It’s not often children get the chance to draw the animals of the jungle after seeing them in real life, which is why this year’s ‘Wild About Art’ tent at the Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort, looks set to be even busier than last year’s event.
The campaign, which provides a huge art tent housing a variety of free creative workshops for young zoo ticketholders, aims to encourage children to develop an artistic engagement with the natural world through life drawing – and hands-on furry experiences.
Part of Al Ain Zoo’s ongoing education drive, it been organised by the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (ADMAF). This year’s event (the third of its kind) opens on January 23 and will continue to run free art workshops for children aged four-15 throughout January and February.
Professional artists and instructors will be on hand to teach and encourage children in their chosen activity, which will include mask-making, painting on canvas, finger-painting and puppet making. An exhibition of all the children’s art work will be displayed in the main tent, while a giant mural painted by all the children taking part in the workshops will be on view to all parents and visitors.
Jennifer Simon, one of the artists who will be leading some of this year’s workshops, explains, ‘Last year the workshops were very varied. Children got the chance to paint a mural, make masks, create their own sock puppet, do clay modelling, cartoon drawing and much more. I was taking a finger painting mural workshop, where the children got to work on individual canvases that made up the bigger picture. The finished mural is hanging in the educational centre of the zoo now, and it’s great that the children who took part can come back and see their work on display. It makes them feel like real artists.’
Jennifer, who first heard about the initiative through her work with JamJar, explains, ‘Children get to create art and try things that they may not have done before. A lot of children don’t get to paint in schools so this gives them a chance to try it out, and the best thing for parents is someone is there to clean up the mess! Everyone loved the art tent last year and so many people came back again and again. Plus, the children get to take home what they have made and my girls still have the masks they created last year.’
This year’s event will see the addition of workshops on children’s yoga and Arabic calligraphy which, Jennifer says, adds greater diversity to the initiative, which attracted over 2,000 children last year.
Artist Rebecca Rendall, who is also assisting in the workshops, explains, ‘Creative activities for children should be easily accessible for all parents. It’s such a vital means for children to express themselves, explore ideas and learn great skills. We should continue to support these valuable projects to provide as many creative opportunities for young people as possible.’
And there’s a sense of anticipation and camaraderie that ‘Wild About Art’ is returning, too. ‘Everyone loved the art tent last year and so many people came back again and again.’
Founder of ADMAF, Mrs Hoda Al Khamis Kanoo, adds, ‘The success of the children’s art tent has always been down to children’s natural ability and affinity with art. Add to this the wonderful location of the Al Ain Wildlife Park and you have a winning combination. We strongly believe that this early introduction to art and nature will inspire them to consider their own heritage and diverse environment here in the UAE.’
Join the Wild about Art workshops
The workshops are running at Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort. Free of charge for entrants to the zoo. 23 Jan to 26 Jan; 9am-1pm, 2pm-5pm. 27 Jan to 28 Jan; 11am-7pm. For more information visit www.admaf.org or www.awpr.ae.