Monday, July 13, 2009
Art & kids
One of my favorite aspects of my job is doing art projects with the kids. It's something I do all of the time, but this summer is even more rewarding because I have so many kids that I can work with, instead of the few I had all year. In summer camp, we have special times set aside for activities like learning French, sign language, doing special science projects, cooking and art. I am the art "specialist" a title I enjoy.
Last week I taught the children about Jackson Pollock, one of my favorite artists. I loved the way he dribbled and slopped paint everywhere. Kids especially love this style of painting.
I mixed several cups of liquid colored paint for the kids and gave them craft sticks. The lesson was simple. Express yourself on your paper "canvas" by dripping and dropping colorful paint. There were no paint brushes. They were only to use the craft sticks. At first they were slow to move, carefully dropping circles of paint on their paper. I told them not to be afraid to cover that paper in color, to really make their art work come alive. After a few minutes the craft sticks starting moving in and out of the paint at faster speed, until paint was flying all over their work area. It was a sight to behold.
What was truly wonderful at this point was the conversation these kids (ages 5 to 12) were having. As they created their piece of art, several told me they wanted to be artists when they grew up. Some of the older girls expressed a desire to design clothes. One boy, who doesn't like art, said he wanted to be an architect. I told him architect were artists too. As he feverishly applied layers and layers of paint to his canvas, I heard him tell a buddy that he guessed he was an artist.
The sound of children creating art is one of my favorite things to listen to. There is a comfortable level of sound in the room. Children are complementing each other, laughing at mishaps, sharing ideas, and, sometimes, squealing with delight when something comes out just right. There is a tone in the room of camaraderie and happiness. It spills over to me and I'm on cloud nine.
Today, while making tissue paper mosaics with the 7 and 8 year olds, I was sitting at a table with four kids (two boys and two girls). As the children and I chatted, I felt relaxed and happy. Eight other kids were busy at other tables, but all of my attention was focused on these 4.
I looked over to a boy named Demarco and told him that he looked like our President, Barack Obama. (he really does, ears and all). He grinned at me and then announced that he was my favorite. I pretended to ignore him because although we do have favorites, we aren't supposed to show it. The little boy next to him looked at me and asked me who I thought he looked like.
"Hmmm," I said, "you look like someone famous, but I can't think of his name."
That satisfied him and he went back to gluing his paper.
One of the girls asked me the same thing, who do I look like?
"Hmmm," I replied, "you sure look like a model I saw on tv last night."
She grinned and continued working.
Emily, one of my favorite "shadows" asked me who I thought she looked like.
"Hmmm, " I teased," I was watching a monster movie last night." I hesitated.
Emily tilted her head and squinted. "Ms. Deb!"
"What?" I said, "I was about to say that you looked like the really pretty girl that the monster was chasing."
Emily laughed and said, "I thought you were going to say something else."
"Not me, " I smiled, laying my hand on the table.
Just then, DeMarco placed his hand over mine and left it there for a few seconds. It was the warmest, most gentle gesture that a child has ever displayed towards me. I think the ease of the conversation, the busy hum of the kids working on their artwork, and the general feeling of happiness in that room made him do that.
That's what art does to children. Letting them express themselves in a relaxed atmosphere, without a lot of boundaries or demands sets a tone of sincere contentment and joy.
Make every day an art day!