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Arts Can Do Workshop and Residency

Location: China
Date: Wednesday 01/01/14 - Wednesday 31/12/14

What is the Arts Can Do Program?


Arts Can Do is an art based education project operating in Shanghai and Xucun, a rural mountain village in China’s central Shanxi province. Arts Can Do helps disadvantaged children reach their full potential by developing life skills and confidence through involvement in art, led by Australian artists living and working in China while in our residency program.

Arts Can Do helps children whose parents have moved to cities and left them in the care of aged relatives and children who travel to cities with their parents and therefore often find themselves outside the school system.

Children under stress due to poverty and neglect often simply close down their minds becoming withdrawn and developing developmental problems that impede learning. Arts Can Do aims to restart these minds, to open them to the joy of expression of enquiry, and engagement in the world.

In many poorer regions in China art is not taught in schools. There are not the resources. We know that making and sharing art can transform children, especially children at risk.

We want the children we work with to be heard, to grow in their understanding of themselves, and to learn how to respond to their situation through expression and creation.


Where does the Arts Can Do program operate?


We presently have centres in two locations in Shanghai, and one in rural China.

Arts Can Do – Shanghai Center

  • In Shanghai, Arts Can Do has partnered with Jiuqian Volunteer Center in Shanghai. This is a privately funded and run ‘bolster’ organisation available to migrant children. Jiuqian provides free classes in the early evenings on Monday – Friday, as well as on the weekends. These classes are run by volunteers trained in education or teaching, and aims to enrich the learning experience of the children.  On average, 40 children participate in our workshops in Shanghai, with 8-15 attending any one workshop.
  • The goal of the school is to provide greater resources and learning opportunities to migrant children, while offering a consistent space in which to be nurtured, valued and feel part of a community.
  •  Most children come from families with both parents working long hours and many suffer from inadequate emotional support in the home.
  • In addition to workshops, we collaborate with art institutions, galleries, museums and festivals to generate new programs for the children to engage in. These include exhibition visits, off-site public activities and Family Day Open Studios, where we showcase the children’s work and invite parents and caregivers to attend.

Arts Can Do – Xucun Centre

  • Arts Can Do established a summer art learning center in 2013, at the Xucun Elementary School in Song Yan Town of He Shun District, deep within the mountains of China’s Shanxi province, near Taiyuan.
  • This centre was open to all children in the region, for three hours every week day, work with artists. All the equipment for the classes; books, papers, paints, clay, fabric and other materials were provided by Arts Can Do and its supporters.
  • Close to 100 children participated over the 2.5 month period
  • The town is very remote, a 2.5 hour drive from the nearest town and as such, limited in its facilities. However, it is one of the most stunning regions in China, and the village still retains an ancient sense of community and simplicity.
  • Artists live in humble but comfortable pre-arranged homestays with local families who are supportive of what we do. Meals with the families can be arranged but are at artists’ own cost. Artists have their own space, cooking facilities and access to wifi in an office made available throughout the duration of center operation.

How is the Arts Can Do workshop content planned?



  • ACAF respects that artists are professional practitioners, not teachers.
  • Depending on the practice of the artist, class content could be lead by the artist but there are no limitations on this. It is helpful if particular themes are adopted in order to allow kids to work and learn within a planned framework.
  • ACAF staff have experience with our centres, children and cross-cultural learning in China. They can provide extensive support and suggestions with class content, culturally-specific concepts and translations.
  • Materials for classes will be provided by ACAF and Jiuqian school
  • Classes should cover or introduce no more than 1 or 2 topics in a session. Children are very new to concepts of creativity, individual perspective and even imagination. Patience is often required with children to support them in grasping and experimenting with concepts.
  • Classes should feel relaxed, it is more important that the children enjoy themselves and feel encouraged to experiment, rather than that they are attending a formal school class.
  • ACAF is proud to be able to offer art travel scholarships to gifted and curious students, and artists should be aware always of identifying and encouraging potential candidates.
  • Children should always be able to take work home with them or keep what they have made, but ACAF will also make a selection of work to display or auction to raise funds at a later date. Children should be aware of this.


What is the structure and schedule of the Arts Can Do Residency?


Arts Can Do Center – Xucun, Shanxi

  • Our Xucun centre is a summer school for children, which they attend in the break between academic years. The centre is operational for one week in June to reintroduce ourselves and engage the community, then full time in July and August. Two weekends and a few after school workshops will be led in September, to crossover with the children returning to school.
  • The goal is to work toward closer integration of the key learnings and skills gained in our workshop with the school, teachers and community who witness it.
  • Artists should spend a minimum of 2 weeks in Xucun, working closely with the children through the workshops and encouraging them to take materials home, explore concepts independently and ask questions. 
  • We do our best to ensure a minimum of two artists are based in Xucun at any one time.

Arts Can Do Center – Shanghai

  • In Shanghai we collaborate with Jiuqian Volunteer center for migrant children at their two locations – Pudong and Puxi.
  • All workshops are offered to children for free, which they sign up for in advance. Ages range from 7-18, and generally around 10 children attend any one class.
  • Program runs year-round, from March – May, with 2 weeks in July, then September through to December. Classes break in June, August and January – February.
  • Workshop schedule involves class sessions of 1.5 hours, up to 4 times a week (Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays)


The Arts Can Do Program ‘need to know’ Details:

Host Organisation:

The Australia China Art Foundation (ACAF) is dedicated to the promotion of Australian and Chinese contemporary art and the integration of art and the community. It does this by facilitating reciprocal and meaningful cross-cultural exchange and relationship development between artists, collectors, institutions and social programs in Australia and China.

Arts Can Do is its primary program, bringing together the interests of both children and artists through mutual learning, the sharing of ideas and the exploration of creative expression. We are the only program of its kind doing this for migrant children in urban and rural China.

ACAF is an Australian registered not-for-profit organization led by a small, multi-cultural team of Australians, Chinese and New Zealanders. ACAF is based in Shanghai, has a residency space in Beijing, and a project space in Sydney.

Arts Can Do Program Active since:


Accepted Practitioners and Disciplines:

Visual artists, musicians, sound artists, filmmakers, creative writers, dancers, theater and performance professionals, as well as inter-disciplinary practice.

Program Conditions:

  • Arts Can Do workshops take place 5 times a week, for 1.5 hours each. We ask artists to be involved for a minimum of 2 months. This is so that students benefit from a sense of continuity with artists, while having enough time to bond and form enduring relationships with them.
  • ACAF covers the cost of class materials and has a lot already on hand, including paper, inks, pencils, clay and cameras.
  • Artists participate as volunteers. Artists will be heavily supported by local ACAF staff. Artists not speaking Chinese will have translators available, however applications with working knowledge of Mandarin will be viewed favourably .
  • Artists  must to supply two reference letters with at least one from an accredited institute and a complete portfolio
  • Artists must undergo a medical check prior to departure, including all taking all relevant vaccinations.
  • Volunteers must provide a police background check to help ensure child safety.
  • Full terms & conditions will be discussed on an individual basis due to due to variations based on the program schedule. Some fees may apply.

Expectations of the artist

  • We ask that artists work to create one collaborative piece with the children, which can be either donated to the school we collaborate with, used by the local community, or kept by ACAF for fundraising.
  • We also ask all artists to write a ‘statement’ following their residency, which should be maximum two typed pages, detailing what they felt were the strengths and weaknesses of the program, what they learned and how it was valuable for them professionally. ACAF requests freedom to use selections of this text when developing sponsorship packs and funding applications, as well as publicity for the Arts Can Do program.

How to apply:

Selection procedure:

Selection is made on a rolling basis after assessment by the ACAF team.

We will contact artists directly to confirm further details.

Working language(s)

English, Mandarin Chinese

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