Artists Interviews

Each month we feature an in-depth exploration into a current project in order to share learning and provide insight into approaches to practice.

May 2011: Helene Hugel



Helene Hugel interviewed Ruth Churchill Dower, director of Earlyarts, at their International Unconference on November 9th, in Halifax.




The value of arts for very young children
The role of the artist
The skills required
The value for children
The value for parents
The value of the shared experience
Why artists engage with this work.
Vision for early arts

Related articles by the guest author

About the artist

Ruth has worked on developing arts, cultural, early education and learning strategies in both policy and practice, with clients such as Futurelab, Arts Council England, CAPE UK, Department of Culture, Media and Sport, National Museums Liverpool, Canterbury Children’s Centre, Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, and Creative Partnerships.
She has published a range of papers, articles and guides in the areas of creative practice in early years, online learning and knowledge management.

About the project

Ruth Churchill Dower is the Director of Isaacs UK ( ), a cultural learning consultancy working across the arts, cultural and early educational communities. Isaacs UK believe that all children are entitled to creative and cultural opportunities that support their learning, playing and being. How we go about building the capacity of the arts, cultural and educational sectors to support young children’s creative hunger is the big question. This is where Isaacs UK focuses its work, to better understand and meet the challenges of a rapidly changing society, and to unlock the creative potential of all those involved in building our children’s present and future landscapes.

Comments about this interview

  • I really liked this interview and the video too. It’s truly inspirational - it would be fun to have these wonderful kids meet the Irish kids we all teach. May their dreams of the revolution all come true!
  • "What is an early years aesthetic?" is a really interesting question. It’s incredibly difficult to direct under 4s or pre schoolers in any structured art work. Frequently they’ll reject any guidance- one young boy told me one day that it wasn’t my turn to decide what to do.

    I also believe it’s unnecessary.
    Whether it’s in singing, drawing or dancing pre school children are transmitting their direct experience of the world.

    Ask a three year old to draw anything and they’ll do it-no questions asked. there might be no light and shadow no shading, no proportion or perspective -not becasue they haven’t learned it yet but because they don’t need it. Afew years later and the same child will be drawing not their direct experience but that experience filtered through all sorts of Adult imposed ideas of how a drawing should be.

    I think you can offer all sorts of artistic experiences to pre schoolers but don’t try to direct them- they don’t need it.

    I really enjoy working with pre schoolers but I really think that adult artists have much more to learn from young children than they do from us.

Post your comment!

To comment this interview you must be logged.