Art from the heart

To teachers, being thrown into the unknown has lent new insights

By Katie Woodall for Twirl
Posted 6/12/20

Kid art is art Text ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText Colorfrom the heart. Kid art is "this is me."

It is an overflow of aliveness that is authentic and real. It seems that here in Taos, we live in a community where there is a background acceptance of art as a way of being human. It must have come from the centuries of village life, independent homesteaders surviving by smart craft.

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Art from the heart

To teachers, being thrown into the unknown has lent new insights

Posted

Kid art is art from the heart. Kid art is "this is me."

It is an overflow of aliveness that is authentic and real. It seems that here in Taos, we live in a community where there is a background acceptance of art as a way of being human. It must have come from the centuries of village life, independent homesteaders surviving by smart craft.

These multitasking ancestors passed on an inherent appreciation of making with our hands. And yes, we are collectively hurrying into change, we are leaping into a mechanical form of communicating that we must master, i.e. the computer.

But if a human being is on a journey to a unified mind and body, the brain in the hand needs to be developed, too. Inventing something original to share is a means for all children to see who they are, and to process their feelings.

He is noticeably calm when he is painting the cup, she can put together a kite that flies free, either can make a "friend" doll when feeling lonely. An older boy can take a selfie holding a deck of cards in his hands, projecting himself as a player in a time of confusion.

As an art teacher during COVID stay-at-home time, I found there was a precious flow of messages back and forth that brought light into shadowy days. I had one-on-one conversations with kids about their work via email that was so much more focused than we get in a crowded, busy classroom setting.

I am sure that was true for many teachers in all kinds of schools. We were lucky to be in that flow - we had abundance in our lives if we heard back from our invitations to do projects. Just listen to 6-year old Tait talk about his art-making process:

"I made this out of telescope parts, some of it, and that telescope was going to the dump - I have a whole bag of garbage things that had metal and plastic things, that's what I made this out of."

Art ideas were alternate hands-on ways to engage. Unfamiliarity with computer methods often made stress, but physically doing art could be another way to show up. Something to balance the screen.

I am so grateful to Taos Charter School parents who had time to help their children. To take pictures and send them to me. For others, those working or taxed with too much, I tried to assist by sending home art supply bags so kids could have all they needed to do a few projects start to finish.

Art activity could be a way for siblings to have similar "jobs" they could do together, or a lighthearted way to mimic a sad performer, lightening up the somber atmosphere of COVID days. Teachers observed how age groups or developmental stages responded differently.

The online workload could be a lot, depending on experience. Older kids needed to do things independently - some discovered access to art tech skills on their own, pursuing their own ways to express how their more critical eyes see.

I want to recognize all the "specials" teachers who invented solutions on the fly. This includes visual art teachers but also language teachers, those who must get audio to come alive for their students at home. Spring quarter was a big switch, without direct eye contact, facial cues, live intonations with the voice - in any of our cultural languages.

And to the responsive music teachers, showing up as familiar allies on video clips, sharing performances, even finding a spare guitar for someone who wanted it. Recorders went home to keep young ones practicing, feeling proud.

Our physical education teacher found a way to support kids taking breaks, moving around productively in between Zooms, creating choices for having fun "playing" alone, getting exercise. All of which is so important.

Let's face it, for specials or any teachers, being present with children - seeing, feeling their moods, learning styles, recognizing interests -- is an advantage. We don't quite have it down how to do this online. There are many questions. But being thrown into the unknown like this has given us all new insights. We are all learning together because we are a community. We love these kids.

I wish I could share every image I got back from my students because I think they would nurture the community at large. Here are just a few.

Katie Woodall teaches art at the Taos Charter School.

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