School activities review: Slow Art Collective: Pavilion 2024, Abbotsford Convent

A free, immersive and creative workshop experiences for kids.

‘Back again?’ The woman behind the counter inquired. 
The grandmother leading her two young granddaughters into the old stone hallway smiled. ‘We are! We love it here.’ She turns to me. ‘We’ve been here the last three days in a row, you know. It’s just so much fun.’

It’s the school holidays and the Slow Art Collective is gearing up for today’s kids activity at Abbotsford Convent.

Held in ‘The Store’, which is around the back of the Convent building, the room slowly starts to fill up. It makes absolutely no sense to me. If anything it’s criminal that there isn’t a queue around the block, because having come to Abbotsford Convent every school holidays with my kids for the last few years, I have never once been disappointed. . 

Immersive, creative, sustainable, imaginative; we’ve simply never had a bad experience at any of the events we’ve attended or ever been even remotely disappointed.  

But today, I’m feeling something I don’t usually feel as I head into the event: I’m nervous. Because the person running the workshop today is Daniel Newell, better known as DANDROGYNY. An absolute superstar of the Melbourne burlesque and performance space, DANDROGYNY is a queer, creative icon.

And I’m not going to lie: I’m a huge fan. 

The workshop is called ‘Let’s Face It.’ The plan is for kids and parents to team up to create a magical version of themselves using mixed media and then paint their design on their faces or bodies if they would like to. 

The workshop was calm, creative, inspiring, encouraging and most of all accepting. It’s not the first time Newell has worked with children and their calmness, patience and ability to encourage each participant to find their creativity is simply wonderful to watch. 

It wasn’t clear who was having more fun during the session, the carers (a wonderful mix of parents, grandparents, nannies and more) or the children. But this seems to be a regular occurrence during the sessions I’ve attended at the convent. All of which, I should add, are free.

Other sessions at this season’s run were a hip hop dance workshop, a mythical creature workshop and an orchestra made using paddle pop sticks, sticky tape and string. 

And while you’re waiting for your session to start, you can visit the huge, interactive, sensory, immersive artwork in the next room, or take a wander around the gardens and have a picnic. 

Read: How Bluey made the move from animation to stage

As I walked out of the Convent grounds with little Miss 4 and watched the families arriving and walking past to the Collingwood Children’s Farm next door (admittedly a well-deserved school holiday favourite), I wondered, do they even know what they’re missing?

Slow Art Collective: Pavilion 2024 will be on until 11 January 2024 at the Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne.

Daniel Newell’s workshop was on 9 January 2024.

A veteran journalist, Isabelle Oderberg is a comedy fanatic and has been reviewing comedy for six years. She also reviews restaurants, opera and theatre.