A couple weeks ago, I was listening to some fifth graders talking as they were trying to figure out something related to their found object sculptures.
It hit me -- art isn’t just making art. There is so much more to it.
Of course in art class we learn about color, line, shapes and texture -- what we call in the art world the "elements of art.” Students also learn about the “principles of art” -- things like movement, balance, emphasis, etc. All of these help us to understand how design works.
Students also learn about historically important artists and artwork. They learn about various art materials and how to use them and the techniques related to them. Students learn an art vocabulary which helps them to talk about artwork and visual images.
Don’t get me wrong -- all of these things are very important! But there is much more to art.
Take, for example, the making of found object sculptures that the fifth graders do. Students are using things that would probably be thrown away, making choices about what items to use, experimenting to figure out what will work, how to make it work, and how to make it understandable to viewers.
“Will this work as a wheel or that?”, “How can I get this to stand up?” They are asking each other questions like, “Does this look like a seat for a motorcycle?” or “Should I have this be part of my drums?” or “Does this look like a boat?” They are asking me questions such as “How do I get the paint to stick to plastic?”
They are asking themselves questions like, “How can I attach this?”
All of these questions are part of a problem-solving process; learning to make choices with some engineering and science thrown in.
There is also the creativity of taking what some would consider “junk” and turning into something totally other. They are learning to look at things in a whole new light and give it new meaning.
We call it “creativity” and “using our imagination,” but another way to think of it is as seeing possibility. It is part of almost everything we do in the art room, from a simple line drawing to taking a blob of clay and making it into an object. We are made in the image of The Creator. By growing their creativity, students are developing a gift God has put within all of them.
Art is also about learning to respect the work of others: their vision, skill level, and the work of their hands and mind. When someone splashes water on my work, what do I do? Or what do I do when I am the one who accidentally splashed someone’s work?
Art is learning to have patience with yourself and persistence when your drawing doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to or your sculpture falls apart one more time. You have to learn how to deal with disappointment and frustration when what you thought was going to be a zebra comes out looking more like a skunk or when the watercolors start bleeding together on your paper.
Art is decision making. “I just want to think what color I want to paint him,” said Owen as he paused before painting his clay hippo.
Though we often work on our own, we also collaborate at times and get the opinions of others. “Do you think this is filled in enough?” Garrett asked his fellow classmates.
Conner helped Bienvenu figure out how to make his motorcycle stand up. Other students pitched in and finally the students found a solution and the motorcycle stood up without falling down.
At West Side Christian School, art is an important part of developing the whole child. Art is a place to grow not only their God-given artistic abilities, but life skills.
All of the skills the students use to make art-- problem solving, decision making, creativity, collaboration, helping others, repurposing, seeing possibilities, respecting the work of others and themselves, developing patience and persistence -- are life skills we use professionally and in our home lives.
They are skills we use in the art room every day. Art is much more than just what you see!
Fine Arts Week runs April 24-28 and will feature a number of special musical and artistic events. Mark your calendars and plan to join us on Thursday, April 27th, for our annual Fine Arts Night celebration from 7-8:30 p.m. Student artwork will be displayed around the school, and student musical performances occur at 7:00, 7:30, and 8:00 p.m. in the gym.