As I sit on the couch next to my curled up cat this morning, I reflect on all that has transpired since last March when the globe seemed to tilt a little too far on its axis, throwing the world off-kilter. It's mind boggling to think a microscopic virus that is not even a living thing could steal lives, livelihoods, unity, and the sense of peace and security that normal routines bring.
I try to remember that we are not promised anything. If we're wise, we hold gifts and sorrows with open palms and gratitude, being careful what we cling tightly to. For me, that has meant holding loosely to my art studio plans, being flexible and creative in approach to problems, and most of all just being grateful for those who choose art alongside me as an antidote to the chaos.
This week I welcomed around 50 kids back to my studio, albeit masked and distanced. Depending on the class, we dabbled in printmaking, collage, rock painting, drawing exercises, and burning energy in my backyard. Everyone received a new sketchbook to fill this year with drawings, ideas, color swatches, value scales, and who knows what else! All my classes played a funny ice-breaker game of "Would You Rather" using famous pieces of art. I love when students point to a piece of art and say excitedly, "I've seen that one before!" I don't know why the act of recognizing masterpieces of art is so magical, but alas, it is.
Here are a few of slides from our game...
And here are some pictures from classes this week...
I enjoyed sharing this short video about collage artist "MarcPaperScissor" with my elementary students.
This coming week I will add three online classes consisting of over 60 students, from elementary to adult, and the following week I will be taking my supplies to Rosa Parks charter school to teach an art class to the high schoolers on Fridays as a volunteer. COVID could disrupt the whole shebang, of course! However...this:
I had a parent ask for my thoughts on how often her student should take art classes and if it was okay to take breaks and prioritize other classes. Schedules get so busy with conscientious parents trying to make sure all bases are covered. The question got me thinking back to my own educational experience.
I was a highly driven, straight-A student my whole life, from K-college. I was also involved in all kinds of extra-curriculars, from sports to student council to music and theater. I took AP classes and did all the college prep stuff. Times were different in the 80s, but I CANNOT remember a semester where I was not able to fit in an art class. Art classes were a vital time of creativity and decompression for this little high achiever. They exercised a different aspect of my brain than math, science, and English, and I am certain they helped to keep me balanced and mentally healthy.
Even though I didn't pursue it as a degree and never thought I'd teach it, my art experiences and skills have influenced me daily for my entire life and have greatly enhanced my quality of life. I approach problems creatively, which comes in handy in everything from parenting to business meetings to interpersonal relationships. I am the one who gets asked to paint banners, create business cards, make jewelry for fundraisers, and help decorate for friends' weddings. The fact that I can contribute artistically in multiple ways to people and organizations is a huge blessing to me. The fact that I have a deep appreciation of beauty and design is a salve in a troubled world.
I know this is all anecdotal. But I've read plenty of scientific studies that confirm my points. You can research those on your own. But keep this in mind, dear parents: depending on your child, art may be more than a "fun extra," it may be the class that keeps them mentally healthy and has a life-long Return on Investment.
Jill Pearson, owner & instructor at Riverwood Studio, Oronoco, Minnesota