How to do an art trail with children!

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Every two years, artists across Dorset open up their studios to the general public.  It’s a rare opportunity to meet the person behind the painting/sculpture/print and find out why and how they create their art! Dorset’s open studio event is the UK’s largest, and it’s completely free!

I always looked forward to doing the DAW art trail with my two daughters.  It was our May Half Term Adventure!  They are independent young women now, but both remember setting out on fun day trips with a picnic and the Dorset Art Weeks brochure. We would select a particular area (always choosing a different one each time) and then plan out who we would visit.  We particularly liked visiting any artists “out in the sticks”, because this often meant the added bonus of walking through a lovely cottage garden. The messier the studio, the better – in our eyes this was the domain of a true artist!! Smelly old dog snoozing in the corner, the smell of linseed oil … – marvelous!

Some places are easier to visit with children than others.  I was lucky that, on the whole, my daughters enjoyed visiting all the studios and looking at the artists’ work.  However, on days when they were less keen, or when the studio wasn’t as “excitingly bohemian” as they would have liked, I used to make up various challenges.  At any rate, we always gave ourselves an imaginary £200 (I would have to increase that figure to £500, if we were still playing that game!) and everyone made a list of what they would spend it on – this involved writing the title of the art work, the name of the artist, and why they chose it.  There were also other “categories” to keep everyone on their toes e.g. “favourite studio”, “friendliest artist”, and so on!  My youngest daughter invariably chose any studio as her favourite if the artist provided any sort of refreshment!!! My eldest daughter used to relish writing a comment in the artists’ visitor’s books.

I am now an artist myself – a printmaker. When I was visiting those open studios with my children, I never imaged that one day it would be my turn! I cannot provide a studio out “in the sticks”, nor do I have a pretty cottage garden to walk through! I do have a dog (who likes people), but she’s not particularly smelly.  I am definitely friendly though!  I relish being able to explain what I do, and to any parent visiting with their children I say: “Good for you!” Children don’t have to be artistic themselves to be able to look at something and decide if they like it or not – there are no rules to appreciating art. This is something they can learn very early on, by doing an art trail!!  Come and visit me at Venue 281 this year in sunny Wimborne.  If you can’t get hold of a brochure, you can visit the website and plan your May Half Term trips out from there:




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