Monday, March 24, 2014

Celebrate Youth Art Month with Your Family

This year for Youth Art Month I have been thinking about ways to support parents.  It seems to me that so much about young people making art depends on the adults who accompany them on their creative adventures.
It is a true delight to see parents and children making things together in the studio.  Joy is found in the stuff they make - the collages, paintings, drawings and sculptures as well as the more intangible things we build - relationships, confidence, creativity, persistence and the many ways we make meaning through art. 
In February Krista Tippett interviewed artist, Ann Hamilton for her NPR radio program On Being.  Ann Hamilton is a self-described "maker" - the photo below is of an installation she made at the New York Armory a little over a year ago.  It was a truly magical space. 

Hamilton's life is full as a mother, college professor and professional artist.  It is the identity as a maker that she feels ties all these roles together.  She said that if she sees them as separate - motherhood, teaching, and art - they constantly complete.  If she sees them as connected by the shared aspect of making - one naturally flows into another.  She doesn't only find ideas and inspiration in the studio and sometimes the next thing to make isn't art but soup for a sick child.  Whether you struggle to balance work, parenthood and volunteer roles or just the recent snow days, stomach bug and general everyday stress - this idea of finding a common thread through the things you do is valuable.  The idea of practice is also valuable.  Making in general and art making in particular is really about a practice.  It is why we offer classes where kids and families can come to the studio weekly over a period of time and make each week.  Having a space and community for creativity be part of your routine sets the stage for making to become a habit and for finding inspiration in many different aspects of daily life. 

Creative practice can be developed in homes and classrooms as well.  For our March Focus Group we hope to reach a wider group by opening up the focus to parents and making at home as well as in the classroom or studio.  Collage lends itself well to getting started in art because the materials are familiar.  Simple materials often offer the richest results.
Another idea from Ann Hamilton was that of setting up experiences for things to happen - not directing the outcome but creating a space for exploration and experience. So much about making with children is about setting the stage for wonderful things to happen.  My best days are when the creations of the young artists in the studio are things that surprise and delight me.  This sharing also energizes my own creative practice.  So for the month of March, I invite you to notice kids art and other things kids make - forts, messes, stories.  What can you learn from observing the process of making?  Also think about the people in your own life who, as Fred Rogers describes "loved you into being."  What part did making or working with your hands have to do with that? Happy Youth Art Month! 

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