In mid October I went (along with Paul Owen Lewis and Laura Kvasnosky) to visit elementary schools in eastern Washington.
I had to leave my studio for a week, speak to hundreds of children in assemblies and do lots of things that were scary or hard (and good) for me. I had to think about what I valued and about what I wanted to say to kids. I boiled my message down to a single line: Everyone can make art.I elaborated on that line. You have to spend time on art to be able to express yourself. It takes practice and hard work and a kind of perfectionism. But it also takes imperfectionism and playfulness, especially when an idea is first developing. And you have to look inside and outside of yourself.Half of my time there was spent giving art classes. These schools do not have art teachers or art rooms so we worked in the libraries or lunch rooms. The lack of art education in the world feeds the idea that people are either good or bad at art. I wanted to have a project that allowed for success and showed that everyone can make art. But I didn’t want a formula – I wanted each child’s work to be unique.
Each art class had 40-50 fourth or fifth graders and lasted for an hour. After looking at lines and talking about them the kids drew. They made a series of random lines collaboratively. Then they all worked on their own drawings to turn those collaborations into creatures of their own invention. We had markers and colored pencils. Here are some of the drawings that they came up with in that hour – some in progress and some completed. (Thanks to Melani Tackett for taking many of these photographs. )
Yes, the school visits took a ton of energy and made me leave my cocoon. But it was a privilege to spend time with children and watch them draw. I hope that they keep drawing. I hope the lines run off the page.
The visits were made possible the Literacy Connection, by the Kennewick school district and by the hard work of the librarians at each of the schools. I was bowled over by the generosity and energy and kindness of the teachers and librarians that I met. What is my line now? Thank you.