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Much Ado About Art For Kids

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Art. 
What is Art  exactly?
And what is Art for Children supposed to be like?

Would you say my children are making art?

It’s Children’s Season in Singapore again. And the by now locally famous amongst the Singapore parents is the ‘Art Garden’ at Singapore Art Museum is back.  Better, More Interactive, More Varied Activities for Children – or so it promises on its promotional brochures.

But is the environment we are creating for children to experience ART getting more conducive, inspiring and enriching?

I don’t really know.

At the risk of sounding like an educated snob (which I am not), after my disappointing experience with the Art Garden last year, I have not yet mustered the courage to visit the Art Garden. Not yet. I have been asking every mother I know if they have been, and what they thought of this year’s instalment.

Mixed bag of reviews. One fellow mom blogger, Jayne, was blown away by the art . While another friend of mine, Evelyn, thinks it more of an art experience that uses a ‘redecorate and repeat’ formula. (Somewhat bleah, uninspring and hmm maybe?)

I don’t know just what to make of this year’s until I visit this Thursday, but reading Evelyn’s most recent ‘Thoughts on Art for Kids’ post makes me think about my own perspectives and questions about Art for Children.

  • What is Art?
  • What common language does Art share with Children?
  • Why should Art even figure in the lives of Children? Or for that matter, adults.
  • How do we make Art accessible yet meaningful to children?

I’m no expert so all my opinions here are written purely from an intuitive place.

I believe Art is very subjective.

What is beautiful and good to someone may be totally crap to another.
And in the context of using Art to communicate with children,
What we adults ( curator, artist, educator, parent) think of as beautiful may be just bleah-huh-duh to them.
For example, at last year’s Art Garden, there was  BEAUTIFUL art by a famous Japanese artist who had done work for Louis Vuitton. The fine crystal powder painstakingly dusted on the carpet in intricate designs over a period of days. Only adults I think, with our life experience and maturity, really appreciated it. The children probably just remembered it as an experience of running with plasticbooties in a white room with people shouting, ‘Do not run! Do not touch!’

What we adults think as interesting may be just inane to kids.

What we think as being interactive art may just be another mindless object of entertainment for them.

Are they creating art or just messing around when they decide to turn this box into an army tank?

Now, so what makes art good or suitable for children?

I don’t know…but I do know one thing I expect when I go somewhere that promises an ARTistic experience for children be it to the Art Garden or a play.

Art for Children ought not, in my opinion, be one rid with adult angst, filled with the ennui of life that more weary , aged pilgrims in Life tend to have like the depressive wall graffiti at last year’s Art Garden.

Art for Children should in its essence and expression capture and engage the natural exuberance and joy and hope and faith children have.
Yet be able to also identify with the fears and dreads and hurts that these young ones have.

Art for Children should offer them gifts of new information, alternative perspectives and new vocabularies to give form to the thoughts, dreams and ideas that struggle within them to be understood.

It’s a delicate balance.

How do we create Art that does not go all Pollyanna on the paediatric audience, provide enriching experiences that will deepen and enhance their understanding of themselves and the world they live in?

How do we avert the risk of presenting one-dimensional, soul-less work in the name of making it accessible? Come one, our children may be young but dumb and lacking in depth of soul and spirit they are not.

How do we find the secret language into the well-guarded inner lives of the children through our paints, our canvass and our acting without imposing our adult biases and disillusions on them?

I think the answer is perhaps found in us adults – artists, educators and parents alike – learning to let loose and taking ourselves lightly, being willing to have our ideas and comfort zones challenged, being willing to get down on our knees and stay there to live life for a day, or just a few hours.

Do we wonder as the young child wonders about the sky we see every day?

I always admired authors of Children’s Literature…because I wish to be able to have their ability to connect with the children in spite of their age.

I am not sure if the artists who create art for children work the same way as these writers.

But I am guessing that the most well-loved children book authors, and artists, are those who are childlike, still love life with a zest, still have a hope and faith in the future of Mankind, and still are incurably, insatiably curious about all around them.

Now, I’m going to think somemore about these good questions …and then, maybe write more…or maybe make some art!

But first, tell me, how do YOU THINK ART should be experienced by children?

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