One thing that brings children together is their love of drawing. Dianne Jensen finds out why KidzArt is booming at Southport Uniting Church.
Exploring spirituality through art is just one of the things which makes KidzArt an effective mission of Southport Uniting Church. The innovative program was started four years ago by Rev Dona Spencer to provide a creative Christian art space for children and parents from different cultures and backgrounds.
“Children are so open to the things of God and there is a real common language of faith and spirituality,” says Dona, an artist and art educator. “We have had Muslims attend and we currently have three Hindu families as well as kids with no church background, so at special times in the year the program is very Christian-focussed and other times it might be about the fruits of the spirit.”
KidzArt attracts between 30 and 40 participants every Friday. The free sessions begin with a story, discussion and prayer, followed by art activities exploring different mediums and techniques. The afternoon finishes with a prayer circle where children contribute their own prayers.
“I don’t teach skills: this is how you draw a tree, this is how you draw an apple. I teach a lot about composition and design, but more about having confidence in their own innate expression,” says Dona. “Children who have been involved in our art program for years—their drawings are so bold and their pencil goes all over the page they’ve developed so much confidence.”
Drawings done by the children for the church’s annual Flourish art festival will be showcased on a giant mural surrounding the renovation of the Australia Fair shopping centre.
KidzArt has also created floor-to-ceiling murals for the church sanctuary. Last year the group produced their own calendar, raising over $500 for a UnitingWorld project in Kalimpong, India.
Southport congregation member Glenda Rolley has been bringing her grandchildren since KidzArt began, and she has seen relationships grow across cultures and generations.
“I think it’s the fellowship that keeps bringing people back. This is a mission of the church not only to the children–who just love the artwork—but also the parents and we can really get to know one another,” says Glenda.
“It’s like a children’s church. I think Sunday School as it used to be is no more—and this is a good way for them to learn about God in a fun and creative way.”