Barnas kulturhus is a part of the Department of Art and Culture in the City of Bergen, and is an important part of the departments cultural policy towards children. The task of the institution is to increase the participation of children in the field of art and culture.
Barnas kulturhus works in the "crossroad" between the whole field of art and culture in Bergen and the schools and kindergardens. In the schools we meet all the children and in the kindergarden we meet many children. A cultural policy towards children has to make art and culture a part of everyday life of the children.
We initiate and produce programmes on art and culture – to be used by the schools and kindergardens, in their own educational and pedagogical work. And we produce programmes in cooperation with museums and art institutions, to "ease" the childrens way into the institutions.
All through the week children come together with their teachers to work in Barnas kulturhus or on the programmes we give in the museums.
In the house of Barnas kulturhus we present exhibitions, theatre performances or concerts that are specially designed for children. When presenting theatre performances and concerts, we especially focus the youngest, since the traditional theatre institutions or concert halls very seldom put up programmes for the smallest children.
At weekends, we present programmes for the families; for children and parents together. We also cooperate with the institutions of art and culture, to design programmes that will welcome this group into the institution.
We have just started a programme we call "Come, go with Barnas kulturhus to" The idea is that the families visiting Barnas kulturhus feel at ease here, and can be invited with us to exciting programmes in another institution. This will encourage them to meet a new institution, perhaps for the first time.
We experience and try different methods and programmes on mediating art to children. We cooperate with an institution for several years, to develop programmes for children. The time span is often three years for these developing cooperations.
As an example:
"The Challenge of Contemporary art" was a programme over three years in Bergen Kunstforening (Bergen Art Hall) that ended in 2000. About 90 teachers and 2200 pupils followed the programme during the whole period. We learned how to work to make the teachers feel comfortable when presenting contemporary art.
As part of the contemporary art project we also built a network for pedagogues in art museums and art teachers – to create a forum where they can reflect on their own work: presenting art to children, and where they can exchange ideas and experiences.
We want to strengthen knowledge and competance of both teachers and people working in the museums. The first group needs knowledge on art and mediating art, and the other need knowledge on children and the way children "exist in the world". We very often bring together different professional people in the development of programmes.
We present seminars for teachers and workshops for children and teachers together, on themes from the hole field of aesthetics.
Much of our work and our programmes do not take place inside Barnas kulturhus, but elsewhere. We take care, so we do not ourselves develop a kind of museum or gallery for children. We want children to meet the objects, art works and the competance of art where it "belongs", in the art institutions. Bergen has large resources in art and culture, these resources have to be presented to children. We want children to have the possibility to meet and enjoy museums and art institutions.
Our work is project based. We design projects for the participation of children in what is happening on the cultural scene of the city – wether it is temporary or permanent programmes.
An objective of Barnas kulturhus is that the schools and kindergardens or the cultural institutions will adopt our programmes and methods and "make them their own".
By now, we have learned that this takes more time and effort than we initially had planned for.