Danielle and I recently facilitated a four week course on re-imagining art with young children with a group of 20 educators. The discussions were wide ranging, sometime intense, sometimes funny. The educators shared many stories of children and art, how art was perceived in the places they worked, their struggles and their wonderings. We challenged each other, argued about practice, and looked to the work of artists to inspire us.
We wondered about the conventional ideas around art in early years settings:
• Art happens at the art table.
• Materials are chosen by educators.
• Art is an individual endeavour. Keep your paint on your own painting.
• Art materials come from catalogues and include glitter, paint, pom-poms, stickers, and felt pens that smell like candy.
• The art materials offered are different every day.
• Children are never forced to do art, but are highly encouraged to visit the art table. There is value (pressure?) placed on having something to take home.
• The goal of art is to work on fine motor skills, follow instructions, and have a finished product, preferably a product that is representational, that looks like something.
All of this got me thinking…do we think children have no ideas? No opinions on what they like to work with? No inkling of what inspires them and what doesn’t inspire them?
We found that art doesn’t have to look like something to have value.
And that anything can be used as an art material.
So here is my challenge to you:
Ask children what they want to do with materials. Ask them where they would like to do art, what they like to do and what they don’t like to do. Take art to the sandbox, to the park, to the forest, to the block area, to a big empty space in the middle of the room. Give art time. Work with one material for weeks. Be ok with mess. Bring in art books. Look online and bring crazy ideas to children. Listen to their crazy ideas….try crazy ideas.
Let children tell you what inspires them. Listen to their opinions.
Note: Thanks to the participants of the Re-Imagining Art Course for being open to the dialogue, and sharing the mundane and the marvellous of your practice.
Note on the above photo:
T^rash People. One of the largest displays of recycled art in the world, Trash People was created by HA Schult and features 1000 trash men constructed out of aluminum cans, computer parts and plastic. It took over six months to complete