family and friends in the next room, the next town, the next state or a country on the other side of the world.

The World Wide Web has become essential. Food and clothing can be ordered online. Many of us can now work from home connecting remotely to the ‘office’ and using the likes of Zoom to meet with colleagues. Telehealth allows us to access medical support from home. Accessing education and activities through the Internet has become the norm. Artventure lessons are even more popular now as parents and teachers look to engage their children and students in creativity and art while confined to home.

Opportunities for Art Activities

  • Accessing Artventure for lessons or just for fun searching for ideas relating to Place
  • Video calling a friend and challenge each other to draw favourite places or one of the suggestions from above 

Drawing on our connection to Place 

When talking about Places with your kids, whether they are your own children or your students, there are many opportunities for creating drawings, sketches, designs, diagrams, and pictorial representations. Because how, when and why we move between spaces has changed with the pandemic, children can feel disconnected or restrained or disorientated. Being able to discuss what ‘home’ is, how this can change, and what we can do about new situations or uses of places can help alleviate some anxieties. Life is a journey from one place in time to the next and our choice is what we do about this. Immersing ourselves in art activities is a good choice: soothing, calming and fulfilling as we engage our creativity.

Teacher and Artventure Blogger