Over 30 years ago when I was first asked to teach an art program for children, I contemplated my options. I knew that, for both myself and my students, the program needed to be meaningful – not just skill based, but life based. It needed to assist children in understanding why art is important and pertinent to their development as humans, and it needed to include life skills, not just art skills.
I happened upon a Getty Foundation study which clicked with me. It discussed the fact that although the U.S. was graduating scientists and mathematicians with higher scores than any other country, our graduates were not excelling in their chosen fields. The study concluded that our brilliant young minds lacked one key ingredient: imagination. Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Armed with this information, I proceeded to develop a 4-point discipline based program (as suggested by the Getty report), adding a few key elements from my studies in art therapy. The resulting curriculum has been my career-long guide to teaching.
Each unit is designed around the life, challenges, and social history of an individual artist. Each lesson discusses an aspect of that artist’s life and artistic development.
We are all critics. This element explores how we look at and create our ideas and feelings, and the importance of expressing them in a positive manner.
The third part of the program looks at how we develop our ideas, and how we put them down pictorially in an organized fashion.
Finally, we come to the part of the program where we, with our study artist as our guide, create our own pictorial process, using our most important artistic tool – our own imagination. We use a variety of materials to do this, always remembering that the process is the important part, not the product.
This program has been successful with all grade levels, starting at age four and continuing until my students leave me for high school.
In 2016, 4Cs of Sonoma County bestowed upon me the Champion for Children Award for “Empowering Youth: K-12 Education.” This award means everything to me. It acknowledges the entire breadth of my efforts to assist young people as they prepare for the challenges of their own lives.
Well, there you have it – what I do and why I do it. Before I sign off, I’d like you to remember…
… perfect art is boring, and there are no mistakes.
… exploration and trying new things is vitally important.
… being outside of your comfort zone is a good place to be.