Southpoint Teaser Masthead

The Canberra museum for little artists: Elioth Gruner the texture of light exhibition

Amanda Whitley

Recently I attended my son’s school excursion to the Canberra museum and gallery to see the Elioth Gruner: the texture of light exhibition (you can read Christie Flora’s indepth look at the exhibition here.) Gruner was an outstanding painter of the Australian landscape, celebrated in his lifetime, and was awarded the Wynne Prize for landscape painting seven times.

Can I just say it was a lot of fun, and I learned lots! The Canberra Museum and Art Gallery (CMAG) has a fantastic preschool program exploring the exhibition, using their imagination to explore the life and history of the artist, and ways that art can be experienced. The best part was seeing the children use some of the tools and techniques Gruner employed to create their own master pieces in the museum’s art studio.

The program was wonderfully designed with little people in mind, and what was incredible to watch was just how involved the kids were – and how amazingly focussed they were for a bunch of pre schoolers! I loved how the Museum’s educator related the exhibition into an interesting and dynamic lesson that the kids could identify with and get totally immersed in- she made the exhibition fun and absolutely engaging.

Use your body

So, today I want to share some simple strategies ‘Miss Kay’ used at the museum that you can use at home to get your children to respond even better:

Kay communicated with her entire body. I talk about this all the time but it’s important; 55% of your communication is body language so get it working for you. Kay would be asking a question to the kids, and as she did her body language would be leading them towards the answer, whether it was nodding, acting or pointing. Her eyes would light up and her body was always open and relaxed towards the kids.

Don’t dumb it down

Kay was not afraid to use unfamiliar words with the kids…I mean how often do you ever hear a four year old use the words gallery, exhibit or history? She then linked the words back to ideas and concepts the kids could relate to easily in short and simple sentences – I’m talking eight words in a sentence max – any longer and they lose the point you’re trying to get across (especially the boys). Kay didn’t talk at the kids…she held conversation with them, frequently asking them to respond and participate in the discussion.

Don’t be afraid to play

Kay embraced her childlike wonder and curiosity and got us all hooked on her energy and enthusiasm for what she was talking about. Kay was also unafraid to be playful and laugh at herself – she was such fun, and that’s what kids want…. Fun!

Now I’ll admit, when I asked him, my son’s highlight was the bus ride to and from the gallery! That aside, it was wonderful to enjoy a unique excursion with my son and his classmates. Who knows perhaps it has illuminated the budding artist inside some of them!

the essentials

What: Elioth Gruner: the texture of light
When: Until Sunday 22 June
. Open 10am-5pm Monday to Friday and 12noon-5pm 
Saturday and Sunday
Where: Canberra Museum and Gallery, cnr London Circuit & Civic Square, Canberra City
How much: Preschool education program is $6 per student. Group bookings essential. Contact the Education Officer on 6207 1775


Amanda Whitley

Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her 'spare time', she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She's done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women. More about the Author