Grant helps expand Start the Art for parents and toddlers

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Popular art classes will now be available to families in the eastern expansion area of Milton Keynes thanks to a new grant.

Milton Keynes Community Foundation has given a £1,500 grant to extend MK Gallery’s successful Start the Art parent and toddler activities.

Between November 2015 and March 2016 15 Start the Art: Out and About sessions will be delivered by the gallery, in the new housing area of Brooklands, benefitting up to 450 children and parents.

The gallery has devised its outreach initiative in consultation with the Brooklands community mobiliser and Brooklands Farm Primary School.

The hour­long sessions, which are expressly intended for new residents in Brooklands will take place between 10am and 11am on Mondays 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 November; 7 and 14 December, 11, 18, 25, January; 1, 8, 22, 29 February and conclude on 7 March.

Pre­booking will be needed via the gallery’s website at www.mkgallery.org and there will be a small charge of £1 per child on the door towards costs.

This project builds on MK Gallery’s highly popular weekly Tuesday morning Start the Art activities for under 5s, hosted by friendly artists. The parent and toddler sessions help children to explore the joys of art through multi­sensory activities, including painting, drawing and mark-making.

Places at the MK Gallery’s regular Start the Art sessions are now so popular that they need to be reserved online (www.mkgallery.org). A small fee of £1 per child, payable on the door, ensures that the gallery – which is an educational charitable trust – can continue to provide all the staff, equipment and materials it needs to deliver these informal learning sessions, and may in future be able to establish another weekly session to meet public demand.

Speaking about the Start the Art: Out and About project, Jonny Hill, MK Gallery’s Early Years Learning Co­ordinator said: “People relocating to a new area can feel quite isolated, and lack the usual family and friend support networks. In Brooklands we believe that quite apart from their intrinsic educational value, our ‘Start the Art’ sessions can play a really useful part in contributing to the successful development of the community and the health and well­being of participants.

‘Start the Art’ will provide a place, time and space for parents to meet other families and make new friends.”

Josan Race, Brooklands Community Mobiliser commented, “We’re thrilled to be working with MK Gallery on this project. Their artist­led sessions will focus on providing children with opportunities to experience creative arts­based play otherwise unavailable locally, and in the process provide our new community members with opportunities to socialise, integrate and grow in confidence and well­being.”

Victoria Mayes, Head of Learning at MK Gallery added: “We believe in the benefits of involving parents in their children’s learning in order to support early skills development, parent/child bonding, wider community support and social inclusion. As part of our preparations towards the re­opening of an expanded MK Gallery in 2017, we are investigating ways in which we can nurture the cultural curiosity and creativity of family audiences, through projects such as this one, from ages 0 upwards!”

Julia Upton, Chief Executive of MK Community Foundation said: Helping residents of new communities engage with one another is vital in making Milton Keynes a happy and healthy place to live and work. We’re delighted to fund MK Gallery’s Start the Art outreach programme, as well as contributing to their forthcoming expansion supporting MK Gallery’s plans for making the building accessible to people with disabilities.”