Kindermuseum Creaviva, Zentrum Paul Klee Bern
Zentrum Paul Klee, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, opened its doors in 2005. As an academic centre, it is dedicated to researching the life and works of Paul Klee. More than 4,000 works are conserved here, with a selection presented in changing exhibitions.
The idea to establish a Children’s Museum is based on the vision that children and adolescents should have the opportunity to experience art and culture through their creativity. Besides being a painter, musician, and man of letters, Paul Klee was also a devoted educator. To make a lasting contribution towards aesthetic education, Maurice E. Müller and Janine Aebi-Müller established the "Fondation du Musée des Enfants auprès du Centre Paul Klee" in 2002. Creaviva became the centre for analogue, interactive and collaborative art education.
Children in Museums Award 2022
At the European Museum Academy Conference in Luxembourg, the jury presented the Children in Museums Award to Creaviva and Leeds Museums Galleries. Hands On! evaluates five criteria:
Innovation: The judges emphasise that Creaviva allows young people to co-determine the content of courses and acknowledge that the team is digitally savvy by incorporating augmented reality applications.
Quality of Learning: Creaviva made an important contribution by providing didactic support for the "Children Curate Klee" project and pushing the art experience’s boundaries by enabling children to be the curators. The process was explained in a separate exhibition in Creaviva. This project is an outstanding demonstration of what can be achieved when working with kids as equal partners.
Inclusion and Social Impact: Creaviva is a label partner of “Kultur inklusiv” and not only welcomes people with disabilities but also employs them. Creaviva took the certification as “Home of 21st Century Education” as an opportunity to launch an outreach project about UNESCO's goals for 2030 to contribute to a better world.
Information and Communication: Creaviva is used to produce didactic material, from hands-on material for workshops to interactive tours and exhibitions and playful walks or outdoor treasure hunts. Working aids are available for people with special needs.
Staff: Creaviva has nine employees, twelve freelancers, ten volunteers, trainees and civil servants, including five people with disabilities. The director emphasises human resources, integrates concrete topics into yearly goal setting and provides money for further training.
Maintaining a pioneering attitude
Children as change agents
Creaviva applied for the Children in Museums Award as an institution with the ambition to show that participatory projects make organisations fit for future requirements. In the past, Creaviva offered programs for children. Within the last few years, it developed activities together with young people and, in the future, aims to provide space and time to help kids realise their ideas. We strive to embed children in our organisation to learn from them.
New label as guideline
Upon learning about the recently established label “Home of the 21st Century Education”, we found guidelines to reorientate our activities. We share the initiators' dream that by 2030, every young person’s childhood can be enlightened through cultural heritage. As one of the first certified institutions, we are proud to develop children’s creativity, imagination, critical thinking and ability to decide and take responsibility.
Co-creation project « Children curate Klee », © Monika Flückiger/Creaviva
Projects enabling transformation
Curator Martin Waldmeier approached Creaviva for its expertise in working with children to create an exhibition. This opportunity aligned perfectly with our goal of working closer with our public. Over a 10-month process, we empowered children between the ages of 8 and 12 to co-curate an exhibition. “A Shining Secret. Kids Curate Klee” was shown from May 22nd to September 4th, 2022. We understood our work as “curated participation”. The project team prepared over 25 workshops so children could make decisions.
Because Paul Klee himself was fascinated by how children perceive the world, it was decided to involve kids for the first time that an exhibition was approached as a participatory process. The project team consisted of Martin Waldmeier (curator), Alyssa Pasquier (curatorial assistant), Pia Lädrach and Katja Lang (Creaviva), and Eva Grädel (outreach). External funding was necessary for children’s special requests (coloured walls, platform). The expenses for Creaviva‘s personnel and for producing a tactile model for blind visitors exceeded our budget. If the initial plan was to hire a school class, the team decided on an application process. Our nine girls and four boys were Reham, Lena, Mathis, Marta, Lyonel, Meta, Angelina, Valentin, Amaia, Eliza, Isaline, Caterina and Ben.
The joint work started with a kickoff event in March 2021 and ended with a debriefing in September 2022. As a start, we organised a scavenger hunt through the museum to meet the staff. Next workshops were dedicated to immersing into Klee's art by deciphering the signs of the clovers, working with emotions, scenic depictions, and looking at the objects Klee collected. We created our collections, built prototypes, visited exhibitions, went to the archive, invented stories and wrote poems, selected the exhibits, and determined the title and key visuals. We produced audio stations and prepared the media tour and the opening ceremony.
The output was extraordinary: “Shining Secret. Kids Curate Klee ” featured around 100 artworks by Paul Klee, divided into 20 sub-themes. The room texts consisted of short poems. Several audio stations conveyed a tragic family story. In addition, audio and exhibition guides were available. At the interactive exhibition “Insights. A look behind the facade" at Creaviva, visitors could empathise with the creative work conducted with the kids. The luminous and tactile relief produced for visually impaired people was as attractive as the “art auction event”. The documentary film is still available.
The project had an impact on everyone involved: children and museum staff. The children learned a lot about museums and art, arguing, presenting and working in groups. Further, we felt a lot of gratitude from parents and relatives. It was also a special experience for the project team: never before had we worked so close together – learning from the children and colleagues changed our minds. Winning the CMA prize brought increased visibility and public recognition, which significantly affected employees, making them proud of their work. The project transformed the cooperation and hosting culture. The media and public received the exhibitions well- we got an above-average amount of kind feedback. Inquiries show keen interest from experts, and the team could present the project at several conferences.
The resource requirements were high (time, staff, money), and the pressure to succeed was distressing. It was necessary to postpone another exhibition to a later date. The coordination effort in open-ended processes is high anyway. In this project, we had to reconcile the participatory and curatorial process with didactic requirements. Looking back, we should have invested more in a shared understanding during the preliminary phase. The debriefing showed that some departments were involved too late and couldn’t absorb the children's ideas.
Learnings and conclusion
Although we made participation visible and tangible, further efforts are needed to change organisational habits. Similar projects will be required to achieve more long-term effects. Nevertheless, it is remarkable how many levels of co-creation with children impact individuals, groups and organisations, as well as the factual and emotional ones. Inclusive and participatory processes are worthwhile, even if projects only reach a small number of persons; the potential to change society is plausible.
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