When Art Makes a Difference
By Sarah Philip
My journey began in the Arts and Crafts shack at camp. The seemingly endless supply of beads, gimp, and string for macramé were a delight. Each summer was guided by a caring, creative artist, enhancing and inspiring the community. Formal art classes did not come until Middle School, where I was left wanting to learn more about how to combine my love for textiles and jewelry within a more traditional program. With two grandmothers gifted in embroidery, one who worked for Hattie Carnegie, the other, who created monumental tapestries, I was bound and determined to explore anything involving yarn. The loom in the bedroom of a childhood friend’s mother, an art teacher herself, fascinated me for years until I could finally take a weaving class in college, where I majored in French Literature. How does this personal fascination impact me as an art teacher? The fear I had as an adolescent with scant art skills, left when I explored colors, textures, and patterns in weaving, inspiring me to go back to school years later to pursue art education. I searched for my essence, what I could do to impact the world, even in a small way. Teaching art allows me to exercise my creativity on a daily basis and encourage young children to find success in connecting imagination and process to their experiences.
My parents believed in learning and visiting museums was a regular event. It was not until I was older that I truly appreciated the gift of familiarity with certain artworks. Famous paintings became friends to visit, each meeting a chance to create new memories. Students, too, grow from reexamining artwork, building connections to new learning and skills. In art class, we experience success and failures regularly; it is a safe environment for exploration of mathematical concepts, historical facts, and scientific discoveries.
An informal poll of my current fourth graders revealed that creating art has benefits that are both intrinsic and extrinsic. As art teachers, we experience the joy of sharing what we love and fostering impactful experiences in our students. My students believe that “art makes the world better and not plain!” They find art to be a way to express feelings, destress, and inspire imagination. “You can raw/paint/make anything!” Despite the frenetic pace of school life, my students value beauty, creativity, and actively exploring opportunities to add visually to the world around them.
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