Last week Nia and I found ourselves at Playeum. After weeks of hearing about the Hideaways- Creating With Nature” exhibit we finally had a chance to experience it first-hand. As we walked past the pink elephant figurine, we were greeted with peals of laughter from some very happy tots. We saw a few Playeum facilitators handling a big group of school children. “Ok children, I want you all to move four bums back!!!” Well that kind of sums it up – Playeum speaks a kid’s language.
Getting just as excited as the young visitors we moved from section to section with our guide Vanessa. For each section the artist had a specific intention or thought in mind yet the whole exhibit flowed from one onto another. We moved around freely touching, experiencing, learning and getting to be one with nature. We saw many things that puzzled, intrigued and wowed us. Armed with questions and compliments we had a sit down with Jeremy Chu the Creative Director of the Hideaway exhibit.
The setting felt so apt, as we sat under the trees discussing the various themes of nature, while Jeremy and Nia untied the knots from the drawstrings used by the kids to tie rattan. Jeremy shared that the location of Playeum played a big role in the “Creating With Nature” theme. Playeum in Gillman Barracks is surrounded by Hort Park, Southern Ridges and Labrador Park. Thus the inspiration, to develop some interesting and engaging narratives with children, around nature. The idea was to encourage them to cultivate a bond with the eco-system and get a better understanding of how their actions were impacting nature.
Interestingly, Playeum has a Children Consultancy Board that has a big role in decisions regarding the exhibits. Who better than kids to tell us what kids love and enjoy!!! After many sessions of brainstorming a call was made to a group of extremely talented artists, and the hideaway exhibit slowly took shape.
The exhibit demonstrates conceptual layering. There is a constant sensation of hidden truths and you are the explorer seeking the answers. This is a sensory journey with the constant message of recycling. For example the clay city built as a part of “Make Believe Hideaway” shall be the backdrop of a future stop motion animation workshop planned at Playeum.
The behaviour of insects to stack and weave has always intrigued us and the same can be explored in “Welcome To My World”. Like a moth that uses leaves and petals children can add to the structure and create a giant insect habitat. Beautiful flowers donated every week by Floral Magic are used by children to build nests and decorate the structures.
“Knock Knock! Who Lives There” gives the children an opportunity to look at insect specimens through microscopic lenses. There is also a live feed of insects’ habitats set up on Playeum grounds playing on multiple screens. The entire set up is non-instructional where children are encouraged to translate the process into line drawings. Not just this children can drop small messages, questions or letters to the insects of their choice. As a part of the exhibit the artist does reply to the letters and queries put forth by the children. Making it as interactive as it can be.
Jeremy shared a beautiful story about a child who had visited the exhibit. She wrote a letter and instead of just posting it she created a diorama out of it. She merged the pictures of the insects, sound instruments she created and the letter to give it all her own voice. It was a cross pollination inspired by the exhibit, just the kind they were looking for.
As we bade goodbye to Jeremy and Vanessa and stepped out of this enchanted world, there was only one thing I knew for sure. I was going to return pretty soon!!!