What is the Campaign about?

Welsh language information

The Family Arts Campaign is a national Sector Support Organisation funded by Arts Council England and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to raise family engagement with arts and culture.

Since our beginnings in 2012, we have focused on three main areas of work:

  • Increasing the amount and range of artistic work available to families
  • Increasing the quality of experience for families
  • Improving marketing to reach more families

We are here to support National Portfolio Organisations, museums, libraries, community groups, individuals, and anyone else looking to better connect families with arts and culture.

You can take part by signing up to the free Family Arts Standards and Age-Friendly Standards quality-marks, by attending training and events, or accessing our online resources library. You can also promote all of your family and age-friendly events for free as part of our Fantastic for Families  campaign.


Who is running the Campaign?

We are a cross-sector and cross-artform initiative steered by a consortium of ten organisations and trade bodies. Our lead partner organisation is The Albany.

Logos of consortium partners: AMA, CVAN, ITS, One Dance UK, Society of London Theatre, UK Theatre, The Albany, Kids in Museums, ABO, The Audience Agency


The campaign is overseen by a Project Board:

Matthew Swann(Interim chair) Chief Executive, City of London Sinfonia
Sebastian CaterHead of UK Theatre and Workforce Development, UK Theatre
Charlotte JonesChief Executive, Independent Theatre Council
Cath HumeExecutive Director, Arts Marketing Association
Robert O’DowdChief Executive, Rose Theatre Kingston
Gavin BarlowChief Executive/Artistic Director, The Albany
Mark PembertonDirector, Association of British Orchestras
Anne TorreggianiExecutive Director, The Audience Agency
Karla Barnacle-Best CEO, Discover Children’s Story Centre
Alison Bowyer and Laura BedfordExecutive Director and Head of Programmes, Kids in Museums
Paula OrrellDirector, Contemporary Visual Arts Network
Frederick HopkinsHead of Business Development and Membership, One Dance UK
Sarah Mears and Liz McMillanProgramme Manager, Libraries Connected / Libraries and Culture Services Manager, Slough Borough Council 


Central co-ordination team:

Anna DeverHead of Campaign
Rukhsana JahangirCampaign Manager
Sophie EvansDigital Marketing Manager
Daniela GerstmannDigital Marketing Officer

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Dundee Contemporary: Art at the Start

Fantastic for Families Award 2020 Case Studies

We’re pleased to bring you a series of Case Studies from this year’s Shortlisted Organisations for the Fantastic for Families Awards.

Dundee Contemporary Arts was the winner of the Audience Impact Award 2020. Here they tell us all about their art and research project Art at the Start.

View or small girl's head as she sits on giant piece of white paper, with paint lids of different colours

The Art at the Start project is a collaboration between Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) Learning and University of Dundee Psychology Department to promote and research the benefits of art making for parents together with very young children.

Project Background

Art at the Start came out of conversations between myself, an art therapist developing work with parents and babies, Dr Josephine Ross, a developmental psychologist, and Sarah Derrick, DCA Head of Learning. We were all interested in how we could promote positive interactions between parents and their young children through the art making process; the 0-3 age group was a new one which DCA wished to develop within the Family Programme.

Following successful funding bids, we began this research project in 2018 as a collaboration between DCA and University of Dundee Psychology Department. Art at the Start has helped DCA to reach new audiences, using art making to improve wellbeing and make a meaningful difference in families’ lives. Our work has included blocks of art therapy sessions targeting families vulnerable to low wellbeing as well as monthly public sessions of messy, creative play, building on the research to create fun interactive sessions.

What we have provided

We have now run four art therapy groups delivered within DCA and three in community venues, reaching over 50 parent-infant dyads. Referrals came via Health Visitors, family nurses, and voluntary agencies where there were concerns for parent’s well-being/mental health and attachment relationships. These families had not usually engaged with DCA previously. Following a welcome meeting at home they attended twelve sessions supporting playful, responsive connections together through art making.

We also developed free, monthly public sessions for 0-3 year olds and their grown-ups; Messy Play session activities were themed to artworks in each of DCA’s exhibitions. Sessions started with looking in the gallery together followed by a baby-safe art activity and sensory play activity in response. We encouraged parents to respond to what little ones were interested in and think about the process rather than the final product. We had big bucket baths and towels provided so they felt OK to get messy! These were very popular sessions, always booked up (maximum 20 people in the room), receiving great feedback. Families have taken part who had never tried to make artwork with their babies before, thinking they were too young, or not wanting to be messy, and who now attend regularly.

With galleries currently closed we have had to adapt the project and so have been providing boxes of art materials and a series of guided art making ideas to target families who need extra support as well as sharing activity ideas for art making with wee ones at home online.

Small girl and boy painting blue on white paper and hanging the sheets in a gallery

What we have learned

Our research at the university is collecting data on the outcomes of the art therapy sessions which has so far shown them to be positive for improving parental wellbeing and attachment relationships. Observational study showed that the number of positive attachment behaviours between parents and infants went up following the sessions. We also know that families have since accessed public DCA activity and gained confidence to participate. Where groups were out-with DCA we made that connection by arranging a specific visit to DCA. This has led to new and deeper connections with Homestart, Dundee International Women’s Centre and health professionals which will sustain current relationships and help us to welcome new families.

Our work has helped us to focus on the positive benefits of art making together and what this offers very young children; this is feeding back in to DCA programing activity for the public as well. We know that art making with a parent can help toddlers to feel connected to their grown-ups and to share new experiences together. It also lets them see how they can literally make a mark in the world which builds their sense of self, lets them make choices by offering opportunities to communicate and expands their range of sensory experiences which is great for brain development.

It feels amazing to have the work we have been doing recognised with this Fantastic for Families Awards nomination. It supports our ideas as a collaboration, raises the profile of what we are doing and will also help us as we plan for the future and look for further funding. We are aiming for the 0-3s sessions to become a permanent feature in DCA‘s Learning programme to continue our exploration of art engagement at DCA and how this impacts on wellbeing within families, especially those with very young children.

Vicky Armstrong, PG research in psychology – HCPC registered Art Psychotherapist

Vicky is the art therapist and post graduate researcher with the Art at the Start project, a collaboration between Dundee Contemporary Arts Learning team and the University of Dundee Psychology Department. You can find out more about this project on the DCA website or on the project website.

Find more Case Studies from the Fantastic For Families Awards Shortlist >

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