Meri Cherry blog – art making activities

Meri Cherry is her real name and her blog is all about art making activities for babies to Kindergarten children and a bit older.  The activities listed on her blog are great.  They range from simple and using what you have around the house, to more sophisticated and needing to buy the materials.  Being based in Los Angeles, USA, and adhering to the Reggio Emilia Approach inspired learning style, the terminology is different to what we use.  Process art is important to Cherry, and it is bound up in the Montessori concept of the rich experience of learning.  Emphasis is put on the process rather than the outcome, much like art therapy techniques where the therapy is the journey and not the end object.

There are so many art activities listed that you could keep your children entertained for days with them.  Some are USA holiday focussed, such as Halloween pumpkin activities, but all are great inspiration.

There’s art from nature themed activities; activities that focus on the medium, such as washi tape and sculpy (Plasticine for Australians); there’s the excellently named artsy fartsy category of activities as well (which include arty crayon tree sculptures).

Meri Cherry art making activities: 

Meri Cherry blog – art making activities

The Frames

The many layers of meaning in an artwork are deconstructed by examining it through The Frames.  These frames are Subjective; Cultural; Structural; and Postmodern.  The frames operate in tandem with the conceptual framework, as students learn how each frame sets up different relations between artists, artworks, the world and the audience. Students learn that the frames provide alternative ways for interpreting and explaining meanings and why artists (including themselves) and audiences (including themselves, teachers, art critics, art historians and the general public) take on different points of view of what is of value, (N.S.W. Board of Studies, 7-10 Creative Arts Syllabus, N.S.W., 2003, p.24).

The Four Frames disaram, 7-10 Creative Arts Syllabus, N.S.W., 2003.
The Four Frames diagram, 7-10 Creative Arts Syllabus, N.S.W., 2003.

The Subjective Frame – personal and psychological experience: 
This frame allows the student to explore the feeling and deeper meaning that the artwork inspires in the viewer and what the artist intended. It is the me me me frame, and there is no right or wrong, as everything that is subjective is personally felt. Once students begin to understand this frame, it often becomes their favorite one as it allows them to talk about themselves.

The Cultural Frame – cultural and social meaning:
The cultural frame looks at the artist’s role with the artwork,.  The same exact artwork either produced by a little girl or a middle aged man will have different cultural meaning behind it.  The frame is also aligned with the world, in regards to the relationship of society and politics and communities and family and economies and identity and culture.  Everyone is shaped by their experience and conditions, and through the cultural frame the experience, conditions and the particular culture of the meaning of the artwork is examined. This is the frame where the social and political commentary of artworks are explored. This can be an exciting frame to explore issues of gender, diversity, science and the environment.  Find a cultural subject that is relevant to your class and use that as a ways to explore the frame.

The Structural Frame – communication and the system of signs:
How is the artwork structured?  What methods of communication have been used, the visual signs, to get the message across?  Is it a painting, video, or lithograph, or all three? What visual elements has the artist used to convey a message?  If the artist has used words, what language are the words? And on and on and on…. Like the game Jeopardy, at first you are describing the structure of the artwork in a series of questions – what colour is it? Etc Etc.  Then in the later Syllabus Stages, the questions and investigation delves a bit deeper – is that tungsten or LED lighting used in the studio? How did the artist achieve that affect with the paint?

The Postmodern Frame – ideas which challenge mainstream values of histories:
Now, should this be the post-postmodern frame? Where are we now? Are we in Po Po-Mo? That aside, the Po-Mo frame is the frame where the type of art is viewed in the art world context.  Where does the artwork fit into the historical timeline of art, be that a cubist or abstract artwork, and what is it saying about the art world?  What is the artworks grand narrative, is it making a satirical comment on politics?  Or is it appropriating another artists work, to mean something completely different?  Visualization diagrams of art history can help students identify the links and movements between the different artist styles, and why they were popular at the time in relation to the cultural frame, in regards to art history.  The Alfred Barr (first director of MOMA) map of modern art is a beautiful diagram of 50 years of art history.

Dust jacket with chart prepared by Alfred H. Barr Jr., of the exhibition catalog, Cubism and Abstract Art, by Alfred H. Barr Jr., 1936. Offset, printed in color; 10 1/8 x 7 3/4” (25.7 x 19.7 cm). The Museum of Modern Art Library, New York. Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY.

Original image source:


The Frames

Eco Art and Artists

Ecological sustainability and the environment are big topics.  The climate and how the actions of humanity are affecting the planet are important areas of discussion, for the classroom and beyond.  From November 30 to December 11, 2015,  COP21 will be held, (also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference).  COP21 is the 21st annual conference, held by the United Nations, that brings together heads of state and country to discuss climate change and the positive actions to take to combat it.  As part of the conference, the UN is also organizing a corresponding exhibition, titled Artists 4 Paris Climate 2015, inviting 16 artists from around the world to make an artwork that deals with climate and the environment.  Among the 16 artists is Australian born, and Sydney based, Janet Laurence.

There are other artists that produce work within the emerging term of EcoArt, or Ecological Art, and many can be accessed right here in New South Wales.

Historical Framework
EcoArt can be looked at historically in relation to the 1970s and the Earthworks, Earth Art and Land Art movements that mainly originated in the USA.  Having links to Arte Povera, for the use of natural and easily found objects, Earth Artists generally used materials that were located at the site, such as rocks and dirt, and essentially created the term site specific.  This was also a way of questioning the commodity of art in relation to the white cube and the four walls of the gallery space, as the artworks could not be easily removed form the natural site.  In 1968 – 1969 Christo and Jeanne-Claude came to Sydney, as the first Kaldor Art Project, and wrapped the Little Bay coastline in fabric, creating Wrapped Coast – One Million Square Feet.  An example of an environmental artwork, where the terrain of the earth is used as a sculptural reference in the artwork.

Michaela Gleave
Artist Michaela Gleave does not overtly call herself an EcoArtist, or an artist who deals with ecological themes, although many of her works are temporal and deal with natural phenomena.  Looking at Gleave’s work as a form of EcoArt  opens up the Subjective Frame for discussion, as we are finding different layers of meaning in the work than the artist intended.
Cloud Field (Föhn Bank)2007, is an artwork that essentially immerses the audience in an enclosed space of clouds.  Gleave creates a mini ecosystem inside the gallery walls and brings the outside natural environment into the gallery space, the opposite to what many of the artists from the 1970s Land Art movement did who created site specific works, which required the audience to travel to the artwork.  The clouds in Cloud Field are made form harvested rain water, and use an ultrasonic system that creates a dense heavy cloud that floats on the floor of the created space, incorporating scientific methods into the artwork.

Another artwork which brought the outside environment into the space of the gallery was the 2012 artwork by Gleave titled Our Frozen Moment.  Opposite to Cloud Field, which was a white and light artwork that almost rendered the audience member invisible in the atmospheric environment that floated up from below, Our Frozen Moment was a very orchestrated, theatrical and dark piece.  The artwork required the audience member to put on a rain coat, like a costume, to enter the darkened space.  This made the visitors perform the role of an actor in the artwork.  Once inside the dark room, the visitor climbed onto a boxing ring type space and water rained down on them from above, again bringing in the outside world into the space of the gallery.

Another artist who deals, overtly, with issues of climate change and the environment is Tega Brain.  Brain’s work comments directly on issues of capitalism, politics and the environment. Brain comes from a cross-disciplinary background in environmental and water engineering, and also like Gleave, uses machines and science in her artworks to make comments  on the environment.  In 2011 Brain made the artwork Coin Operated Wetland, exhibited at Firstdraft Gallery. As the title suggests, Brain created a coin operated laundromat in the gallery space, that used the water from a man made mini wetland.  Issues of the environmental impact of humans on wetlands is explored in the artwork, and the priorities of bright whites vs nature.

Art making/ practice:  Stages 1 to 3 students can explore ideas of using found objects in nature to make art. This could be further linked it to the idea of Arte Povera, and could have students source recycled materials from around the home to create sculptures.
Have students create site specific artworks with natural found objects, such as a giant sand sculpture, and photograph is at time and nature slowly erode it.
Stages 4 to 6 students can incorporate elements of science to create works which either directly comment on the environment or reference the environment in some way.
Students can create their own environmental space, bringing the outside world into the gallery. Something as small as a terrarium of a wetland, to as large as completely transforming a room with sounds and lights.  This could be taken to the digital world, and and students could create their idea environment through digital technology.
Conceptual Framework: Michaela Gleaves artworks can be discussed in relation to the artist intention, audience perception, and artwork meaning relationship. The involvement of the audience to give the work meaning, namely in Our Frozen Moment can also be explored.
Subjective: What do these artworks, and other artworks that deal with the environment, mean to you? Do you think it’s an important theme for artists to may comments on?
Cultural: What role is the artist performing in creating artworks which make commentary on the environment. Do you agree with the artist and the comment they are making though their artwork?
Structural: The scientific aspects of the work can be outlined and the links between art and science can be further discussed.
Postmodern: Look at the history of Land Art and Earth Art and also the artwork of Christo and Jean-Claude form 1969, Wrapped Coast, in relation to the EcoArt from the present day.  Are there similarities?  Are the same ideas being addressed?

Additional resources:

Eco Art and Artists

Creative subjects in the UK curriculum – 5 Nov. 2015 article

I came across this article from Arts Professional, titled The right to a creative childhood, by Maggie Atkinson, on 5 November 2015.  It is about the United Kingdom and creative subjects in the curriculum.  It discusses how the education system has undergone changes over the past five years, including the introduction of a national curriculum (like what is being developed here with the Australian Curriculum).

The article goes on further to discuss how the EBacc (the English Baccalaureate), which is a set of subjects, which do not include the arts, may become the default curriculum for secondary education, and the issues of access to cultural organisations for students.  The author then poses ways arts organisations can support local community initiatives in engaging students with culture.

I found it an interesting read in relation to current international issues surrounding creative education in the classroom, and how important it is to actually have students engage with cultural organisations.

Read the article in full here:

Creative subjects in the UK curriculum – 5 Nov. 2015 article

David Capra


David Capra is an artist that deals primarily with performance and experience, inviting the audience to be part of the artwork to give it structure and meaning.  He does not perform on a stage with the audience silently watching on.  Capra directly involves the audience to experience the artwork, in turn making them a part of it.  He calls himself an ‘intercessory artist’, whose work takes the form of interventions into physical and social space designed to initiate healing. (Information sourced from the MCA website:

The Conceptual Framework discussion:
The Ministry of Handshakes is an artwork where Capra shakes audience and visitor’s hands with a giant prop arm.  Capra greets audience members as they enter an area or space, or in alternative versions of the performance, Capra walks towards members of the audience and public, making the artwork space mobile and actively bringing it to the audience.  This artwork involves the audience directly through the artist initiating contact with them, inviting them into the space to be involved in the artwork, but at the same time distancing them, as the artist is using a two meter long prop arm, having the audience shake his hand from a distance.   If you look at the artist’s statement about his performance practice, where he calls himself an ‘intercessory artist’, this distancing could also be viewed as a means of trying to help, though cautiously respecting people’s personal space, but welcoming them.

This artwork, and artist David Capra, is a great way to discuss The Conceptual Framework, the relationship between the artist, audience and artwork.  The Subjective Frame can also be discussed, in relation to the space the artist creates through welcoming visitors but keeping a long distance away from them, and how the students interpret the meaning of the space created by the artist.

Teena’s Bathtime Eau De Wet Dogge perfume, 100ml bottle. Photo by Damien Brinley, courtesy the artist.
Teena’s Bathtime Eau De Wet Dogge perfume, 100ml bottle. Photo by Damien Brinley, courtesy the artist.

David Capra has a sausage dog (dachsund) called Teena.  Capra has incorporated Teena into a number of his artworks.  In 2013 he invited audience members to dance with Teena as part of Workout at the MCA.  And in early 2015 Capra made Teena’s Bathtime, also at the MCA, where he re-created the experience of bathing Teena in a special room that immersed all the senses in the experience.  There was the smell of wet dog; the visuals of Teena being bathed and bubbles floating in the air; a giant Teena sculpture you could touch; the sound of Teena being bathed; and during a special public program event (with a meet and greet with Teena and Capra) dog treats that you could make were available to give to your dog to taste.  Teena doesn’t like having a bath, and is anxious about the experience.  This is understood from watching the video of Teena having a bath and from discussions Capra has with audiences during public program events.  In Capra’s discussions with audience members about Teena’s Bathtime, a lot of discussion is centered around mental health and anxiety.  People have written letters of support to Teena offering advice on how to manage her anxiety.

This year (2015) Capra also launched another artwork about Teena at Gallery 9, called Teena’s Bathtime – Eau de Wet Dogge.  This artwork is an extension of Teena’s Bathtime and is another immersive performance experience.  The exhibition at Gallery 9 was the launch of a perfume Capra created, with the help of professional perfumer Jonathon Midgley from Damask Perfumery The perfume smells of flowers, wet dog fur, and sour bath bubbles.  Everyone at the exhibition said they could smell different dog related smells in the perfume.  It is a playful artwork that comments on the world of perfume making and the sense of smell and the experience of bathing Teena.  During the opening Capra walked around with Teena on a leash, welcoming the visitors to the perfume launch.

David Capra and Teena during the opening of Teena’s Bathtime – Eau de Wet Dogge, at Gallery 9, 11 November 2015. Photo by Damien Brinley, courtesy the artist.
David Capra and Teena the dog greeting audience members during the opening of Teena’s Bathtime – Eau de Wet Dogge, at Gallery 9, 11 November 2015. Photo by Damien Brinley, courtesy the artist.

Practice: Students could try making an immersive experience using one or all of the senses.
It could be extended to exploring the concept of Synesthesia. They could pick an experience and try to recreate it with a different sensory experience. Example: Recreate the sound, smell and touch of eating a burger or ice cream; or the feeling and visuals of music.
For Stages 1 to 3 Creative Art Students an additional resource to extend the exploration of sensory representation of colours is a book called The Black Book of Colors.  This is an excellent resource to explore blindness and colour experience through touch and description.
Conceptual Framework: Students can consider and discuss David Capra’s relationship with the audience in his artworks.  This is best explored through the artwork The Ministry of Handshakes. 
Subjective: Discuss the sensory and immersive experience of the work, and what it means to the student. What are some of the key words that describe the artwork experience for you.
Cultural: Issues of anxiety and mental health can be explored.  The anxiety of Teena having a bath, and how Capra has addressed this through exploring the experience and creating a sensory environment that invites the audience to help Teena deal with her anxiety.
Structural: What visual and sensory language does artist David Capra use to convey his artwork? How does using all the senses (sight, sound, taste, smell and touch) and involving the audience in a performance change the experience of the artwork compared to a 2D artwork?
Postmodern: How does artist David Capra challenge mainstream ideas about art?  How does he represent his ideas in the artworks and how are his artworks different to others you have seen?

Resource links:

David Capra


Artspace is an exciting organisation.  It deals with cutting edge experimental and emerging art.  It is more established, aka has more paid staff and funding, than an ARI, but it isn’t as established as a state run museum and gallery, such as the AGNSW.  It exists in between the two, and existing in this in-between space, allows Artspace to have the best of both – the freedom of an ARI, with the infrastructure of a museum.

Artspace has been in operation for many years, being established in 1983, and is housed in The Gunnery in Woolloomooloo.  The Gunnery is also home to the Biennale of Sydney offices, National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA), Museums and Galleries, and studio spaces.  It is an art complex housing some of the key arts administration organisations for Sydney, and I read once somewhere in the N.S.W. State Library that in the 1980s it was an artists’ community and squat.

Artspace is a key arts venue for audiences and visitors, through exhibiting Australian and international art, producing key texts on ideas and providing public programs filled with discussion and experiences.  Artspace offers just as much for artists, it is an organisation that is involved with the creation of art, it is not just a venue to exhibit the end result.  A major part of Artspace are the residential studios.  Open to Australian and international artists, the studio program is competitive, free and also an amazing opportunity for seven artists every year.  The studio program provides art making space, space for critical dialogue with peers and audiences and exhibition space.  During the program audiences are able to engage with the artists in a multitude of ways, through open studios, artist talks and the exhibition of the work made.

For more information on the Artspace public programs, visit the website:



Firstdraft is Australia’s longest running ARI.  It was incorporated in 1985 as a non-profit artist managed organisation and established in 1986 with seed funding from the Australia council.(Source: From Then to  Now: Artist Run Initiatives in Sydney, New South Wales).  The gallery is located in Woolloomooloo, Sydney, and is managed by one paid gallery manager, eight voluntary directors, and many many voluntary gallery assistants.  To exhibit at Firstdraft is free and also very competitive.  It is one of Australia’s leading institutions for experimental and emerging art.

As well as being home to three or more exhibitions every three weeks, Firstdraft hosts a writers program, studios, performance events, sound nights, workshops and a plethora of other programs and events which are deemed to be part of the zeitgeist in the Firstdraft art making community.  Firstdraft do not program more than six months in advance, this is to keep relevant and have the fluidity to respond to immediate artistic projects and needs.  In this sense it is hard to structure lessons or learning activities around exhibitions or particular events.  Although other ways to interact with the space is through artist talks, which are held usually at the culmination of the exhibition period.  Also the website has interviews with artists and interns who are involved with the gallery, which is accessible from the website.  These are great resources to read for students to become familiar with talking about their own practice, or for when they have to complete their visual arts process diaries.

For more information on Firstdraft visit the website: