Fantastic for Families Award 2020 Case Study

Fantastic for Families Award Winners 2020

In 2020, Dundee Contemporary Arts won the Fantastic for Families Impact Award for work with Art at the Start, which aimed to expand the 0-3s audience, support vulnerable families and explore the benefits of art making for young children.

Vicky Armstrong, PhD student, and Sarah Derrick, DCA Head of Learning, reflect on what this has meant to their work.

The shortlisting for the award came at a very unsettled time for us in 2020, as we tried to reach families while the gallery remained closed. It was such a boost to have a good news story about our Learning activity and work with Art at the Start at an otherwise difficult time. It was hugely encouraging for our focus on the early years and gave us increased confidence as we adapted to keep engaging young families during the pandemic. It has never felt more important for galleries to reach out to the communities they serve.

The Art at the Start project is a collaboration with University of Dundee psychology researchers, so this award really helped to show the benefits of this partnership in being able to evidence what we are doing. The award-recognition has also helped the team in making further applications for funding, which have maintained and expanded their work. It was definitely beneficial to have national visibility for our work via the Award, the case study on Fantastic for Families website and also being invited to take part in a UK webinar on ways to engage families.

A toddler sat on the floor, painting with fingerpaint, hands full of blue, red and yellow paint.

To summarise, this strand of work has been to encourage more families to make art together with young children through activities such as the Art Boxes and Messy Play sessions. We also supported families at risk of poor mental health and attachment difficulties through targeted art therapy sessions. When all these activities came to an end with Lockdown, we had to adapt fast to continue to offer support and art making. We developed Home Art Boxes containing art materials and ideas to be delivered to families with young children facing disadvantage and low wellbeing over the pandemic. Over 200 of these went out alongside 750 Family Art Bags for older children. We were also putting a lot of art content online, as did many arts venues. However, we have found it most important to support families where there are barriers to accessing digital content, by providing physical art resources.  

Our research shows that the Art Boxes helped improve parents’ wellbeing and encouraged positive, child focused, and playful interactions. You can read more about the outcomes of the art boxes in detail here. 

A baby holds a paintbrush and sits on white paper on the floow. It is covered in paint from its first painting attempts and seems to be very happy.

As the DCA gradually reopened from late April, we were able to invite families back in to make art together in the Create Space alongside side our exhibitions programme – all with social distancing, mask wearing and pre-packed safe materials. We have also been running outdoor art making sessions for small family / parent groups in venues like the Dundee Botanic Gardens which has created a brilliant opportunity to develop that relationship.  In June, we were finally able to have groups of parents and their little ones back making art together in our Create Space, which has been wonderful! We have many exciting new plans coming up such as co-creating a book of art ideas together with families and making an animation to communicate the benefits of early art making.  

The Fantastic for Families award has certainly helped to strengthen our applications for these new projects, and we are looking forward to continuing to develop what we offer. You can read more about the benefits of art for little ones here.

A toddler sits on an adults lap and is touching a red ball. Various other sensory objects are in front of them, e.g. bubblewrap.

Image credits:
All images in this case study photographed by David P Scott. All rights reserved.

9 July 2021

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9 July 2021