Our 2017 festival program

The Abi-Tanti

The migrating masses of the Abi-Tanti arrived in Australia for the first time as part of the festival.

Hundreds of identical wooden figures were decorated, forming tribes and families in the Immigration Museum courtyard and then on the steps of Parliament House.

Curated by the Education Department of the Castello di Rivoli, the project is about our differences and similarities.

ADO-Arts Learning Festival Orchestra

The talented teacher musicians from Victorian schools formed this remarkable orchestra, a collaboration of the Australian Discovery Orchestra and the Arts Learning Festival.

Conducted by the ADO’s New York-based principal conductor Kevin Purcell, one of Australia’s most distinguished conductors and musical directors, the orchestra came together on the final day of the festival for a concert that was also live-streamed.

There were two Australian premieres: Susan Kandor’s Miranda’s Waltz for narrator and orchestra, and Anthony Piccolo’s Imaginary Symphony No. 1 for orchestra and unison children’s chorus.


Located at the festival village at Birrarung Marr, ArchiLoom was a large three-dimensional installation that used re-purposed materials including bamboo, recycled rope, fabrics and other found materials.

After the Slow Art Collective constructed the giant loom, it became a magnet for festival crowds, who filled in the walls of the structure by using the ancient craft of weaving.

The Art of Listening

Part of the Edinburgh International Festival for more than 20 years, this acclaimed program made a welcome return to Melbourne as part of the Arts Learning Festival.

The Art of Listening grew out of a need to fill a gap in the musical education of children. While schools had focused on developing students’ ability to perform, compose and create music, little effort had been given to developing their listening skills.

In sessions at the Melbourne Recital Centre, a classical music performance by a singer and pianist took participants of all ages on a journey of discovery, helping them explore with listening skills, imagination and sense of self.

Arts Access Victoria Wheelie Bin ObscuraArts Access Victoria

Arts Access Victoria is all about art for everyone, and this was reflected in their program at the festival.

The mobile Nebula studio took its place in the festival village at Birrarung Marr, where it became the hub for the Arts Access program.

There were Wheelie Bin Obscura workshops – wheelie bins turned into obscura cameras.

There was also Slam Poetry performed Deaf Artists, and weekend family workshops of monoprinting – making individual one-off prints using inks and rollers with mono print boards.

Ausdance Victoria

The team from Ausdance brought two exciting programs to the festival. There was an all-day workshop for teachers, which gave them skills to engage students through the magic of dance choreography and performance.

The Teaching Dad to Dance program was also unveiled, where students become the teachers – watch the fun video made for the project.

On the weekend, there was the family fun of Alice’s Tea Party at the festival village.

Family Fun Art Day at ACCAAustralian Centre for Contemporary Art

The uber cool ACCA offered two great programs as part of the festival.  

The evening session was led by Artistic Director Max Delany, involving a private exhibition talk and viewing of a major solo exhibition of Melbourne-based artist Claire Lambe.

On the weekend, the focus shifted to families, with a free fun day out that gave people the opportunity to think and make at ACCA with practicing artists.

Being in the Moment – Art and Mindfulness

This mindfulness workshop from Zart Education explored the importance of emotions such as gratitude and resilience in everyday living.

Taking the time to practice mindfulness in the class with a simple range of art-based experiences, the workshop invited creative thinking, which can help all subject areas of the school day.

Billie and the DinosaursBillie and the Dinosaurs

We all know Tim Ferguson as part of the legendary Doug Anthony All Stars and more lately, as a popular comedic performer in his own right.

Tim brought his considerable talents to the Arts Learning Festival, with the exciting Billie and the Dinosaurs program, aimed at young learners and families.

In performances at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Billie and the Dinosaurs took audiences on a musical journey through a narrated orchestral performance. Our hero Billie lives in regional Australia and when faced by bullies at school runs away and uncovers an ancient world where her new friends help her through her adventures to learn about friendship and resilience.

Maja DivjakBiomedical Animation

Scientific animator, Dr Maja Divjak, used stunning 3D computer graphics and animation to explain and illustrate the unseen world of molecules in our bodies.  

She imports molecules from the Protein Data Base, a repository of more than 200,000 molecules, into a 3D computer animation program called Maya. This software is typically used throughout Hollywood. In Arts Learning Festival workshops at the Arts Centre, Dr Divjak lead students through a typical project.

Dr Divjak was a scientist with a strong creative side, who found the perfect way to combine both interests through scientific animation, producing cinematic works of art that tell a scientific story.

Collaborate Art ExhibitionCollaborate Exhibition

The Arts Learning Festival was all about bringing students together, and our Collaborate project embraced that idea.

This was a student art exhibition, drawn from across school sectors, that highlighting the use collaborative practice in art education in 2017.

Contemporary Art Conversations with Dr Flossie ChuaContemporary Art Conversations

What is contemporary art and how are contemporary artists engaging with ideas, concepts and pressing questions of our time? How might artists working today inspire new paradigms for teaching and learning?

These were the big questions asked by Dr Flossie Chua, from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In a teacher session, she explored how the working processes and artwork of contemporary artists both articulate and challenge the way we explore ideas, concepts and issues that characterise contemporary society.

Design, Create and Tech

Arts and technology came together in our schools at the Design, Create + Tech exhibition at the Atrium at Federation Square.

The results were wonderful creations – including a fabulous collection of cardboard box animals.

The event also included a fun TASK party, an open-ended, participatory event that offered almost unlimited opportunities for participants to imagine, interact and play with one another and the environment. 

Students planting saplingsGreen Creativity – Do it on the Roof

Do it on the Roof are green infrastructure specialists who are passionate about turning Victoria greener, through innovative approaches such as gardens on roofs and vertical walls.

The team and their Sustainability Rover were a real drawcard at the festival village on Birrarung Marr, running student and family workshops.

And over the five days of the festival, we watched as a wonderful vertical garden was created, using cuttings and repurposed plastic bottles. 

In the lead up to the festival, the project hit the road, running school workshops in regional Victoria.

student's creative workEscape to Everywhere

The theme of  August’s 2017 Book Week is Escape to Everywhere, highlighting how much reading can generate joy, excitement, wonder and allow us to gain knowledge from books.

But in the case of illustrated books, it’s much more than just the words.  Zart Education delivered a popular workshop program that celebrated the important relationship between the illustrations and the text. 

Federation Handbells

The Federation Handbells have inspired performances from schools, community groups and professional organisations and can be used by players of all skill levels for any occasion or musical style.

Managed by Museums Victoria on behalf of Creative Victoria, the bells were originally commissioned by Arts Victoria for the 2001 Centenary.  They are the world’s first true harmonic bells. Each set consists of 24 bells covering two chromatic octaves (from E to D#)

The Federation Handbells went out on loan to schools over terms 1 and 2 as part of the Arts Learning Festival.

Students from the first group of schools that had the handbells in term 1 took part in a performance workshop during the festival.

They provided an exciting way to empower and engage students in a musical experience – to see where unlimited imagination would take them

Flying Carpet in actionFestival Art Day Out

The Arts Learning Festival teamed up with the National Gallery of Victoria to provide an exciting day of art activities as part of the festival.

The day included a Visual Thinking Strategies routine, an inquiry-based teaching method, run by a group of Independent school teachers trained in the method in 2016 at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

Students also joined a Third Paradise art making workshop. In Australia for the first time, the Third Paradise was devised by Italian modern master Michelangelo Pistoletto, as part of his search for a sustainable future, where nature and humankind coexist in harmony. They helped produce the Flying Carpet from scraps of fabric, which was used to create the Third Paradise symbol at Birrarung Marr.

To complete the day, students were also involved in a tour activity at the NGV.

Students perfoming on climate changeFestival Artists Collective

Year 9 and 10 students from Braemar College and their drama teacher Robyn Brentnall were involved in this exciting four-day event, developed by Dr Dave Kelman, Artistic Director of Western Edge Youth Arts.

Working with four artists from four disciplines – digital, performance, sculpture and dance – the students were given the theme of climate change. They created a script, props and sets, culminating in a packed-out final performance at Signal by the Yarra.

Festival Showcase Stage

Victorian schools are home to a remarkable array of student talent. 

The aim was to showcase this talent, and as part of the festival activities at Birrarung Marr near Federation Square, schools were invited to perform on the Festival Showcase Stage.

The program reflected the fact that students of all ages are being given increasingly rich opportunities to develop arts practice, whether visual or performing, folding back into all areas of education.

Creating the Flying CarpetThe Flying Carpet

At festival village at Birrarung Marr, students at the Flying Carpet workshops weaved an extraordinary carpet from scraps and rags, with each strand representing different cultures and points of view.

Ultimately, the experiences and perspectives of each artist combined to create a carpet that represented our community as a whole.

The program was run by the Education Department of the Castello di Rivoli.

Flying Poetry KitesFlying Poetry with kites

Giant, colourful kites filled the skies over the festival village at Birrarung Marr, part of the Flying Poetry program.

They created instant crowds, drawn by the sight of the kites catching the winds over Birrarung Marr against the backdrop of city skyscrapers.

Run by the team from Kites 4 Kids, the Flying Poetry program included workshops on building kites, flying them and their cultural significance.

After the workshops, there were delightful scenes of children with their newly-made kites running around the festival village and on the grassy slopes of Birrarung Marr.

Hazel Edwards Keynote Address

Acclaimed author and educator Hazel Edwards delivered a fascinating keynote address at the Immigration Museum as part of the Arts Learning Festival.

In an address for teachers and parents, Hazel spoke on Creativity is the fun and skills of putting together unexpected ideas.

Hazel explored the theme of creativity by relating it to her own real life experiences as an author, including working on an Australian Antarctic Division expedition.

While best known for her There’s a Hippopotamus on the Roof children’s series, she has has more than 200 books published, runs writing workshops, mentors writers, and is a reading ambassador and passionate educator.

Koorie Heritage Trust

The Arts Learning Festival village was located at Birrarung Marr, and the Koorie Heritage Trust conducted walks that explored the importance of the area.

The trust guided people through the Birrarung Wilam (River Camp) Walk at the festival.

The walk began at Federation Square and then down to the Birrarung Wilam (Common Ground) Aboriginal art installations, allowing participants to experience the Aboriginal history of the Birrarung Marr (Beside the river of mists) and Aboriginal Peoples of the Kulin Nation.

Roving Storyteller

Denise Ahlquist, Vice President for Professional Learning at the Great Books Foundation in Chicago, loves to engage people in discussions about the great ideas and texts that shape our world.

As a master lifelong learner and ‘teacher of teachers’, she is passionately committed to helping people of all ages and backgrounds learn to think more critically, read with greater comprehension and communicate more effectively.

She brought these wonderful skills to her role as our Roving Storyteller, delighting her audiences at the festival village.

Speaking Daggers

The festival saw the premiere of Speaking Daggers, a short film commissioned by the festival that brought five Shakespeare plays to life in the very Melbourne setting of an outdoor cafe.

The film is a series of vignettes of conversations, monologue and song performed by eight actors and taken from five Shakespeare plays – Much Ado About Nothing, Henry IV: Part 1, Othello, Twelfth Night and Measure For Measure.

Created by Sally McLean of Shakespeare Republic, the film is part of a project to make The Bard fun and accessible for young people.

The film premiered at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, followed by a panel discussion with the cast and crew, as well as a performance of the song created for the film, O, Mistress Mine, by Jaron Natoli.

The Third Paradise

Modern Italian master Michelangelo Pistoletto created the Third Paradise project as part of his work towards a sustainable future.

In Australia for the first time, the Third Paradise forum saw schools come together over two days to discuss their work in environmental and cultural sustainability.

The forum culminated in the forming the Third Paradise symbol – an extended infinity symbol – at Birrarung Marr, using the Flying Carpet weaved  from scraps and rags, with each strand representing different cultures and points of view. This was the first time the symbol and been created in Australia.

Independent Schools Victoria is now an Ambassador for the Third Paradise project.

Weaving Wishes for the River

The importance of the Yarra as a life force of Melbourne was celebrated in a program especially designed for children in the early years.

The Weaving Wishes for the River involved early years children (aged up to 8) taking part in a collaborative weaving of ribbons at the Arts Learning Festival village.

Through contact with the river and environs, the project developed awareness of the Yarra and capture children’s wishes for the river.

During the event, educators, families and children were able to listen to Michael Johnson, a well-known Melbourne musician and storyteller. Michael’s music has been composed in response to the Yarra River and other inspirational environmental features in Melbourne and Victoria.

Westside Circus

Throughout the festival, Westside Circus provided high energy, adventurous and engaging workshops.

Westside Circus is Melbourne’s leading not for profit for young people participating in circus, providing an inclusive and accessible art form available to those of all ages and skill level.

Westside is a social circus. One of liberating underlying principles is that trainers are looking at ‘you’ as you are – not who you could be or who you were.