When I met my wife, one of the most immediately intriguing things about her was how she integrated art into her everyday life. She was a sculptor, a fabric designer, and especially a painter; she seemed to take joy in spending hours working on creating something beautiful. The passion she brought to her work – how she could spend hours perfecting one brush stroke – was very appealing for a guy in college who had no idea what he wanted to do in life.
Now my wife is an art teacher and helps translate that passion to new generations of artists, as well as to our son. He’s only three years old, and he regularly paints pictures, plays with clay, and does other art-based activities. It’s not just crafts – she’s teaching him to be art-focused from a young age, so he’ll value the arts for the rest of his life. She talks to him about what he’s seeing and what he likes and doesn’t like. It’s much more valuable than just gluing macaroni to pieces of paper.
The intentionality with which she approaches his art education is what I love. We’re lucky that Miles will be able to go to a school that values the art department and actually funds a good art education, but many (many) school districts don’t put the same resources towards the arts. Art at home then becomes even more important, and an essential piece of learning to be still.
My wife tends to focus on visual arts, whereas I lean towards more written and musical art. When my wife was spending hours on one brush stroke, I was spending it with my guitar perfecting a verse. Both require patience and an obedience to the creation as it slowly comes to life. The focus it demands is refreshing in a world of quickly revolving 140 characters. It is also a skill that not many will have as technology becomes even more ubiquitous. If we can instill that skill in Miles from a young age, I think he’ll be able to live a more balanced life.
In addition to feeling comfortable creating art, we also want Miles to appreciate art for art’s sake. I didn’t grow up in a city that had such easy access to museums and cultural centers like in Chicago, so I want to make sure we take full advantage for Miles. We’ve already taken him to the Art Institute many times, but since he’s still very young, we end up spending most of our time in their fantastic children’s play area. When he’s old enough, we’ll start taking him through the exhibits and talking him through what he’s seeing – which will make for interesting conversation around the more risqué pieces.
We believe a good art education for Miles will help him be a more well-rounded person. More than the act of pausing to appreciate the work of an artist, stepping back to admire the craftsmanship and feeling that went into it, it will also give him an appreciation of the cultural nuances behind the piece. And if he can digest the feeling it brings up in himself, he’ll be that much more self-aware and ready to engage the world.
Do you live in a school district that values the arts? If not, how do you teach it to your children? How do you experience it with them?