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Case Studies Tinkering Tank | RAF Case Study (2017)

Tinkering Tank #

Cairns Regional Council

Community Grant recipient, via the Regional Arts Fund, as managed by Flying Arts Alliance.

Tinkering Tank is a project which develops art activities for children and their families for Cairns Children’s Festival 2017; a mix of interactive displays and construction activities, designed to encourage creative collaboration between generations.

It’s also an incubator for developing artists and product that engages children in the creative arts and the cultural life of their city. Tinkering Tank is a favourite feature of the Cairns Children’s Festival: an annual, multi-arts festival for children aged 2-12 and their families.


Ages 2-7: Devise, trial and deliver creative activities, creating sculptural works with very large quantities of simple materials.

Ages 7-12: Explore public art with a six week design program, leading to a display and making activity at the festival.

Through the eight workshops leading up to the children’s festival and seven school visits, artists tinkered with different models of delivery, experimenting with different materials and observing the changes in children’s level of creativity, enjoyment and behaviour.

One new product has emerged as a result of the ‘Little Tinkers’ program (ages 2-7); a giant web constructed from flagging tape. Through participation, children built up the environment until it engulfed the exhibition space, adorned it with crepe paper, inhabited it and, when materials were depleted, harvested them and recycled them as other playthings. Artist Rosie Miller has honed this activity and is repeating it in schools throughout Cairns. This activity is now proven and ready for export to other festivals.

Cultural & Economic Impacts:

  • Developed products and methodologies for collaborating with children that have continued beyond Cairns Children’s Festival, including delivery in schools, documenting the sculptured environments for export to other festivals
  • Tinkering Tank 2017 was one of a suite of projects reinforcing the message that children can have a say about the urban design of their city and that their ideas are valued
  • The creation of an understood brand, and the implementation of Tinkering Tank, and the Cairns Children’s Festival as a staple attraction in its own right
  • The exploration of arts-based education models by both project elements, Big Design and Little Tinkers, have subsequently been adopted by schools in the Cairns region
  • Consistent artistic development for lead artist Rosie Miller over three years, increasing her project delivery capacity and realising new employment opportunities
  • 12 artists and arts workers received paid employment through this project

Social Impacts:

  • Engagement of those who do not typically attend arts and cultural events – a deliberate strategy employed by the festival
  • 231 children attended a total of eight school holiday workshops in January and April, and six school visits with 120 students were undertaken. 5600 people attended the Cairns Children’s Festival. 1298 people participated in the activities in Tinkering Tank on that day and during the term of the exhibition
  • Positive reinforcement of children’s role within community – the festival is designed to promote ownership of the venue, encouraging children to be performers, designers and artists as well as audience members
  • Demonstrated support for the creative development of new products from local artists


Tanks Arts Centre website
Tanks Arts Centre Facebook page
Tanks Arts Centre Twitter

Image: Tinkering Tank, 2017, Queensland. Photo by: Colin Huber


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