I had the opportunity to visit Portland Oregon for a few days, and while there I visited the Portland Art Museum. And this is what hit me like a thunderbolt as I wandered around:
Those of us who work with young children should be required to visit an art gallery once in a while. Why? Because it will open up our thinking.
Now let me be straight. I am not an artist, have no art education and get nervous even doodling on a napkin in public. I don’t think like an artist, and I don’t see like an artist…. and that is exactly the point. Artists see materials differently than I do. They think with materials, they connect ideas and meanings to processes of art and art making, in creative, beautiful, unusual, disturbing and wacky ways.
And so do children.
If we see a child pouring water on to a paper and sponging off the excess do we think of art making?
Most likely not, but perhaps we should. Artists engage with materials deeply, investigating all their properties, all their nuances. They may take years to create a piece, or they may spend years creating variations on one theme or idea. And do you think anyone asked Monet “Don’t you think it’s time you painted something besides water lilies?” Did anyone say to Dali “I can see you’ve spent a long time working on this.” Or nodded knowingly behind Picasso’s back assessing his fine motor skills?
Walking through the art gallery I saw funny art, strange art, some art that I liked, some that I didn’t. I thought about what the artist intended, what ideas they were thinking with, and I was challenged to wonder, to respond. I want to engage with children’s art the same way.
Thinking beyond “Children’s Art” and moving to simply “Art” might create a shift in what and how we see.