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Turning teens into art lovers


Teenagers will create their own sculptures from “anything and everything” at the Art Gallery of South Australia’s final event for the year in a series it says is successfully cracking the “nearly adult” market.

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Lisa Slade, the gallery’s assistant director, artistic programs, is thrilled by the response to Neo, which was launched almost 12 months ago and is specifically aimed at those who are too old for the gallery’s START children’s program but too young for its regular after-dark events.

“It has grown really steadily for each event,” Slade says of the numbers attending.

“I think the most impressive thing for us has been the breadth of the schools represented … it’s a fantastically surprising demographic range.”

More than 350 teenagers from 78 schools across the state have taken part in the five Neo events held so far.

The peer-led events tie in with gallery exhibitions, are interactive, feature young artists as “ambassadors” and mentors, incorporate music and refreshments, and have a strong social element.

Slade says a key to the program’s success is that it is not too structured, and it responds to emerging trends and technology. A recent event linked with Lynette Wallworth’s digital art/documentary Collisions, for example, saw participants creating their own virtual-reality viewing devices and working with artist Ray Harris to create a diorama.

Photo: Sam Oster

The social element of Neo is seen as key to its success. Photo: Sam Oster

This Saturday’s Neo event, Art From Everything, will include a tour of the current gallery exhibition Sappers & Shrapnel, which features both trench art made from the detritus of war and contemporary works such as Ben Quilty’s “wall paintings” made from the discarded lifejackets worn by Syrian refugees. On hand will be surfing painter Henry Jock Walker and sculptor Min Wong, with participants encouraged to make their own sculptures from all manner of materials.

“It’s about this idea of ingenuity, how artists can use anything and everything to make art,” Slade says.

AGSA will continue to run Neo in 2017, with plans to open the entire gallery exclusively for teens one evening at the start of Youth Week on March 31.

While most of the target audience will have visited the gallery at least once with their school, the hope is that Neo will act as a bridging program to foster an ongoing interest in the arts.

“It’s really just about getting kids tuned into arts and culture and making it part of their daily diet,” Slade says. “Let’s turn art into a sport!”

Art From Everything! will be at the Art Gallery of SA from midday until 4pm this Saturday, December 3 and is presented free through the support of The Balnaves Foundation.

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