Skip Links

Teaching Creative Arts in the Special Needs Classroom



Date: Monday 15 July

Time: 9am – 5pm

Venue: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, and Sydney Opera House

Young people with a disability often experience barriers to quality arts education and professional arts practice.

We have partnered with Accessible Arts NSW, Department of Education & Communities, University of Sydney and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) to offer teachers in special needs classrooms an accredited arts education professional development day.

You will discover how dance, music, theatre and visual arts can unlock your students’ learning in stimulating and enjoyable ways and learn practical strategies to incorporate the arts into your classroom practice. You will also discuss latest research, participate in a creative arts workshop of your choice, learn about professional arts education programs and meet key leaders in the arts and disability network.

The program will take place at Sydney Opera House and the MCA.



Registration – at MCA


Welcome – at MCA


Keynote 'Arts Rich Learning' with Robyn Ewing – at MCA


Panel 'Discussion Creative Arts in the Special Needs Classroom' – at MCA 


MCA Gallery Workshop, Part One 'MCA Gallery Exploration' – at MCA


Lunch at the MCA


Option A: Part 2 'Visual Arts Intensive' – at MCA

Option B: Part 2 'Dance Intensive' – at Sydney Opera House (bus leaves from MCA at 12.30pm)


Presentation – at Sydney Opera House


Closing drinks – at Sydney Opera House


Keynote ‘Arts Rich Learning’ – at MCA

with Robyn Ewing

Current research around the potential of arts-rich learning experiences provides a strong imperative for educators. Robyn Ewing, Professor of Teacher Education and the Arts at the University of Sydney, will explore some of this research demonstrating the role and effect of quality arts-rich programming in schools and in the community more broadly. An analysis of some exemplars of exciting and often transformative creative arts programs for children with special needs will illustrate how play, inquiry, experimentation and aesthetic processes and experiences can encourage children's imagination and learning. 

Panel Discussion ‘Creative Arts in the Special Needs Classroom’ – at MCA  
Accessible Arts’ Policy and Project Manager Liz Hill will chair a discussion on teaching creative arts in the special needs classroom. You’ll hear responses to research on the topic and first-hand experience on what works from people currently working in the sector. Explore barriers and opportunities for children and young people with disability in the creative arts. There will be time for Q&A and collective problem solving. Panel members include David Chapman, a Year 12 student and member of the Sydney Opera House Youth Advisory Committee, Ali Piccone, Head of Creative Arts at St Lucy’s School in Wahroongah, Craig Smith, Principal of Woniora Special School and Sarah-Vyne Vassallo, Arts Development Officer for Accessible Arts. 

MC Gallery Workshop    
The MCA Collection includes innovative practices by Australian artists in a wide range of media from painting, sculpture, photography and prints to kinetic and light-works, installation, video and DVD, conceptual and process-based art as well as instructional works and performance pieces.  

In response to works from the MCA Collection, Philip Channells (Creative Director, Dance Integrated Australia), specially trained MCA Artists Educators and MCA commissioned artist Hiromi Tango will lead an integrated workshop in two parts:

MCA Gallery Exploration
In Part One, MCA Artist Educators will introduce participants to the MCA Collection and several focus artworks that you’ll have the opportunity to respond to through structured exercises. You’ll explore the Bella Room, a dedicated and interactive space for people with specific needs including physical, intellectual, behavioural and sensory disabilities.

At the end of Part One, participants will spilt into two groups and further explore focus artworks through either dance or visual arts.

Visual Arts Intensive
In Part Two, 25 participants will work with MCA commissioned artist Hiromi Tango and MCA Artist Educators in a practical workshop. Specially trained MCA Artist Educators will lead you on an exploration of the MCA galleries. You’ll gain deeper insight into the individually tailored Bella Program including Bella Digital Programs and discover how the MCA inspires people with special needs to engage with their exhibitions and collections. You will be taught hands-on activities and develop art-making skills that you can apply in your classroom.

Dance Intensive
In Part Two, 25 participants will work with one of Australia’s leading disability-inclusive dance specialists, Philip Channells, in a practical workshop. You’ll have the opportunity to respond to works from the MCA Collection through writing, improvisation and movement-based tasks. Discover how you can be inspired by different artistic mediums whilst embodying a unique physical language, and how you can translate different stimuli into generating movement ideas. You’ll also learn effective communication strategies for collaboration, and ways to adapt all these new ideas in your classroom.



RATE $100

Includes: morning/afternoon tea, lunch and evening drinks 

TO REGISTER: Download and fill in the registration form  

Return by:


Fax     +61 2 9241 4276

Post    House:Ed, Sydney Opera House

           GPO Box 4274

           Sydney NSW 2001

If you have any queries please contact the House:Ed booking team on (02) 9250 7770 or email



Robyn Ewing 

Robyn Ewing is Professor of Teacher Education and the Arts at the University of Sydney. Her teaching, research and writing include a focus on the important role that quality arts experiences should play in education. In the areas of English and the Arts Robyn’s research has particularly focused on the use of drama strategies with literature to enhance students' critical literacies. She is currently working in partnership with Sydney Theatre Company on the School Drama initiative, a professional learning program for primary teachers.

Philip Channells 

Philip Channells (Dance Integrated Australia) is one of Australia’s leading experts in disability-inclusive dance development. He’s the former Artistic Director, Restless Dance Theatre (2009 – 2012) and has worked with Candoco, StopGAP and Corali dance companies, Scottish Dance Theatre and East London Dance. He’s presented his work at the Australian Youth Dance Festival, Catalyst Dance Masterclass Series, National Dance Forum, Dance Your Heart Out, Arts Activated Conference, Don’t DIS my ABILITY, Dance Symposium NSW, Global daCi/WDA Dance Summit Taipei, World Alliance for Arts Education Global Summit Finland and the Australia Week Celebrations in Port Moresby. Philip is a Co-creator of   p / i / c / k / u / p, which is dedicated to the advancement of social justice issues through dance and visual arts. He is fiercely committed to developing dance education through redefining an artistic practice that integrates people from diverse backgrounds.

Liz Hill

Liz Hill is the current Policy and Projects Officer for Accessible Arts Australia, a position focussing on policy and research projects in the arts and disability sector. Liz is responsible for generating, coordinating, collaborating and evaluating issues relating to internal and external policy and research projects. She also acts as an advocate for inclusion of people with disability in the arts. Liz's first job in the arts was to coordinate an attempt on the world tap dancing record on the steps of the Opera House and has worked most recently with Playwriting Australia. In between, Liz has had a long career analysing and developing policy for government organisations, working predominantly within children's and community services. Liz has an interest in community theatre and young people, education and the arts and has a Master of Arts (Theatre Studies) from UNSW and a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Government and Public Administration from the University of Sydney.

Hiromi Tango 

Artist Hiromi Tango’s performance/ installations are based on collaborations between herself and others. Her works create a critical dialogue that explores artist-public engagement, exploring how, by intervening into a particular space, the artist can generate unexpected moments of intimacy and evasion, and how fundamental aspects of human relations can contribute to an art-making process. Through these interventions, Tango seeks to blur and re-integrate the boundaries between conventional ways of relating. Her works address the paradoxical and unstable nature of social engagement – the entwinement of anxiety and embracement of intimacy – through collaboration, co-authorship and co-existence.

Hiromi Tango is the selected artist for the MCA Bella Room commission 2013.

Recent exhibitions include the realisation of Home - Gwangju for the 2012 Gwangju Biennale in Korea, Pistil, X chromosome, Contemporary Australia: Women, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery Of Modern Art, Brisbane (2012), Hiromi Hotel – Mixed Blood, Primavera 2011, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2011); HOME (2010-2011) with Craig Walsh, for Digital Odyssey, a Museum of Contemporary Art Touring Project; Behind the Door, NOW RIGHT NOW!, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Perth (2010); Hiromi Hotel, Fresh Cut 2009, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane (2009); Absence, Platform, 2008 Next Wave Festival, Melbourne (2008).

Sarah-Vyne Vassallo

Sarah-Vyne is responsible for strengthening foundations and networks for artists with a disability. Consulting with the arts and disability sectors to advocate and develop quality performing arts projects. Within her role she has managed programs for Arts NSW, Aging Disability and Home Care, Ausdance NSW, and consulted for Kaldor Public Art Projects, Australian Theatre for Young People, Powerhouse Youth Theatre and Orange Regional Conservatorium.

Sarah-Vyne is a creative producer, choreographer and teacher and has worked in commercial and contemporary dance theatre, television and community arts for close to two decades.  Throughout her diverse career she has worked with companies such as; Ausdance NSW, Sydney Festival, Critical Path, DirtyFeet, youMove Company, FORM Dance Projects, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sidetrack Theatre Company, Disney, ABC, Shorter and Sweeter National Tour, Outstanding Entertainment and The Australian’s Girls Choir. Sarah-Vyne has been a dance teacher for Macquarie University, TAFE, Wesley Institute, McDonald College, Australian Performing Arts College and Ev and Bow and is currently undertaking her Masters in Arts Management at University of Technology Sydney. 



Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House is committed to providing equal access for all to ensure that everyone can fully participate and enjoy the arts. For information about access at Sydney Opera House please click here


The MCA welcomes all visitors and is committed to making its programs and services accessible to everyone.

Registration for Teaching Creative Arts in the Special Needs Classroom takes place at the MCA. There is level access to the building via the George Street entrance, The Rocks or through lift access via Circular Quay West. All public areas of the Museum, including the MCA Store, MCA Cafe and Restaurant and galleries are accessible via lifts.

For more information on access at the MCA please click here

Shuttle Bus

On the day of the event a shuttle bus will operate between the MCA and Sydney Opera House to transport delegates when required.

Audio Description
 Hearing Loop

 listen Access

Wheelchair Access






Help support Australia's greatest icon today with a personalised tile!


Sydney Opera House




Various Venues

Buy Your Tileown our house_180x230
Skip Links