Today’s adventure with Johnny took us to the Ipswich Art Gallery, where we browsed a range of artworks before settling into the Children’s Gallery with its Wild Thing exhibition. The girls and I were so content with the activities in the Children’s Gallery that we missed the main exhibition hall altogether. (This must mean that we’ll have to go back, yay!)

Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
The Ipswich Art Gallery is located in the restored old town hall.

The gallery’s website reads:

Children Welcome. The Ipswich Art Gallery has a dedicated Children’s Gallery. We are a wheelchair and pram-friendly venue with a large internal lift. Our friendly volunteers will help you to find your way around, and to bring your visit alive.

And we found ourselves truly welcomed in this space. One of the things that I’ve been ruminating over after watching Raffi’s TED talk is that if we design our world to be child-friendly, it will also be adult-friendly. The reverse is not also true. As we go on outings with a pram and strolli, and now with Johnny accompanying us in his wheelchair, we are discovering where the world is child-friendly and where it is not. The Ipswich Art Gallery really is child friendly, and thus, it works for grown-ups too!

An exploded motorcycle entitled "The Big Bang" hangs above our heads in the entrance to the gallery. Created by Eamon O'Toole in over 600 hours of work, the pieces are a replica of famous local racer Mick Doohan's winning motorbike and are made from heat-moulded plastic.

Calista on the strolli, August 2012
I'm using our strolli again to help us get around more efficiently. The Bibi Strolli is a pram attachment that allows an older child to hitch a ride when their feet get tired of walking.

Christopher Trotter's Tap Root, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
Christopher Trotter's Tap Root decorates the wall outside the gallery's toilet facilities.

Aisha trying out the taps on Christopher Trotter's Tap Root, August 2012
The taps and wheels within reach all move, adding an interactive element to the sculpture which is an expressed desire of the Australian artist.

Dale Frank's Ebenezer, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
Made by pouring paint onto a flat canvas and then tipping it on an angle, Dale Frank's Ebenezer evokes a landscape.

Dale Frank's Ebenezer, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
Before I can stop her, Aisha can't resist feeling the different layers of paint. When examining this painting style, we talk about how easy it would be to create an artwork like this, and perhaps we'll try it at home.

Madeleine Kelly's Fairy Knoll, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
Madeleine Kelly's Fairy Knoll is an interesting painting to discuss with children. What are all the elements? What do they mean? Aisha thinks a second world is at the bottom of the ladder.

Maureen Hansen's paintings, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
Maureen Hansen's impressionist-style painting of local houses look "fizzy" to the girls when we're up close, but when we move away from the display wall, everything is clear.

Mel Robson's Belmont, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
Calista likes to point out her favourite pieces from Mel Robson's porcelain works. Our girls have very clear ideas about what they like and do not like, and they are quick to give opinions of all the artworks we examine.

And then we reached the Children’s Gallery. (There are many more exciting things in the gallery to see. Johnny was able to visit the main exhibition hall, and he raved about the works he’s seen there, so I’m keen to go back.)

Troy Emery is the main exhibiting artist in the Children’s Gallery. His Wild Thing creatures — covered in tassels or tiny, soft pompoms — are the main attraction alongside a large artificial turf playscape called ‘The Mounge”.

Children's Gallery at Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
The Children's Gallery is a spacious room, with room for art displays, interactive exhibits and hands-on creativity.

Troy Emery's Wild Things exhibition at Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
Troy Emery takes the foam animal bodies usually used in taxidermy practices and covers them with artificial craft materials.

Troy Emery's Wild Things exhibition at Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
It's interesting how an ambiguous creature without a face can still convey so much expression.

Troy Emery's Wild Things exhibition at Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
Emery's artwork provides another dimension to the Indigenous Australian mythical Rainbow Serpent.

Troy Emery's Wild Things exhibition at Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
Now that I know there's such a thing as taxidermy foam bodies, I want some for us to play with too!

We can’t work on taxidermy foam bodies yet, but the gallery has provided a range of craft materials for making our own wild things. A huge number of creations made by earlier visitors to the gallery are on display, and these whet our imaginations.

Johnny looks at the creations in the Children's Gallery, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
Masks and animals and everything in between are on display.

Making artworks in the Children's Gallery, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
We sit at the table and start fashioning our own pieces.

Making artworks in the Children's Gallery, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
I've discovered that the best way to encourage the girls in a certain direction is to set out in that way myself. So I make some purple spectacles out of the materials on hand.

Making artworks in the Children's Gallery, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
After fashioning this little bird for Delaney, I refrain from making anything else lest the girls' works turn into Mummycraft.

Making artworks in the Children's Gallery, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
Calista positions herself next to me so she can ask for sections of sticky-tape.

Making artworks in the Children's Gallery, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
Gallery-worker Kate is on hand to encourage our girls to gain inspiration from the Wild Thing exhibition. She is remarkable in the way she enthusiastically engages with all the children who enter the Children's Gallery and adds positively to our whole experience at the Ipswich Art Gallery.

Making artworks in the Children's Gallery, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
Aisha fashions a tail for her own bird creation.

Making artworks in the Children's Gallery, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
With a gentle up and down motion, the bird flaps its wings.

Making artworks in the Children's Gallery, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
Always keen to do things her own way, Brioni makes her own bird stand up.

As well as providing a creative space, the Children’s Gallery has a great playscape, with a multi-levelled hill covered in artificial turf — complete with foam boulders, water-filled bladders and other accessories. A designated soft-play area is set aside for smaller children.

Playing in the Children's Gallery, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
Delaney plays on the interactive drawing screen.

Playing in the Children's Gallery, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
Then she's off to explore the special area for Under-Threes.

Playing in the Children's Gallery, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
We don't keep mirrors on display at home, so Delaney has great fun with the ones here!

Playing in the Children's Gallery, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
Delaney becomes a Wild Thing herself. "Swish, swish," she says, as she moves her tail back and forth.

Playing in the Children's Gallery, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
The texture and terraces of The Mounge invite the girls to climb to the top and then explore different ways of moving about.

Playing in the Children's Gallery, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
When she reaches the top of The Mounge, Delaney waves a big hello.

Playing in the Children's Gallery, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
Brioni enjoys rolling down the artificial hillside, but her sisters are simply content to watch her do it.

Playing in the Children's Gallery, Ipswich Art Gallery, August 2012
Calista moves some of the grassy rocks around.

We spent about two hours in the gallery, but if hadn’t been in a timed parking spot, we could have easily looked around for another hour. Next time we go, I’ll be looking for a better parking spot within easy access to the gallery, and I hope to explore more of Ipswich’s city centre, too!

Wild Thing is on display at the Ipswich Art Gallery until October 7. If you’re in the area, it’s a highly recommended activity — art, craft and play all rolled together in a fun, educational way. Do it!