"Yes, but is it Art?"
27th April 2010
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Butlins - yes the holiday people - have launched a new Toddler Art Prize: a national competition, with a total prize fund of some £10,000.

Billed as the search for the "next Tracey Emin or Damien Hirst", the Toddler Art Prize will be judged by the Contemporary Art Society, and whilst fun has a serious edge. They really are looking for Britain's leading contemporary artists aged four and under, and as Mike Godolphin, Head of Entertainment at Butlins explains: “We’re searching for the mini Mondrians, weeny Warhols, and petite Pollocks.”

My first thought was how the judges will be able to tell if a parent hasn't helpfully erm, "helped" with their child's creation, but I'm sure they've got that covered. (Actually I'd love to know how!)

A panel of judges from the Contemporary Art Society – the leading national organisation which has been encouraging the appreciation and understanding of contemporary art since 1910 - will choose 12 pieces of submitted artwork for exhibition at a gallery in East London in October 2010.

The shortlisted toddlers and their families will be invited to an impressive ‘orange squash and canapés’ opening and award ceremony, where winners will be revealed and the first ever winner of the Butlins Toddler Art Prize announced.

The chosen 12 talented toddlers will share in a prize fund totalling £10,000 with the winning tot banking £500 in cash.
Entries can be anything from paintings to sculptures to installations.

Fabienne Nicholas of the Contemporary Art Society, and a judge in the competition said:
“Getting toddlers engaged in thinking about art is an exciting idea. From sculpture to painting, collage to photographs, what’s interesting about art today is how it can open a whole world of possibilities that goes beyond just making a pretty picture.

“Contemporary art can help us see the world from different viewpoints, make unexpected connections between ideas or express our secret emotions. Creativity is hugely important, especially from a young age, and children love nothing more than expressing themselves through art.

“This competition is a great opportunity for parents and children to discover the benefits creativity can bring. We can’t wait to see what artistic talent Britain’s youngsters have to offer.”

The Contemporary Art Society has developed the following tips for parents of toddlers entering the competition:

    •    Collage can be an excellent way of introducing children to composition. This can be done with material that has already been cut out, so the onus is on them to assemble the shapes as they see fit.  Try using tissue paper that they can easily rip and layer
    •    Drip drawings are good for experimentation with line.  If some ink is placed onto a large piece of paper the child then has to hold the sheet up and use gravity to create an image – a great method for learning control and steady discipline
    •    Teaching colour theory is most easily done using cellophane sheets, which can be layered on top of one another to produce colour combinations
    •    To help children consider composition and colour relation, get them to use potato printing.  By placing different coloured prints around a piece of paper, they can learn how individual designs can come together to create an aesthetically pleasing image
    •    Encourage tots to experiment using paint to really develop their natural creativity - use big and small strokes, flick paint and use other tools
    •    Keep empty packaging to hand to allow children to produce sculptures or combine with paintings for a 3D effect.

To help toddler’s become more creative, why not encourage them with the following tips:

    •    Look - The longer you look at something the more you will see
    •    Think - Think of an emotion – what does happiness look like?  Try and paint it
    •    Play - There are lots of ways to make art other than painting – here are some ideas…

-          cut out pictures from magazines and collage them together
-          try different materials for collage – fabric, felt, wool, card, leaves etc
-          put together a sculpture box – full of things you find that can be put together later on
-          photographs – experiment with the camera and find different angles on things
-          try potato stamping – cut out a shape from half a potato & use watery paint to make patterns


To enter visit www.butlins.com/artprize. All entries must be received by 31st August 2010 and the 12 shortlisted toddlers, and their immediate family, will be invited to attend the VIP awards ceremony and opening of the exhibition in the capital.  


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Kim Frances is a freelance writer and photographer with The Little White Studio.

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