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.
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.
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.