The Toddler Tour: Part Two, The Royal Hibernian Academy
(It’s been a long time coming)
Nestled in the far corner of Ely Place, close to the East side of St Stephen’s Green, the RHA is probably a bit off the radar for families with young children. The gallery has an illustrious history that stretches as far back as 1861, but it is an artist based, artist oriented institution, and as such it can seem a bit intimidating; so contemporary that you feel you are just not cool enough to ‘get’ the work on show. The gallery don’t make any particular effort to solicit an under-age audience for their exhibitions either, and the only formal gesture towards families is the Sunday afternoon Art Cart drawing session, which is geared at older children and teens.
The gallery itself is comprised of four vast rooms spread over two levels. The space is an advantage but also, apparently, an invitation to take your shoes off and skid across the shiny tiled floor, as my toddler has done on several occasions (when we were the only visitors.) Invigilators mercifully keep a low profile, but I always caution people to ensure they teach their kids to respect both the space and the art; otherwise the gallery will end up being policed and the art being caged behind glass facades. Indeed, for me, the best thing about the RHA is the hanging; the pictures appear to sit lower on the walls than in other galleries, and sculpture and mixed media work is plonked right in the middle of rooms, placing trust in the visitor to be careful.
Accessibility of Art:
The RHA’s exhibitions cross all media, but generally tend towards the conceptual, not the easiest of entry points for a 3 year old. Still we have had bizarre conversations about colourful cardboard sculptures (‘Let’s call them telephones’) and encounters with real life soldiers in video work, which allowed me to put his fascination with soldier’s into a political context. Thankfully, it didn’t produce nightmares. Mostly, though, the toddler is too overwhelmed by the space to pay much attention to the art.
That said, their annual exhibition, which takes place in September, is a highlight on my calendar. It offers a mixture of member works and open solicitation from new artists, There is so much diversity spread across the mediums that you won’t fail to find something to inspire conversation or a little make-believe with child charges.
Pretty good. Disabled toilet with changing area. Cloakroom area where you can leave your buggy and paraphernalia. Ramps to access the ground floor gallery and a large service lift for upstairs. The Coppa Cafe run by the brothers behind Coppinger Row, and staffed by the sort of people I like to think I was before I had children, which stocks plenty of home-baked goods for appeasement.