How COVID allows educators to creatively connect to the arts

How COVID allows educators to creatively connect to the arts

Galleries and cultural centres have been forced to close their doors during COVID, and rapidly develop online resources to engage their audiences. This can be a boon for educators, and their students with art experiences more accessible online than ever before.

Monash visual and creative art education expert Dr Geraldine Burke explains.

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely disrupted the arts and cultural industries, according to the Australia Council for the Arts. Excursions have been restricted and access to creative materials are also a challenge in lockdown.

This was the case for our much-anticipated Art-Reach program run in partnership with McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery, our pre-service teachers and local school children.

Inspired by galleries from around the world, we re-imagined our field work, and took it entirely online.

Working in collaboration we created arts activities for families, children and teachers. The activities were designed to encourage playful art-making activities using every day materials, as well as providing art appreciation activities for families, children and teachers.

We called this art@home.

Working with the McClelland art collection to create new resources for schools

The McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery is located in Melbourne’s south-east. It boasts an internationally significant sculpture collection. This included freeway commissions of public artwork from the Southern Way Peninsula Link.

Many of the sculptures in the project are well known to our local community in Frankston. Scroll through the gallery above to see a selection of our favourite sculptures.

The art@home activities were created by Monash pre-service teachers, and according to McCelland Education and Program Manager Marie Allaman, the initiative opened up new possibilities.

“By drawing on our combined resources, joining forces and undertaking creative thinking together, we are developing new ways for the community to connect at a time when arts and environment are crucial for our wellbeing,” she said.

All the ideas for art@home will be showcased on the McClelland at Home learning site in October 2020.

How to work with your own regional or local galleries

The McClelland@Home initiative can be used to create your own art@home connections between your school or kindergarten and a regional or local gallery.

Our starting point was the intersection between the ideas of making and responding. We drew on the four strands of the Victorian Curriculum

  1. To explore and express
  2. To develop arts processes
  3. To present and perform
  4. To respond and interpret

An outline of our approach


Choose your favourite sculpture from the McClelland collection or commissions. Become an art detective by putting your inquiry skills to work. (See Visual Thinking Strategies, LinkedIn Learning.)
Ask yourself or work with someone else to build deeper 'looking' skills by exploring the following questions:
  • What's going on with in this sculpture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can we find?
Inevitability, with each question and shared dialogue deeper looking reveals more curiosities about the art work. Challenge yourself to go even deeper by becoming a super-art detective.
Imagine you could step inside your sculpture (e.g. Reflective Lullaby). What might this giant gnome perceive, know about or believe? How might he move or what might he hear? (See Step Inside thinking routine, Harvard)
Brainstorm a list of thought-provoking questions you could ask about your sculpture to prompt lateral and imaginative story telling (e.g. Alexander the Great).
  • Why did this beetle get so big?
  • What if we lived in a world with giant beetles…
  • What is the purpose of…
  • What could change if…
Discover facts and meanings about your sculpture.
Describe what the sculpture looks like. What can you find out about the maker? How, where, when and where was the sculpture made? What purpose and meaning did the artist intend? What meaning do you take from the artwork?
Consider the viewpoints that inform your chosen sculpture. What does the sculpture reveal about our time in history? Our culture? The role of the Gallery and art in everyday life? (See Victorian Curriculum, The Arts, Learning in the Visual Arts, Viewpoints)


Imagine how you could be inspired by your favourite sculpture. Use your responses to your chosen sculpture to inspire your own masterpiece.
Play with ideas – might you explore a similar theme or meaning as the inspirational sculpture? Or could you make sculpture that uses similar materials or is inspired by the chosen technique. Maybe you might be inspired by the art elements and principles that featured in your favourite sculpture (such as shape, colour, texture, form, scale and balance).
Experiment with the form of your artwork (e.g., will it be an installation, a photograph, a collage?)
Check out some of our pre-service teachers examples below so you can see how they too responded to the McClelland sculptures in diverse and exciting ways.
Find easily accessible materials and tools from home that could be used to make your artwork.
Consider the environment where the artwork will be made or displayed; and appropriate safety considerations for @ home art making.
Photograph your work from the beginning to the final product so you can teach others about what you learnt.
Share your artwork, responses and making know-how with your friends, family, school and Gallery. Maybe you might even contact the artist who inspired you and show them what you have made and learnt.
Invite others to join in your art-reach adventures. Build a creative community that celebrates artworks from McClelland or your part of the world.

Sharing art-making inspirations from Monash pre-service teachers

Check out some of our pre-service teacher's sample artworks created in response to inspiring McClelland sculptures.

Inspired by Andrew Rogers' Labyrinth

The following artworks are material investigations by pre-service teachers, inspired by Andrew Rogers Labyrinth sculpture.

  • The Winding Path Labyrinth by Simon Maddock (Minecraft animation).
  • Popcorn Labyrinth by Greta Fullagar (popcorn on kitchen table).
pre-service teachers artworks inspired by Labyrinth
Labyrinth by Andrew Rogers (left) was the inspiration for several pre-service teachers’ artworks (right).

Inspired by Phil Price's Tree of Life

The following artworks are sculptures that move with the wind by Monash pre-service teachers Joanne Slater and Holly Jamieson, inspired by Phil Price’s Tree of Life sculpture (which also moves with the wind).

pre-service teachers artworks inspired by Tree of Life.
Tree of Life by Phil Price (left) was the inspiration for Wind sculptures by Joanne Slater and Holly Jamieson (right).

Inspired by John Kelly’s Alien

The following artworks are sculptures exploring imaginative associations by Monash pre-service teachers Kerry McGennisken, James Polhemus, Misty Hoeta and Ana Del Rosario, inspired by John Kelly’s Alien sculpture.

pre-service teachers artworks inspired by Alien.
Alien by John Kelly (left) was the inspiration for Box Alien, Cup Alien and Noodle Alien (right).

How you can extend this approach to include other art forms

Maybe you might like to employ other art forms for different inspirational responses. Consider, for example:

  • Media Arts: Create a poster about the Labyrinth by Tony Rogers that shows how the sculpture could inspire mindful practice; develop a news story about Alexander the Great visiting your neighbourhood
  • Dance: Move it like Frankie (aka Reflective Lullaby) and stretch it like the Tree of Life moving in the wind; Choreograph a group dance that responds to the shapes and lines of your favourite sculpture; Consider body moves and shapes such as sliding, twisting and balancing, think about where, when, how and who you will move with
  • Drama: Take on the role of Frankie as he meets Alexander the Great. Imagine Frankie's personality and how he would speak. How does he sound different or similar to Alexander beetle? Role-play what they would chat about with another sculpture and what adventures they could undertake together?
  • Music: Compose a lullaby or folk song for Frankie using household items to create the sounds – what beat and tempo suits Frankie's style? Compile a soundscape of all the sounds that Frankie hears in his current location (e.g., birdlife, cars, passers-by).

Linking the sculptures to other areas of the curriculum

There are ways to link this work to other areas of the curriculum. Here are some links to other learning areas, capabilities and cross-curriculum priorities.

  • Numeracy: Consider Frankie's size, scale and proportion. How much bigger is he than a human? A tree? A house?
  • Science connections: Why does Frankie's metal surface stay silver and shiny while Alexander the Greats' metal surface has rusted? What effect does the weather have on outdoor sculptures?
  • Critical and Creative thinking: Design a series of questions to ask your friends and family about the sculptures from McClelland. Explore how different kinds of questions can be used to identify and clarify information, ideas and possibilities.

How to create success criteria for these art@home activities

Keeping the four strands of the Victorian Curriculum (to explore and express, develop arts processes, to present and form and to respond and interpret) which of the content descriptions have you undertaken?

Consider what personal and social capabilities you have developed together. For example how have your students shared tools and materials? Have they helped younger or older family members to make art together? How did team work come into play? And did the students handle any challenges in a constructive way?

Why art connections matter

Every child has the right to express through art and take part in creative and cultural activities. Art education activities – like our art@home project  – enable participants, no matter their age or role, to have the opportunity to connect to local cultural institutions and our shared cultural history. Even in lock-down or during COVID restrictions, we can create links to our shared culture, even though we are apart. In turn, these new forms of shared learning, across universities, galleries, schools and families forge innovative ways for art education to flex with contemporary times.

*Article banner Image:  Alexander the Great by Dean Coles (2010)


Australia Council for the Arts. (2020, Sept). Discussion Paper: Re-imagine: what's next? 1-16.

Dickson, A. (2020, April 20). Bye-bye, blockbusters: can the art world adapt to Covid-19? The Guardian.

InSEA. (2018). International Society for Education through Art (InSEA). The InSEA Manifesto.

Patternmakers. (2020, July). Results from the Audience Outlook Monitor: Key Findings, Phase 2.

UNICEF (n.d.). Convention of the Rights of the Child, For every child, every right.

Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. (n.d). The Arts, Scope and Sequence

Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. (n.d). The Arts, Visual Arts, Learning in the Visual Arts