Distance Creates… New Dimensions and Shared Spaces for 6-8 Year Olds Around Ireland
During these times of social distancing and isolation, Helium Arts has recognised the need to keep creativity and connection alive for young people with long-term health conditions. Our artists got inventive, looking past the challenges that distance poses, and looking, instead at what distance creates.
Helium’s new home-based project, aptly titled Distance Creates…, started with a series of taster activities in April, before launching into a full six week programme throughout May and June. Each week, families received a new creative activity via email and participated in collaborative art projects through the post. The programme was split into three separate age groups to ensure all activities were age and level appropriate. Thirteen 6-8 year olds, led by artist Chelsea Canavan, had fun discovering new ways to play and challenge themselves. They even found new ways of sharing spaces and creating characters with other children across the country, all from the safety of their own homes.
At the start of the programme, each participant received an art pack in the post. This art pack included a treasure trove of materials they could use to complete the activities each week. They were also assigned a penpal, but to maximise the collaboration each child would receive artwork from one of their fellow participants, and send to a different one, in a round-robin formation. It created one giant loop, connecting everyone in the group to each other, through their artwork.
To get things started, the children received a challenge dice activity in week one. They were taught how to create their own dice from cardboard, and invited to write some interesting challenges on the faces of the dice. Any time they needed to get creative juices flowing, or even just beat boredom, they could roll the dice and perform whatever challenge came up. Artist Chelsea provided a few ideas for different challenges, and encouraged participants to come up with their own as well. We loved seeing the different ideas everyone came up with. They seemed to think of everything, from wriggle like a worm to play with your sibling. Their creativity knew no bounds.
“He loved today’s activity and we all are having great fun in the garden doing the challenges!”- Parent
Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
Head, shoulders, knees and toes…. Knees and toes! In week two, the children used this song as inspiration for their activity. Drawing some creative and colourful characters, they then cut these creations into four separate parts, so they could mix and match their characters heads, shoulders, knees, and toes. They were encouraged to explore new techniques for making patterns and textures, and experiment with silly arms and legs. But the fun didn’t stop there. Using the postcards that were included in their art packs, they chose one section to glue on to their postcard and send to their penpal. When they received one in the mail, they’d add their part to this character as well, and send it on again. Each character got to visit four different children before heading back to the artist for a photoshoot, and the results were the perfect amount of weird and wonderful.
“I think the interaction with others is the most important part because I guess other children that are in this programme, they might be self isolating as well due to the high risk and vulnerability.” – Parent
Exploring the Bigger Picture
In week three, participants got the chance to be part of the bigger picture by creating a collaborative collage. Each child was sent a piece of a famous painting, but all of the colour had been removed. They got to colour, collage, and decorate the artwork however they wanted before sending it back to the artist Chelsea. They were also given the opportunity to research and learn more about the artists who created the original paintings that their new collaborative collages were based on.
“His piece for the collaborative collage has gone in the postbox today! He loved doing this and loved learning all about Keith Haring. Thanks for all your work on this great project!”- Parent
Entering a New Dimension
The following week, they took things to a whole new dimension, filled with swirling colours, crashing and smashing shapes, loopy lines, and dancing texture. Participants created their very own kaleidoscopes, using cardboard rolls and paper discs. These kaleidoscopes were like portals, sending the children into news worlds and spaces that could be changed with just one turn of the discs. To keep the collaborative spirit alive, participants also created discs to send to their penpals, so they could share their worlds and experience other children’s new dimensions.
“She is really enjoying it. She can’t wait for Fridays” -Parent
In week five, the children received double the activities for double the fun. In the first activity, participant’s transformed their own spaces by creating mini projectors so they could see their artwork up on their walls in lights. We loved seeing their projections. It almost felt like we were taking a little trip through time back to the good old days of projection fun. For the second activity, they thought about their favourite spaces, drawing one of their favourite places on a postcard, they then cut it in half and sent one half to their penpal, and kept the other, so they could cut the two halves together and share spaces, even from a distance.
“My child has enjoyed the art. She has made some lovely items. She enjoyed it and gave us time together which was lovely.” -Parent
Connecting in a Virtual World
To conclude the programme, we did things a bit differently in week six. Instead of receiving a weekly activity to their inbox, families were invited to a live virtual sharing. With the help of Helium’s partners An Cosán Virtual Community College, families logged on to Zoom to share their artwork with each other. Led by the artist, Chelsea, each child was invited to share what their favourite activity was and talk about it. Then, as one final activity, the children were given a few minutes to create a helmet or hat using materials they could find around their homes. Their creations were all fantastic, and it was a wonderful way to connect, laugh, and bring six wonderful weeks of creativity to a close.
“I thought Zoom was a great idea. And I think he was buzzing after that. And his confidence, and just to get him socially interacting, because we’re very much isolating ourselves throughout this.” -Parent
From the very first week, we knew this would be a special group of children. We enjoyed every moment connecting with them, and more importantly watching them connect with each other, even from a distance. Every new photo we received or story we heard, brought a smile to our faces and reminded us just how much distance can create.
Helium Arts’ Remote Creative Health Hub Programme is funded by the Arts Council of Ireland, the Social Innovation Fund through the Arts to Impact Award, The Community Foundation for Ireland, Limerick City and County Council and Limerick Culture and Arts Department.