11 August, 2020
It’s a challenging time for children and families right now. With parents and caregivers having to become part-time teachers, and educators supporting students remotely – we’re all having to work in new ways. To help families stay connected, entertained and inspired in isolation, our Creative Learning team has developed a range of online offers, including a series of fun and interactive digital workshops, taught by leading artists and musicians.
The Channel is Arts Centre Melbourne's dedicated learning venue, with two digital learning classrooms, a performance space and a recording studio. From these spaces we run accessible creative learning programs for school students of all ages, participatory workshops for children and their families, as well as skill-building workshops for emerging creatives and learners of all ages. The impact of COVID-19 disrupted our usual Families workshop programs, which featured a curated selection of teaching artists who deliver workshops to young people across various performing arts disciplines.
For The Channel’s Program and Venue Manager, Zoe Rinkel, this presented a unique series of challenges. How could we continue to deliver high quality, interesting and relevant programs that represent a variety of audiences and support creativity across the performing arts?
“The main impact is not having access to our amazing venue,” says Zoe. “We’ve had to redirect our programming into the online space, which has been both challenging and rewarding.”
“In fast response to the closure of Arts Centre Melbourne, we decided to create a series of videos that could be accessed any time, and for a longer period, allowing more families to engage when it works best for them.”
The suite of workshops covers magic, lyric writing, puppetry, hip-hop, clowning and beat-making.
“We aim to offer a broad range of options so every taste is catered for,” says Zoe. “We also wanted the added flexibility of younger participants to follow the workshop on their own – and support parents/carers in having a little break!”
Importantly, these programs have also been able to maintain any pre-COVID-19 agreement with artists, which means we’re able continue to support them artistically and financially: a priority for Arts Centre Melbourne.
"This project has brought me a lot of joy and stability during this crazy time,” says musician and producer Beatrice Lewis, who performs under the moniker Haiku Hands. Beatrice has been working on a new project for The Channel, in collaboration with youth music organisation The Push and Parliament of Victoria, alongside a group of teenagers aged 14-17 years old.
“COVID-19 cancelled 100% of my shows overnight, including nine months of Haiku Hands upcoming tours, which was my primary income. Having this project has been something that has then provided me income, connections with people and some stability through a weekly workshop."
For Zoe and her team, they’re overjoyed to find that the feelings of connectivity that are promoted in the Channel haven’t been lost, despite the artists and participants not being able to gather in the same room.
“We are so privileged to be able to give them that experience. Working with young people on creative projects is extremely rewarding. Seeing them succeed, and realise they have this power inside them – to be an artist – is so wonderful and we get to experience that excitement with them,” she says.
“The performing arts gives young people a community, a language by which to communicate complex feelings and ideas, and the confidence to take risks and be themselves. It also contributes to the building of a healthy future for a dynamic, exciting, inclusive and diverse arts sector.”
The Channel and our Creative Learning team are currently exploring ways to move our face-to-face schools workshop program online, continuing to engage teachers and their students in the performing arts. This work will complement the extensive online resources already available on the Arts Centre Melbourne website for teachers to use at any time, as well as build on existing Schools programs such as Stories in the Wall.