For almost 30 years, The Ark in Temple Bar has provided the children of Dublin – and Ireland – with the opportunity to experience and participate in art and culture. visited The Ark to learn more about what’s on offer for children and families today.

What The Ark Dublin is all about

The Ark is a dedicated cultural centre for children. It was the first of its kind in Europe – quite a forward-thinking facility for this little island.

It was founded after the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of The Child, which safeguards children’s right to access culture and art. The Ark “believes in every child’s right to discover and love art in a society where creativity and culture are valued.”

two children stand in front of colourful art and postits that line the walls of the ark

The Ark commissions, produces and presents work for, by and about children aged 2-12. This gives them the opportunity to engage with multiple art forms like theatre, dance, music and visual arts.

The Ark often partners with the likes of the Dublin Theatre Festival, the Dublin Dance Festival and individual artists to do this. These initiatives seek to foster an environment where artists feel comfortable creating art for young people. This, in turn, means that more children will have access to cultural experiences.

Feeding the imaginations of Dublin’s future creators

During school terms, The Ark hosts events for schools. And during holidays and weekends, it hosts events for families.

Over one Easter break, for example, it held a camp called ‘Me & The City’ – an architecture-based visual arts programme. It encouraged children to look around Dublin with fresh eyes and understand that everything they see was designed. It also aimed to highlight that there is a career path in creating a city.

three children laugh and point at a performance in the ark

The children were tasked with reinventing College Green and the area between Dublin City Council’s offices and Christ Church Cathedral.

Their ideas were displayed on brightly coloured post-its in The Ark’s Long Room and built into models in The Gallery. These future city planners had thought of everything – from Lego houses for the homeless and trees to climb through to cake-shaped bakeries and a toy shop where smiles are the only currency.

The Ark Children’s Council

However, The Ark doesn’t just give children the space to dream and create. It also gives them the opportunity to have their voices heard.

One of the key ways it does this is through The Children’s Council that is based here. Every year, around 30 fourth and fifth class children from Dublin and surrounding areas come into The Ark one weekend every month to engage with the arts and explore active citizenship.

So often, it’s adults making decisions and deciding what is important.

Council members are mentored and guided by The Ark’s artist-in-residence and, together, they tell the staff exactly what they think of its programmes so they can make improvements.

“I think that is really important because, so often, it’s adults making decisions and deciding what is important for children,” says Al Russell, The Ark’s General Manager. “I think it’s becoming more and more important to find ways of actually involving children in this kind of process.”

Giving children a voice

The Children’s Council is always eager to engage with other children from across Ireland. In 2017, it even called on children across the country to send in questions for the Taoiseach.

Once again, the wall in the Long Room was filled with ideas. The children went through them and identified eight key questions to bring to the Taoiseach. They created the above video for the project and were eventually invited to Leinster House to present their questions in person.

It’s becoming more and more important to find ways of actually involving children.

Without The Ark, these children’s voices probably wouldn’t have been heard.

The Ark hosts both free and ticketed events year-round. Workshops cost around €11.50, while performances and exhibitions are priced around €15. It’s the perfect place to spend a Saturday or Sunday with the family – who knows, your little one might just be inspired to become a world-famous architect.

To find out more, visit The Ark’s website.

Amy Sergison works in the advertising industry, creating social and digital content for brands in Ireland and the UK. The child of inner-city parents, Dublin is in her blood. When not writing you can find Amy screaming at a rugby match, Instagramming her dinner, or searching for solace in the quiet spots of the city.


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