Showing children art is always worth it
Amidst the trips to the beach, the National Parks, the summer camps and the amusement parks, I’m assuming that many parents took the kids to see some art this summer. Maybe it was that once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Sistine Chapel or the Louvre. Perhaps The Met in NYC or the Art Institute in Chicago. More likely was that anywhere you travelled, you came across some interesting pieces of public art — a Henry Moore in a civic plaza, a Corten steel Serra or diSuvero in a public park, or maybe a playful Oldenberg like Cupid’s Span (the bow and arrow) in San Francisco or Spoonbridge and Cherry in Minneapolis.
And my guess is that your kids “got it.” In that they thought it was cool that there was art out in the world all around them. And that in climbing or sitting under one of these works they understand, intrinsically or explicitly, that art deserves a prominent place in society.
Which is why I was annoyed to read that the British artist, Jake Chapman (the sculptures he and his brother create aren’t for the faint of heart) took his summer break to say that “taking children to art galleries is a total waste of time.” And that parents are “arrogant” for thinking children could understand such complex artists as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.
Ordinarily, I would just dismiss a statement like this as a publicity stunt. An artist desperate to draw attention to their work. But in this case it afforded those of us who care deeply about art education an opportunity to remind people of the limitless capabilities of a child’s ability to understand what they see. For Chapman, perhaps, the artist provides the definitive meaning of the work they create. He or she breathes life and truth into the art and only they have the key to unlock the mysteries therein.
But for 32 years, we’ve seen hundreds of thousands of kids, from Kindergarten through 8th grade, engage with, discuss and appreciate art. They clearly can process the sometimes complex ideas embedded in a painting and take it further by relating it to their own world. That is the natural power of art. And to limit exposure to it at the most fertile time in a child’s development is a silly notion.
So join us as we continue to prove Mr. Chapman and his ilk wrong. Bring art to your school and encourage your kids to experience as much art as possible everywhere you go. They, and society, will be better for it.
Jeffrey Dollinger, Executive Director