Where I am When I’m Not Reading, Writing, or Writing about Reading and Writing

Once a month I volunteer at my sons’ elementary school for a parent-lead program called “Get Smart With Art.” Volunteer parents in the program present a major artist to each class every month, then the children make an art project inspired by that artist’s work. We’ve covered a variety of artists, including: Andy Warhol, Claude Monet, Piet Mondrian and Leonardo da Vinci. This month’s choice focused on Native Americans, and to celebrate that culture the children made “pinch pots” out of clay. Well, pinch pots were the example, but the kids used their imaginations to make all sorts of things from wolves to tea sets. Each and every piece was completely unique.

Img_0169 Get Smart With Art is a program developed by the mother of a child who goes to my sons’ school. A graphic artist in her own right, she decided to step up to the plate when the arts funding in our school district became threatened. She developed the program from the ground up, doing everything from coming up with the concept, ironing out the details, asking for and getting public funding and organizing the parent volunteers. The program is now in its second year, and it’s still going strong.

I’d like to think every school has such enterprising parents, but I know it’s just not that way. It takes a certain kind of person to initiate a movement, and an awful lot of support to keep these movements going.Img_0166_1

The pay offs are obvious, and when the children can still recite, more than a year later, “Georges Seurat made a dot in a dot!” you know you’ve really hit on something important, something that can really make a strong impact on a child’s life.

I’m as proud to be a part of this art program as I am of anything else I do. In the long run, this is probably one of my most important endeavors, even if I only play a supporting role in the program.

Seeing the faces of these children light up when we roll the “art cart” in every month is nothing short of inspiring. It has me thinking maybe the battle to keep the arts a vital, living entity starts in the classroom. Maybe one of these children will go on to be the next Picasso, or maybe not, but at least all of them will go forward with an enthusiasm for creative expression and a greater appreciation for what inspires people to create art.  I think that’s the definition of unqualified success.

4 thoughts on “Where I am When I’m Not Reading, Writing, or Writing about Reading and Writing

  1. Lisa, this sounds wonderful and if only more schools would do this. The lack of music and art teaching in our schools here in the UK is appalling. How are children going to learn the beauty of a piece of music, or a great painting? They have to be caught when they are young, by the time they are lippy teenagers liking classical music or art is not ‘cool’ and they are gone for ever.
    Thanks for telling us all about this. Way to go!!

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  2. It makes me so sad hearing about children who don’t have access to art programs. I’m so impressed by the mother who orchestrated this all for us here, and imagine she’d be thrilled if the idea could spread. I just think it’s so crucial to expose developing minds to the arts, and really a crime a lot of administrative sorts think this is a program that can be cut, as it’s “unimportant.” Ugh…. Such is the state of the world, I guess.

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  3. It is a pity that more schools here in Britain don’t allow children access to the art rooms or the music rooms ‘out of hours’ and after they have dropped these subjects in a formal sense. You may not want to take Art A level but you might still want to paint or sculpt, and while orchestra may be only for the serious players, surely there could be ‘have a go’ sessions for the dabblers?
    We are fortunate that our children’s schools do promote the development of creativity, but it isn’t widespread enough. It is also a very valuable resource where special needs children are concerned.

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  4. I very highly agree on the issue of children with special needs. We make sure they’re also included in our art program, and though I’ve never been in on those sessions I understand they just love it, too.
    We’re fortunate with all our arts programs here, but it’s the thing they’re always looking to cut when money gets tight. Our music program is also exceptional, but again that was threatened last year when the district saw the budget numbers. Thank goodness a referendum passed, or my daughter may have had to look elsewhere to pursue her interest in music.
    It’s scary how unstable these programs really are, and a real shame that seems an acceptable state of affairs.

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