New youth programme at Irma Stern Museum

Curator and education coordinator Yentl Kohler

The Irma Stern Museum in Rosebank has a new educational programme allowing children to explore their creativity.

The Irma Stern Museum, formerly the home of the celebrated South African artist, opened to the public in 1972.

More than a year ago, the museum started developing a programme to make the museum and Irma Stern’s art more accessible to children, and in August it launched the Open Art House workshops, in which children can do art and join a guided tour around the museum.

The programme is about making children feel comfortable to create art, says Yentl Kohler, the museum’s curator and education coordinator.

“Although it’s a museum, we also wanted to focus on the idea of a ‘house’, where children can be themselves, particularly since the museum was previously the real house of Irma Stern.

“The children do not have to leave the museum necessarily understanding the artwork. It’s more important that they feel they’ve explored a new safe space because many of them do not come from easy homes or backgrounds.”

Ms Kohler she says she will be teaching the children how to really “look” because in our fast-paced society people are forgetting how to take in the world around them.

“We would do simple visual literacy activities for the children, where the child looks at an artwork and will be asked by the teacher, ’What do you see?’ The children will then discuss the colours, shapes and lines that they see, which all involves learning visually and verbally. We will then start discussing the actual images painted and the emotions of the piece.”

The lessons will be calibrated differently for primary and high school pupils.

Irma Museum director Nadja Daehnke hopes the workshops will inspire a new generation of South African artists, who can think creatively, work in teams, appreciate their heritage and express themselves. The children will also have a chance to show off their work in the museum’s exhibit room, she says.

The project is starting with schools near the museum with plans to expand to all types of schools in the province, says Ms Daehnke.

“Schools that are more financially stable usually have art classes whereas learners from the less well-resourced schools may never get the chance to do art in their school career, which is why we want all young learners to have this opportunity.”

Schools will not be charged to participate in the Open Art House programme and should email yentl.kohler@uct.ac.za to join the 2022 education programme or to book a workshop. The Irma Stern Museum also relies on funding. To find out more about this, email Nadja Daehnke at Nadja.daehnke@uct.ac.za.

The UCT Irma Stern Museum is open Thursdays to Fridays, from 10am to 5pm, and Saturdays, from 10am to 2pm. Email irmastern@uct.ac.za to make a visiting booking.

Some of Irma Stern’s original paintings and collections inside the museum.
Museum director Nadja Daehnke
The front of Irma Stern’s house, which is now a museum.