Art galleries, theatres and museums aren’t just places where kids must curb their natural urges to run, yell and giggle at paintings of naked people and parents valiantly attempt to keep sticky mitts off priceless pieces. Many of Australia’s most respected cultural institutions have art, history, theatre and dance programs for our littlest citizens to enjoy. Introducing kids to the world of arts and culture early stimulates their minds, broadens their scope of possibility and helps to cultivate their creative side. And, let’s be honest, you can go off and have a coffee while they do it. Here’s our kids’ cultural calendar for the remainder of 2017.
NGA Play at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) has opened a new space just for children called NGA Play. Inspired by the current Versailles: Treasures from the Palace exhibition at the gallery, NGA Play’s first incarnation is as a Palace of Versailles for tiny Marie-Antoinettes and diminutive Louis XIVs. There’s a mini Hall of Mirrors, an interactive topiary garden as well as crown-making, carpet-weaving and drawing workshops. Letting them eat cake after is optional.
When: 10am to 5pm until April 17
Where: Parkes Place, Parkes, ACT
Age: Kids under 16
Storytime Ballet by the Australian Ballet, Adelaide, Sydney and Victoria
To cater to little imaginations (and even smaller attention spans), The Australian Ballet (australianballet.com.au) is putting on an abridged version of enchanting classic The Nutcracker. Designed for tiny dancers aged three to 11, the show runs for less than an hour, but doesn’t skimp on any of the details: the sets, tutus and, of course, the dancing, are all mesmerising. The story about a Christmas party that transforms into a magical adventure was created to bring the art form alive for a new generation. The audience is encouraged to come dressed in ballet-inspired outfits, and a narrator guides kids through the events on stage.
When: April 1 to 30
Where: Adelaide, Sydney and Victoria
Cost: From $32
Age: Kids aged three to 11
DreamBIG Children's Festival, Adelaide
Formerly the Come Out Children’s Festival, DreamBIG has been growing in scope since its inception in 1974. This year, it kicks off with a procession of more than 2000 Adelaide school kids singing their way across the Adelaide Oval Footbridge and then expands in every direction, with workshops, shows and exhibitions running from 18 to 27 May. The headline show is Mr Stink, based upon the book by Little Britain’s David Walliams. On the weekend of 20 and 21 May, the Big Family Weekend takes place along North Terrace with performances, activities, food and more for the whole family
When: 18 to 27 May
Where: Various locations in Adelaide
Age: Littlies to teens
Art Club, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Art Club is a monthly art class for children aged nine to 13 that aims to broaden children’s art knowledge and develop their creative side. In June, the focus is on structures and shapes. Using coloured and silver paper and scratch-foam board, art clubbers will create works inspired by pieces in the John Kaldor Family Collection for a collage and printing project.
When: 3 and 4 June, various times
Where: Art Gallery Road, The Domain
Cost: $28 for members, $35 for non-members (includes all materials)
Age: Nine to 13 years
START at the Gallery, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
For children aged three to 12, the Art Gallery of South Australia runs the START at the Gallery program. On the first Sunday of each month there are art activities, tours, live performances and entertainment inspired by the gallery’s current exhibitions. On 2 July, the theme is Looking at Language, a celebration of Indigenous language in art, music and storytelling to coincide with the beginning of NAIDOC Week. Super-keen budding artists can also join the START Art Club. They’ll receive a welcome pack including pencils and a visual arts diary and a new activity sheet to collect each month.
When: 2 July
Where: North Terrace, Adelaide
Age: Three to 12 years
Bennelong by Bangarra
The brilliant Bangarra dance company is touring Bennelong nationally between June and September. The performance tells the story of Eora Nation man Woollarawarre Bennelong who was an interlocutor between early colonial settlers and the local people and travelled to England in 1792. Bangarra’s Wilay tickets are especially for Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal students to see a dedicated performance of Bennelong for $10, after which they will be able to hear from the dancers and artists who make the show.
When: 30 June to 16 September
Where: Various cities nationwide
Cost: $10 for Wilay tickets; from $51 for full-priced tickets
Kate Beynon: Friendly Beasts at GOMA, Brisbane
Artist Kate Beynon welcomes children into a magical world of colour and a cast of beastly characters such as Gorgon Girl and Blue Shaman in her show Kate Beynon: Friendly Beasts. The interactive exhibition is designed to capture children’s imaginations, engage them in hands-on multimedia activities and encourage them to discover their own inner beasts. Presumably they’ll have tamed them before they come home.
When: 1 April to 22 October
Where: Stanley Place, Cultural Precinct, South Bank
Age: Kids and adults of all ages are welcome
The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes at the Powerhouse, Sydney
Kids will be responding with, “Elementary, dear parent” upon their return from Victorian London – or rather, the Powerhouse Museum transformed into a dim, mysterious London for The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes. Before undertaking to solve a mystery in the style of the original master detective, kids can explore a replica of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s office complete with manuscripts and first editions and see Sherlock pop culture including costumes and props from the hit BBC show Sherlock. The question of how to spend the weekend? Solved.
When: 3 June to 8 October
Where: 500 Harris Street, Ultimo
Age: Little sleuths will love it; big ones will too.
Anatomy of the Piano (For Beginners) at the Sydney Opera House, Sydney
Mini maestros will thrill to the storytelling and piano-playing of Will Pickvance in Anatomy of the Piano (For Beginners). Kids join Will on a musical journey through time and space as he attempts to reach the moon – with a piano. He finds Bach (in a cave), meets a very bad-tempered Beethoven, tickles the ivories with Fats Waller and along the way discovers the history of the piano. If a child has ever been reluctant to practise their scales, this show could be the fix.
Watch a preview of Will Pickvance's Anatomy of a Piano
When: 25 November
Where: Bennelong Point, Sydney
Age: six and up