“I know what that is! It’s modern art!” Early childhood access to and use of art museums and galleries in Aotearoa New Zealand
This thesis examines issues of access to art museums and galleries for young children attending early childhood (EC) centres, the ways in which the EC sector uses the institutions to enhance young children’s learning, and the relationship art museums and galleries have with New Zealand’s youngest citizens. It is the first in-depth study of young children’s use of art museums and galleries in Aotearoa New Zealand. A mixed methods approach to the research involved a range of data gathering tools to observe, document, and analyse the practices and attitudes towards art museum visiting by the EC sector. Key participants were EC teachers, art museum directors, and art museum educators. Rich quantitative and qualitative data were elicited from a national survey of 17 of New Zealand’s largest art museums and galleries, an extensive national online questionnaire to EC centres, and an embedded case study of three EC centres who visited art museums as part of the research. Bourdieu’s key concepts of habitus, cultural capital and, particularly, field provide the fundamental tools for analysis within this inquiry. These have been used to examine and attempt to explain why some EC teachers visit art museums and galleries with young children while others do not, and understand issues of power within the field of art education in an art museum or gallery. The study found that there are both facilitators and barriers to art museum and gallery visiting by the EC sector. Barriers included: funding limitations, teachers’ fears about using art museums and galleries with young children, lack of professional development for teachers, and poor marketing of exhibitions to the EC sector. Facilitators included EC teachers’ positive perceptions of art museums and galleries as places for enriching and extending young children’s visual arts education, visual art pedagogical practices that support visiting, and the willingness of some art museums and galleries to work with the EC sector. On the basis of the findings from all three phases of the research and informed by the literature reviews and the conceptual tools used in the analysis of data, a ‘third space’ for art education in art museums and galleries for young children attending EC centres is proposed.