Keeping Creative at Home: Creative collaboration from a distance

21 April 2020

Artist, educator and creative producer Chloe Osborne, and creative learning specialist and teacher Maggie Delwiche have explored new ways to stay creatively connected in this uncertain time. A New Direction have compiled their top picks in a list of easily accessible activities for you to try out

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Artist impression of the bridge that connects Perth Children's hospital to Kings Park. Image credit: The West Australian, 2018

Whether you're a teacher, a parent, or both, we hope our Keeping Creative at Home blog series will help you and your children through this tricky period of adjustment.

We're aware there's currently a lot of pressure on parents in particular around home education. So, first and foremost, all of the activities in this series are designed to be fun, creative experiences for your children (and hopefully for you too!), but there is also potential for learning in all of them.

Many of the exciting ideas this week employ digital applications and collaboration via sharing platforms. Think about how might you adapt these activities for members of your family or friendship group who do not have access to social media?

Most activities will be suitable for children and adults of any age and can be scaled up or down accordingly. Many will also suit, or can be adapted to, children with special educational needs.


Social distancing and self-isolation have intensified indoor life for many of us. Thankfully, people across the globe are experimenting with creative new ways of staying connected.

Chloe and Maggie have walked the talk: they’ve shared, compiled and created everything in this resource together by working remotely and sharing ideas back and forth. Here are 7 experiments in togetherness.

1. Pass it on

"Creativity doesn't wait for that perfect moment. It fashions its own perfect moments out of ordinary ones"

Bruce Garrabrandt

Making art together through playing games has been happening for hundreds of years. Physical distance can make this process even more exciting by building suspense and fuelling curiosity as you wait for the next piece in an artistic ‘puzzle’ to be created and shared. The following activities are great for building connections between members of a household or to connect families, friendship or community groups who aren’t able to share physical space.

For these activities, choose a digital platform to share and pass on e.g. email or a closed messaging app, such as WhatsApp.

  • Digital Storytelling: This is a digital extension of classic collaborative story-building. Create a filmed first “chapter” of a story and then pass it on, challenging someone else to create the next one
  • Digital Choreography: The dance version of collaborative story-building. Create and film a small piece of choreography and pass it on to eventually create a whole piece

Top tip: choose your shared musical track beforehand, or pick a genre (e.g. funk, rock, hip hop) and encourage each segment to use a different song in the same genre.

Want further inspiration? Try one of these:

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Unizale, from rubber block prints workshop. Image credit: Anne E G Nydam, 2018

2. Create a window gallery

“Learn how to see. Realise that everything connects to everything else”

Leonardo Da Vinci

The Global Rainbow Trail and the Bear Hunts have connected families across villages, cities and countries, with photos of clues and discoveries shared online, reinforcing the message that wherever we are, we are all in this together!

What artwork can you display in your own window for people in your local area to enjoy?

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Example of a rainbow window artwork. Image credit: My Kent Family

3. Reimagine the art of gifting

“Art is a form of love. Art is the ultimate gift. Art heals life.”

Robert Genn

Encourage your children to reimagine what ‘gifts’ are. How do we feel when we receive a gift? Challenge yourselves to find different ways that you can elicit these feelings without physically being in the same space.

You might like to think about words, shapes, colours that make you feel happy and connected. Share a quote from a book that you love, compose your own message of hope, or share pictures of things you have spotted on your daily walk; a blossoming flower, a crumbling wall, a stain on the pavement that looks like a smiling face.

These are small, simple traces of love, kindness and connection; evidence that someone important to us has been on the same spot as us and shared something in spite of our separateness.

Want further inspiration?

The United Nations has published the first ever open brief to creatives everywhere, aiming to use art to reflect on and create connection in these challenging times.

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People United neon sign in window of Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury 2016. Image credit: Chloe Osborne

4. Initiate a shared challenge

“The Important thing is that we stick together”

Buzz Lightyear

There are more live-streamed workshops for families and children than ever before. Artists have been hosting masterclasses, authors have been reading their books live, and you can even listen to an astronaut read you a book from space! But you don’t have to be an expert (or on a space station!) to initiate a shared challenge.

Generate a list of treasures that anyone can find around the house, in your community, even across the world using the internet. Be as open as possible so that everyone has the opportunity to find something.

For example: find something green, find five of the same thing, find something that makes me feel big, something that makes you feel happy, that reminds me of a peaceful time, that can make music. How about co-curating a pop-up museum together? For example: The Museum of Blue, Round, Tiny things or The Museum of Happiness.

Give yourselves a time limit and reconnect on screen to share your items and compare your stories behind the treasures.

Want further inspiration? Try one of these:

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Netherlands-based artist John Breed. Image credit: Collosal.com

5. Take part in a digital jam

"You can't use up creativity. The more you use the more you have”

Maya Angelou

Collaborating with other people brings energy and new ideas. Italy saw the first street-wide choruses during lockdown as people threw open their windows to sing together. There are also a number of simple digital tools and ideas that allow you to flex your collaborative creative muscles, regardless of previous experience.

Touch and connect with others using the new app from BREAD art collective for touch screen devices. Two people can use the app at the same time to ‘connect’ and chase each other’s fingers across the screen in a playful kind of finger dance.

Draw and write interactive messages in the sand together with simple, colourful marks that fade within moments. This online sandbox was created by Output Arts for both touch screen devices and laptops.

You can even sing with hundreds of people via The Sofa Singers!

Want further inspiration? Try one of these:

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Synesthesia artist Jack Coulter hears colours and paints the sounds . This painting was a collaboration with online music streaming service Deezer and inspired by music performed at Glastonbury Festival 2016. Image credit: Jack Coulter

6. Play it forward

"An act of imagination is actually an act of survival. It is preparing us to imagine possibilities."

Girija Kaimal, researcher in art therapy and professor at Drexel University

By sharing a kernel of an idea or setting a creative challenge, you can inspire others to imagine, play and create. Invite friends and family to write, draw, paint, sculpt, dance and pass it on to others. Don't worry about the final piece: enjoy the process, get messy, explore!

If someone has inspired you to create something, send your creation to the loved one who inspired it and challenge them to send this same invitation to someone new. How far will your message of connection spread?

You could write someone a poem, or draw a portrait from a photograph and send them a picture of it with a challenge to draw someone else.

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Glass House created for Seeds of Diversity Rio Heritage Paralympic Torch Lighting Ceremony 2018

7. Reflect & reach out

“There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people”

Vincent Van Gogh

In this uncertain time, we have been forced to slow down and reflect. This change of pace can open up time to practice reflection and being present. Take time out of your day to stop, breathe and reflect. Expressing gratitude in a regular, focused way can improve relationships, physical health, self-esteem, and your mindset.

  • Try these activities to explore the people and things you feel grateful for: Who in your life are you thankful for? Why? What specific actions do they do that make you thankful? You can use these prompts to help you think.
  • Gratitude poem: Think about someone who is important to you but far away, and free-write about that person for 3 minutes. Highlight your favourite words or phrases. Use these as ingredients for a poem - write them on post it notes and then play with the order of your poem. Move them around until you have something that you like then share it with the person you are thankful to.
  • Memory picture: Grab some paper and coloured pens or felts, put on a piece of music that reminds you of one of your favourite people, and then let your coloured pens dance on the page. Think about a memory you have with them and draw the journey of your memory on the page. Send them your ‘memory picture’
  • Community Champions: Think about people whose everyday actions help to make your community fairer and stronger. Consider using the ‘Peace is a doing word’ zine by Emergency Exit Arts as a prompt

Want further inspiration? Try one of these:

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Artwork drawn directly onto the Berlin Wall by STIK & Thierry Noir.

Image credit: Migration Museum


Chloe Osborne is an artist, Educator & Creative Producer.
Instagram: @chloe_does_stuff

Maggie Delwiche is a teacher and Creative Learning Specialist.
Instagram: @Magpie_learning_

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