June 11, 2021
Arts & Culture

Freedom of expression: Creative activities for children

Nurturing artistic creativity in young people has never been more important, and South Australia offers some exciting ways to get started.

Adelaide Youth Theatre performers on stage.

Theatre Bugs
Theatre Bugs began in 1998 and quickly became an Adelaide institution for young performers. It was started by Joni Combe – daughter of legendary SA performer, Peter – as Joni’s Theatre Bugs. Two decades after its inception, she sold to Michael Eustice, while staying on as the company’s first patron.

To this day, the company remains a place for young people to enhance theatrical stills, without a sense of competition. “It’s purely for fun, but they’re still learning, gaining and growing as performers and people,” says production manager and teacher Kaitlyn McKenzie.

“There’s a real emphasis on it being a space where everyone feels comfortable to be as brave or as shy as they want to be, while having fun doing it.”

Only the group’s most senior classes require an audition, while the rest are open to everyone within the age groups, which begin at just three months old.

Kaitlyn says learning to perform isn’t just about an intent to be a performer, it’s about gaining so many other life skills and encouraging inclusivity.

“It’s important to embrace their differences and allow them to be free and open to be themselves and allow it to be a safe space. They’re encouraged to be who they want to be.”

Theatre Bugs – for the youngest of performers and the more advanced.
Neo at the Art Gallery of South Australia.

Art Gallery of South Australia
There could be no better place in the state to nurture a love for visual arts than the Art Gallery of South Australia. Their youth program, Start at the Gallery, caters for children aged three to 12. The gallery hosts art activities, tours, performances and live entertainment on the first Sunday of each month from 11am until 3pm. The events are themed to fit current exhibitions and the general collection. Children can join the Start Art Club, with a range of benefits throughout the year. The gallery has also curated a range of at-home activities that can be found online.

For a slightly older audience, Neo is the gallery’s program for teens, featuring a combination of art and entertainment. The program provides teens with a social space, led by music and art activities and is aimed at enriching the next generation of artists, leaders and thinkers. Young people are encouraged to help deliver the events through the Neo Ambassador Committee. The events are held six times a year, welcoming young people aged 13 to 17.

For families in the Adelaide Hills, Deb Twining has been a go-to art teacher for six years, after being persuaded to teach children out of the Hahndorf Academy, where she also has a permanent studio space. Deb teaches children aged five to late teens, and began with 20 students a week, growing to her current intake of 70 students over seven classes, in addition to several private lessons.

“I love my arts practice and find introducing kids to the varied ways of viewing and reflecting the world around us through the arts extremely rewarding,” Deb says.

“As an artist, you are an inventor, a problem solver, a philosopher and a storyteller. You give the world depth and art can be the voice for all things that are not often spoken.”

Deb says her teaching isn’t about producing students who emulate her work, but rather find their own ideas and aesthetic. “I always tell them that there is no such thing as a mistake, it’s just a different way to doing something. In fact, what one person may see as a failure is often something exciting and new.

“I love it when kids take risks in making art, it helps us see the world with fresh eyes. Kids are much better at doing this than adults.”

Getting crafty at Something on Saturday.

The Adelaide Festival Centre offers a range of workshops for young people of all ages, across music, theatre and dance. Their CentreED program provides workshops and masterclasses for mostly high school students, while the OnStage program provides introductions to voice, musical theatre, and theatre and dance for eight to 11-year-olds during each school holidays.

Keep an eye out for this year’s Something On Saturday program, which offers fun activities, including hands-on crafts.

Class of Cabaret
The Adelaide Festival Centre’s Class of Cabaret began more than 10 years ago, providing an opportunity for secondary students to develop their cabaret performance skills under a team of expert cabaret mentors and professional artists. The program is made up of masterclasses, workshops and a bootcamp, culminating in two ticketed public performances.

This year’s Class of Cabaret, which is run by the Adelaide Festival Centre, is under the artistic directorship of actor, director, producer and writer Alan Cumming.

Adelaide Guitar Festival Winter School.

Adelaide Guitar Festival
For aspiring guitarists, Adelaide Guitar Festival’s Winter School and regional workshops provide opportunities to learn from some of the country’s best guitar players. The week-long programs cater to the classical (July 5 to 9) and blues and roots (July 12 to 16).

Carclew has a great reputation for supporting the early years of artists and arts workers who go on to become creative leaders in South Australia and interstate. Emerging artists aged 18 to 26 are able to access funding, mentored employment and performance and exhibition experience through Carclew.

Sharehouse is Carclew’s annual residency program and over this year, eight practitioners will have the time, space and support to explore and develop their creative practice. The 2021 residents include writers, filmmakers, artists, curators and dancers.

Carclew also runs the Music at Work program for high school students, which offers anything from one-on-one songwriting sessions to a semester-long learning project, culminating in a live student-led event. Carclew’s Music at Work pilot kickstarted the development of a First Nations led music and creative industries initiative BLKMPIRE.

Chief executive of Carclew, Tricia Walton says creativity is as important for everyone as exploring sport and the outdoors. “Our job is to facilitate creative ambitions of children and young people, recognising both their interests and barriers,” Tricia says. “Many we work with become young adults who aspire to creative careers and we then support them to establish those careers.”

Carclew Sharehouse 2021 residents.

Writers SA
Writers SA’s Teen Writers Club is for creative teens of high school age to come together to write, to imagine, and to motivate and help each other. The current group are working on plays, movies, literature and comics, and are being guided by Dan Thorsland from Flinders University.

Dan’s approach draws on his background in games development and comics, in different storytelling methods across platforms. The group meets every Saturday during the term at The City of Adelaide’s City Library, just off Rundle Mall.

Writers SA also runs free or low-cost workshops through the City of Campbelltown, the City of Charles Sturt and soon the City of Port Adelaide Enfield.

Adelaide Youth Theatre performers on stage.

Adelaide Youth Theatre
Started in 2010 by dance teacher and choreographer Kerreane Sarti and vocal coach Emma Riggs, Adelaide Youth Theatre has produced more than 30 musicals, using community venues and thousands of young singers, dancers and actors.

A few years after its inception, the company realised the senior performers had a desire to be part of the production team, so they now train teenage directors, choreographers and musical directors.

Over the years, the company has worked on productions such as Wicked, Hairspray, Grease and Les Miserables. They’ve also performed SA premieres of The Little Mermaid, Shrek and the upcoming Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The young people involved in AYT have toured internationally, performing in Disney World Florida, LA, Hong Kong, Paris, and in LA and London.

Calling action on AFF Youth.

AFF Youth
Budding South Australian filmmakers this year have access to the Adelaide Film Festival’s program for young people – AFF Youth. The program features an online masterclass in filmmaking for students, virtual reality and gaming elements, industry networking for teachers, meet the screen-maker opportunities for students and screenings of feature films, documentaries, short films and other screen content.

CEO and creative director of the AFF, Mat Kesting says the program is a critical element of the festival, both for the development of young South Australians’ skills and knowledge, and developing local screen culture.

“There are now so many rewarding careers in the creative and screen industries and there is a growing screen industry right here in South Australia,” Mat says.

“AFF Youth aims to highlight pathways into the screen sector for young people wanting to start out.

“In an age where screens are ubiquitous, it is imperative that our young people understand how to critically appraise screen works – including films, virtual reality and gaming.”


This story first appeared in the April 2021 issue of SALIFE magazine. 


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