Big Arts Day Out 2014

Image: two students explore the lolly-covered witch costume.

Garry Stinchcombe summarises yet another wonderful Support Skills Big Day Out, held in the city on 20th June 2014 (with photos by Deb Davidson).

On the second last Friday of Term Two, 16 students from Support Skills Groups B and C met outside the Art Centre at 8:50am. Several students had travelled in from Geelong, Ballarat, King Lake and 5 had met at the SVRC and then travelled in on Public Transport with Darren and Alicia from Guide Dogs Victoria.

Our first special activity was the Audio Described Opera, Hansel and Gretel. We began with a Touch Tour of the props and costumes. Melissa Stark from Opera Victoria had arranged for us to enter the theatre early so we could explore these articles without being rushed.

Of interest was the ornate cloak that the witch wore, all covered with fancy sweets and colourful lollies which were the same as the decorations on the Gingerbread House. We also felt the 6 metre long soft white fabric drape that the Dew Fairy used to spread over Hansel and Gretel when they fell asleep in the forest. We also got to feel the Dew Fairy’s dress with lots of colourful panels with embroidery on the bottom. This dress would fan out when the Dew Fairy spun around. We also saw an interesting milk jug which when turned around would give an illusion of being spilt. We also got to look at the broom Hansel used.

Image: the group sitting outside on the steps near the Arts Centre for morning tea.

We were then introduced to Carolyn who was the Audio Describer. We were all shown how to operate the audio unit. The narration was excellent, not too much chat but just enough to fill in those gaps when you wouldn’t know what was happening on the stage. It certainly adds to the experience and saves you from asking your friend or neighbours “What’s happening now?”. A much better experience for all concerned.

The 13-piece orchestra was great. There were strings, wood wind and percussion. They were right in front of our group so it felt like they were just playing for us!

The opera was sung in German. Being in the front row allowed us to hear where the performers were as they moved around the stage. With the Audio Description we all knew exactly what was going on and who was on the stage. The story line varied a little to the traditional fairy tale but it all ended up happily. The singing was great and it was a really positive experience for the students.

Image: art teacher Michael shows one of the students a small model of Inge King's outdoor sculpture, Forward Surge, and they compare a section of the large scale model.

We then had morning tea in the garden area between Hamer Hall and the NGV. There is a huge metal sculpture here which the students were able to climb on and explore. Forward Surge was the first of several sculptures by Inga King that we would be exploring during the day.

Darren and the other staff from GDV then conducted a 40 minute quiz on a range of mobility topics. The students were divided into 4 teams: Ducks, Dogs, Pigs and Cows. The competition was fierce. It was great to see that the students are developing a comprehensive understanding of a diverse range of issues and subject areas which collectively are central to independent travel and safe movement.

Image: students examining Inge King sculptures with Michael Donnelly and Jane Strickland looking on.

The group then moved off to eat lunch in Federation Square. The afternoon saw two activities being conducted. Michael Donnelly linked in with Jane Strickland and Heather from the National Gallery of Victoria to take students on a touch exploration of six specially chosen art works from Inga King’s exhibition, Constellation, at the Ian Potter Centre. Students along with staff had an opportunity to not only get close to the six art works but also to touch and physically move around them. Hands had to be washed, jewellery and watches removed and zippers covered over so to prevent any of the exhibits being scratched. Michael had prepared tactile representations of all the pieces and Jane and Heather provided background information and details about the works. Students shared their observations and had a wonderful opportunity to engage with some truly magnificent art work.

The other group of students went off with the GDV staff and they explored Fed Square and Flinders Street Station. The students were then set challenges to locate particular features and resources. Having the experience to move around these areas was a challenge in itself! Darren, Alicia, Paula, Marnie and Laura all provided a great program for the students.

Image: students asking questions at the information desk in Federation Square.

The groups swapped over after an hour so providing everyone with a comprehensive and varied program for the afternoon. The students returning to the SVRC departed shortly after 3:00pm and the other students met up with their families. It had been a very busy day but everyone went away feeling the day had been not only fun but also a really worthwhile educational experience for all concerned.

We would like to acknowledge and thank all the staff who helped out on the day. The O&M support provided by the GDV team was fantastic, the assistance Melissa Stark and the group from Opera Victoria was great and the coordination Michael Donnelly along with Jane Strickland and Heather from the Education Centre from the National Gallery of Victoria was outstanding. It was a highly successful collaboration.

Thank you also to the SVRC staff who prepared resources and assisted on the day. We are truly fortunate to have such a dynamic and professional team.

With thanks to artist Inge King

As artist Inge King gave her personal permission for the students, aged 10 to 14 years, to touch her sculptures, Michael Donnelly arranged for their feedback to be sent to her:

Image: students enjoying one of the Inge King sculptures - the Rings of Saturn.

Dear Mrs King
Thank you so much for allowing us to have special touch access and get so close to your sculptures at the National Gallery on Friday 20th June 2014. Thank you for all of your art work, it is really cool, especially the big wave sculpture we had morning tea at today. (Forward Surge, Victorian Arts Centre). These are our favourite choices from your exhibition (transcribed from a VictorReader Digital Recorder):

Georgia: I like the Rings of Jupiter, I like that it has lots of circles, and the feel of the metal, but I also really like Forward Surge. It’s my favourite.

Luke: I like the Sails, the smoothness of it and with its shape. It was great that the artist likes us to play with all the sculptures and come up with ideas. Like making one of them a skate ramp…

Matt: The Rings of Jupiter because it was nice and circular and you got to go in it.

Image: students enjoying one of the Inge King sculptures.

Caleb: The Rings of Jupiter because you got to go underneath it, inside the rings and it was really round and I like circles.

Thanh: I thought the Rings of Jupiter were cool because I like how the circles were arranged.

Mark: I liked Rings of Jupiter. I also liked the Grand Arch with its shape. It was 57cm (reading the braille info). But the tallest one was Summer Solstice. Most of the sculptures were made of steel. The smallest was Bush Family.

Thien: I liked Bush Family. I liked the shapes and feel of it. It felt like lots of different things.

Lucy: I liked Dark Angel because I really liked all the bumps.

Holly: I liked the Rings of Jupiter and really enjoyed standing in the middle.

Image: students enjoying one of the Inge King sculptures.

Sam: I thought it was pretty cool. One of my favourite exhibits was the one on the third floor where she had done the welding; (Dark Angel) the one with all the little ridges and bumps on it, I found it really interesting. I also found Sails on the second floor very interesting too. I found all of them pretty interesting to be truthful. She’s done a lot of interesting work, Inge King, over the years. I find it very creative and I find it impressive to touch and “look” at.

Emily: It was good, how you could touch each of them and the textures and the feeling of each sculpture. I liked all of them but maybe the Rings of Jupiter was coolest.

Mary: My favourite one was the Rings of Jupiter, but I liked all the exhibition because I could feel the texture of everything. Shiny textures and matt ones. I also liked the Bush Family one. It was like little hills but really skinny.

Elazar: I liked the velvet feel of Grand Arch, it was my favourite. (A number of staff agreed). It was good to step inside the Rings of Jupiter.

Riley: I liked Rings of Jupiter with its nice circular shapes that you could go around and it was really smooth.

Staci-Lee: I enjoyed Bush Family because of its people shapes and the foot at the top.

Garry (teacher and program co-ordinator): Dark Angel was my favourite because of the really satisfying contrasts of textures it contained.

One student also wrote a report for his school:
On the 20th of June VI kids went out to the big day out. We watched the funny play Hansel and Gretel. It had an audio description. We also went to the inspirational National Art Gallery. We felt the rings of Jupiter. They were made of steel circles put together. We had a tricky mobility quiz but my team won. It was for sure a big day out because I had to catch the train from Geelong at 7:00 am. I was tired at the end of the day. I thank the organisers and it was well worth going to. Caleb

Thank you very much, and thank you to all at NGV for their help too. With best wishes on behalf of all the students and staff of the SVRC Support Skills Program.

Michael Donnelly, Art Teacher.

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