Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Art Show

My first and earliest mentor in homeschooling was actually my co-teacher--Sharon--at the small,  mixed-aged middle school where I taught in Florida. She had homeschooled her own four kids growing up, and brought all that creative energy and individual focus to the classroom. Every Valentine's Day, she's built elaborate personal mailboxes with the kids from the simplest materials to hold their valentines. Her Halloween tunnels, which took up half of the playground, were made from huge cardboard boxes suspended from PVC pipes and secured with duct tape and insulated wire. They were legendary.

Something Sharon once said about herself struck me--"I consider myself first and foremost an arts and crafts teacher." At first I thought she was giving herself short shrift, since her skills and interest clearly exceeded those two subjects, but I came to see that what she was communicating was that she saw the world through an artistic, creative lens and privileged the hands-on experiences that allowed children to make things.

There's a lot of art in Fayetteville--First Thursday gallery hops, huge public installations, art museums, art classes, and a month dedicated to the arts broadly in our community. It's a rich environment for art,  but as far as I could tell, there was nothing that celebrated the art that kids created spontaneously, for no purpose other than the joy of creating, or a way for them to connect with one another as artists. So, I set about to make such an event. I created a Facebook page and made some flyers advertising the Summer Children's Art Show and sent out the call for help.

Immediately, several friends volunteered, and we got a good, solid response from families in the area--some friends, some friends of friends, and some folks who saw our flyers and wanted to take part.

Thirty-five pieces were submitted by fifteen kids, and at its peak the event hosted 45 people. Kids talked to each other about their art, they made art together--seed mosaics, tissue paper window stars, salt dough sculpture, post cards, and drawings, they watched an ongoing slideshow of favorite and famous art, and acted as their own art pieces with dress-up clothes and a big hanging frame.

I was so happy with how it came off. Every kid there had a good time. Every one. And the adults were clearly glad for the opportunity to gather to celebrate their children's endeavors as well as get together with other parents and friends.

It was the best kind of learning--freeform, colorful, multigenerational, and mixed media. Plus, there was punch and cookies.

What I think our kids will take away from this is that we care about them and what they make, that their creations are valuable, and that what we do together--from collaborating on salt dough snowmen to multi-actor cowboy-movie play pretend to putting on an art show--is all the richer for the many perspectives included. It's arts and crafts, yes, but it's also everything else.