“No one wants to climb the mountain anymore. They’re all just looking for the elevator.” – Brian McDonald
I call this “looking for the Holy Grail”. Trying to find that perfect How-To book, Pencil, or Glue Gun that will make it all click and allow us to be a member of the crafting A-Team. While I firmly believe that anyone who has the hand-eye coordination to write their name legibly is able to learn how to create, the fact of the matter is that it also takes a lot of interest in doing it as well as good deal of work. Most people get started when they’re too young to know they’re working so hard at it, so it’s always been fun for them. So how do we expose kids to art and get them interested at a young age?
I think most everybody who took high school English in the last twenty years has seen the movie “Dead Poets Society.” The intention I think, is to inspire students to be creative…or maybe just show that one-hundred year old poems and stories still have the power to move and help us grow even today.
The problem I always had with watching the movie is that while it excited me to become involved, to write and talk about art, it didn’t give me the tools to put these new ideas and feelings into practice. The subversive aspect to learning about and being active in the arts is part of what makes it exciting. How do you teach subversion, though?
Giving kids ideas is important, but so is giving them the tools to use and explore them. One book that is popular around our house is The Dot, by Peter Reynolds.
Such a simple, expressive story that illustrates the possibilities of exploration and showing interest in the potential of our young people. More importantly, it gives kids the tools to explore and to share those tools with others. I love the end where the kid has the courage to ask Vashti about her art and she shares the “secret” with him.
I love hearing people who are passionate about what they do, talk about it. Often when I’m on the way home from Fusion on Saturdays, I’ll listen to “From the Top” on NPR. I like music and have played it for a long time, but couldn’t tell you the difference between a technically great performance and a brilliant one. The thing is though, in the commentary on the performances the excitement and passion for the music being created really comes across. It gets ME excited about the music in a way that I otherwise wouldn’t be. Teaching by example and sharing the excitement of the kids you’re trying to inspire goes a long way.
This Friday, I’ll be participating in the Arts for Kids event at the Shawnee Comunity College in Metropolis, IL. A couple of months ago, I was talking to my five year old nephew and told him that I get paid to draw pictures. He gave me SUCH a look of disbelief. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to talk about my work, and show kids that art is something that you can make a living doing. I hope that they get some of the excitement that I feel.
I Love it when a plan comes together.
*Update – we just recieved word that the event organizers decided to cancel the event due to the number of artists that are not going to be able to make it. We are very sad, but apparently they are going to have a new event at the school in the fall. The kids will still get to have their artistic experience and I am super thrilled
Writer Jeffrey Johnson
Stay-At-Home Dad and freelance Illustrator, comiker, crafter and urban homesteader. Jeffrey and his wife Amy work together at Fusion as Handmade Family, making back to basics toys, gifts and decor for growing families. You can find his work and personal blog at www.handmadefamily.com or around the web as redherringjeff.