Children and Art

Picasso once said “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”  This quote comes to mind time and again as I think about my own youthful experiences in art and the experiences I try to create for children today. Let me set the stage: my education began in the midwest during the 70′s and 80′s in the midst of the cold war. Science and math were a priority and art took a backseat.  If we were lucky, we had art once a week in elementary school – typically some holiday-themed, cookie-cutter project where the finished product more or less resembled that of our peers.  In Junior High and High School we were provided the opportunity to take art more often. Instruction focused mostly on technical skill, which was a start at least, but left me feeling stifled and creatively frustrated. What is it that I knew, that we all know as young children, about how to create with playful, careless freedom? That time before the inner-critic and self consciousness takes hold?  Before our education system teaches that spirit right out of us?

Today’s educational climate puts our youth at even greater risk for creative repression. With high stakes testing and tightening budget restraints, the arts are being further neglected, but at what cost?

As children our creative capacity allowed us to express ourselves, to explore and experiment with ideas and new possibilities. When we are older, creativity allows us to define our individuality, to recognize and appreciate various points of view, even opposing ones.  Creativity allows us to envision something other than our current reality, enabling Hope. But creativity is like a muscle, if neglected it will atrophy.  Imagine, if you can, what our world will become without the opportunity or capacity to be creative.