Dandenong West Primary School (DWPS) and Barking Spider Visual Theatre: A day out at Heide Museum.

On Friday December 7th, the children and teachers involved in Barking Spider’s, Arts Victoria funded Extended School Residency The Next Big Thing came to visit Heide Museum. The visit was supported by Heide, and was an incredible opportunity for these kids and teachers, most of whom had never been to Heide before.  The day was an opportunity to take the arts practices in which the kids and teachers had been engaged during the residency, and to use these within, and be informed by, the Heide environment.


Throughout the residency, I worked for Barking Spider as artistic director and hands on, with the school as an artist. Later in the residency – toward the last weeks – I was chatting with a girl from Afghanistan. I asked her how she felt about being in Australia, and she said she missed her home country very much: in her home country the kids would visit each other’s houses in the village where she had lived, and the countryside was beautiful. I asked if she had seen the countryside in Australia, and she had never left Dandenong. I recounted this story to Christine Healey, and this is when Christine hatched the proposal to bring the kids to Heide: there they would experience natural beauty, significant Australian history and be engaged in making art with the Barking Spider artists from the residency.


We planned to create an installation in the Sydney Myer Education Centre (SMEC), using some materials that the children were familiar with from the residency – bubble wrap in particular, and a bunch of new materials supplied by Heide. The installation was to be sound and visual in nature, and would be progressively constructed by the children throughout the day. The idea behind this followed on from a strong guiding principle from the residency itself: collaborative creation. Nat Grant took small groups of children around Heide, and over the day they collected sounds and mixed these together, creating – by the end of the day – a “Sounds of Heide” soundtrack. I took small groups of children in SMEC itself, and each group constructed parts of the installation, so by the end of the day, we had a complete, and truly collaborative artwork. The 90 kids and accompanying teachers and parents

then went through the sound and visual installation, experiencing what they had all created.

It was such a privilege to be able to bring these children and teachers to Heide for this experience. As an extension of our residency at the school, this was an outstanding opportunity, and I feel incredibly thankful to Heide Museum for making this possible – and in particular to Christine Healey the Education Coordinator for her vision, passion and generosity.


For the Barking Spider artists, it was such a joy to be able to reconnect with the kids and teachers after nearly a full term since the residency’s close. Often as artists when we leave our schools or communities, there is a great sadness with this leaving: we do become attached to the people we are working with and it’s hard to say goodbye. This was a lovely opportunity for us to have the school in a new environment, and to once again share art and time with this group of people that we’ve grown to love.