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Distance Creates… Wacky Wonderful Works of Art by 9-12 Year Olds Across The Country

The spring of 2020 has brought new challenges and new opportunities to families and communities all over the world. 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. So our artists put on their thinking caps, got to work, and designed a brand new home-based programme called Distance Creates… 

The project started with a series of taster activities in April, that gave potential participants a flavour of what was to come in the six week programme. Then, throughout May and June, thirty-two 9-12 year olds from across the country engaged in weekly creative activities and participated in collaborative art projects through the post, all led by artist Ciara Harrison.

At the start of the programme, each participant was posted a packet of art supplies to help them complete the activities. They were also all assigned a pen pal in a round-robin format, meaning they would each receive artwork from one child, and send to another child, so it formed one big collaborative artmaking loop.

“My daughter raced to get the emails on Saturday morning, and wanted to get stuck into it. And the shiny envelopes arriving in the post…It was almost like jewels arriving. She was running out to the post box …. She even kept the envelopes. It was little things like that …. receiving post for themselves is huge.” -Parent

Exploring the Transmundane

To start things off, in week one the children were introduced to a brand new word and a fun new way of creating art through transmundane drawings. Transmundane means existing outside the physical or visible world. For this activity artist Ciara invented four collections of creative prompts to help spark their imaginations. Each collection contained three prompts to inspire an original creature, born out of the children’s imaginations. Their challenge was to create this creature using whatever medium they preferred, whether that be drawing, painting, collage, or anything else they could think of. The sky’s the limit! Once they created their first creature, they were invited to create a whole family of them using the other prompts. We loved seeing all the photos of their transmundane creations.

“It’s amazing how content they get doing the project . Thanks so much.” -Parent 

Transmundane creations that are truly out of this world.

Making Our Own Rules

In week two, they were introduced to the concept of a zine (pronounced “zeen” just like at the end of magaZINE), which is simply a homemade publication. There are no set-in-stone rules for making zines, and they can be about anything you’re interested in. For this particular activity, the children looked at the theme of House Rules. No, not the boring ones like picking up your clothes and going to bed at a certain time. In their zine, they got to make up their own wacky wonderful rules. In the packages they received, they got lots of card and paper as well as a template for making their zine, plus lots of other materials to help them decorate their zine however they would like. Plus, they got a postcard so they could send one of their new zany house rules to their pen pal, allowing them to connect and collaborate with each other from the safety of their own homes.

“Both boys loved Saturday’s art task…He is really enjoying it and we will send a letter to his pen pal tomorrow.” -Parent

Have you seen our zines?

Making Art Come Alive

In the third week of the programme, the children were invited to recreate a famous art work by using objects and clothes in their homes as props and costumes. They were given a selection of artworks for inspiration, but also encouraged to recreate their favourite painting if they would like to. The results were absolutely amazing. Some children chose to be the subject of their own recreations, while others asked their parents and siblings to be their models, and some got creative with household objects, recreating still lifes or forming objects into new shapes to make them look like people.

“He is really enjoying the art course, thank you…Fair play to you for the thought & effort you put into the course.” -Parent

Making art come alive in these fabulous recreations.

Remastering and Recreating

The following week’s activity also focussed on famous masterpieces, restoration, and recreation. The children each received a postcard with a section of a famous artwork. They were invited to recreate that piece of artwork on another postcard, making it their own. They then posted the postcard back to artist Ciara, who put them together like a jigsaw and photographed them, so they created a collaborative piece.

“The boys have really engaged today with the masterpiece artwork and I just wanted to say thanks a million for all the fun packs ye have sent in the post.”- Parent

Masterpieces re-imagined through creativity and collaboration.

What is a Haiku?

In the fifth week of the programme, the children were introduced to the art of haiku, a form of Japanese poetry. Haiku poems consist of three lines and each line contains a specific number of syllables. The first line of a Haiku poem has five syllables, the second line has seven syllables and the last line has five syllables again. Participants were invited to write a haiku about something in their home or garden, but instead of saying what the subject was, they were asked to describe it through the poetry in a manner that would allow readers to guess what the haiku was about.

“She has thoroughly enjoyed her activities & especially sending postcards to other (diabeteic) children. It’s quite a lonely disease at times so to connect with others with (diabetes) is really special !!” -Parent

Can you guess what these haiku poems are about?

Sharing and Creating

For the sixth and final week of the programme, we did things a little bit differently. Instead of getting an activity emailed to their inbox, participants and their families were invited to a live virtual sharing of their artwork. During this online session, participants were invited to read their haiku allowed, so everyone could guess what the haiku was about. They also did a new activity together, in which participants were given a few minutes to gather materials around their homes and use them to create a helmet or hat. Their creations were absolutely fabulous!

Throughout the programme, participants also engaged in a colour thread photography project. Each week, a new colour was selected, and the children were asked to find things around their home that were that colour and send the photos to artist Ciara. The photographs and the participants’ haiku poems will be used to create a book, showcasing the colourful creativity of all the participants involved.

“She had great fun out & about looking for yellow.” -Parent

From transmundane characters to homemade helmets, we enjoyed every moment of the Distance Creates project for 9-12 year olds. Their artwork inspired smiles and laughter from artists, parents, and participants alike. We’re delighted to have received such wonderful feedback and we look forward to seeing what else distance creates in the future.

Participants were given a different colour to photograph each week, resulting in a rainbow of images.


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.

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