Sep 30, 2013

Why Art

I am a woman who wears many hats - wife, mom, sister, daughter, artist, teacher....

Artist is the hat for which I have received the most training and get the least recognition, haha. But I can not help myself, I love it.

Several times, I have had people ask me if I hope my children become artists when the grow up. My answer is always the same - I hope my children become whatever they WANT to become. However, I do hope that I raise my children with an appreciation for the arts.

Here are 5 reasons I believe it is of the upmost importance to expose our children to art:

1. Imagination

Albert Einstein said it well - "Imagination is more important than knowledge." Why would it be that one of the greatest minds in history would say this? Without imagination, how would we think up new, innovative ideas? How would we dream up the next iPhone or solve hard moral conundrums. I have been a teacher for 8 years now, and I can tell you that some of my favorite students, and some of the students that I have seen succeed since graduating are not the students who can memorize chapters in the math book and they are not the ones who necessarily outperformed others on tests and quizzes - they are the students who know how to think outside the box, who look for unusual ways to solve problems. This is what our current generation is lacking. Our children need time to be creative - outside playtime, art classes, dance and kinestetic learning opportunities.

The imagination of a child is an incredible thing. This afternoon, we were painting pictures to send to our loved ones and Isabel put one single dot on a piece of paper and said in all seriousness, "This is one dot. It is for Grandpa." I asked if she wanted to add anything to the image, and she said no, it was finished. What an imagination! If not fostered, this kind of thinking is crushed out of too many people. Imagine if every adult had the confidence and imagination of a 2 year old.
2. Global Thinking

When was the last time you stepped into the Art museum? Bathed in that experience? When you looked around, what did you see? More than likely, you saw lots of different kinds of people, art from throughout history, art from other cultures... Exposing our kids to art is one of the most valuable ways to teach them history from everyday people's experiences and from a wide range of perspectives. We are extremely lucky in Dallas to be surrounded by world class museums (art, history, science, etc). I relish in the fact that I can take my kids to 10 different museums and show them so many beautiful things and let them jump into the images and imagine themselves in another culture, even if only for a moment.

3. Escape

When we were children, life wasn't as hard as it is for today's children. They are faced with alarmingly difficult situations on a daily basis - ever changing technology, sex drugs and rock n' roll in their face 24/7, divorce at an all time high, financial issues of their parents... When do our children get the chance to be children? Even for my high school students, I pray that my art class is a chance for them to escape the fear of the grade they got on that test, or the demands of sports and drama and clubs on top of classes, or the drama that is going on at home and just BE in the moment. Being absorbed into an art project is one of the most freeing, soul soothing activities I can imagine. As Twyla Tharp said, "Art is the only way to run away without leaving home." I find this to be an incredibly poignant idea.

4. Gives Us A Voice

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. " - Thomas Merton
As I said earlier, the youth of today has it rough. They are being forced to grow up quickly, to face real, hard truths. Some of them rise to this expectation, and some turn and act out - seeking acceptance in negative ways. As a teen, one thing that art gave me was a voice when I thought no one was listening (whether this be true or not, it was how I felt at times, and I imagine nothing has changed in today's kids). I was able to escape into my painting and, I believe, turned into a much stronger adult than if I did not have that voice to discover.
On a lighter note, art also gives voice to the voiceless. This is a truly amazing thing. My 18 month old, Olivia, can color something and be absolutely ecstatic to show me her creation. This is HER voice. I do not think that she is simply scribbling lines on a paper.

5. Encourages Independence

Art was one of the first activities that Isabel was able to do by herself. We have an art table in our dining room, supplies on a shelf, and a place for her to display her work. She learned to peel stickers from pages, to choose colors, and even to clean up after herself. This inspired confidence in her. She learned all her letters with ABC stickers, she learned animals and the sounds animals make with a Discovery coloring book... For her, art has been a way to grow.

Without art, we become bland, single-minded individuals with no connection. Art is a bridge to a life we would not otherwise experience.

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