Kids find joy in expression

Last week I got an opportunity to watch some young people from the Boys and Girls Club of Parkersburg attend the opening of an exhibition of their artwork, at Artsbridge. The excitement on their faces was priceless. But someday, so might be some of their work.

In addition to the young man who proclaimed not having school that day (Thursday) was “awesome!” there was plenty of chatter along the lines of “where’s mine?” “oh, I see yours, that’s good!” and “it’s on the wall!”

I chuckled a little at that one. This is way past making the refrigerator. This is on the wall — at an art opening!

It is so important for kids to get to have that kind of excitement and pride in something more than their other academic or athletic achievements.

One young man, when I asked him which work was his, shyly pointed toward a pencil sketch of an octopus. It was gorgeous. To judge by the ages of some of his fellow artists, I would guess he was about 9 or 10 years old. It looked like something drawn by a college student.

I asked him what made him decide to draw something that was so fluid and shadowy. He blew right past his own artistic abilities to “I just like octopuses. They’re so cool. Did you know they’re almost the biggest thing in the ocean?! (another young man yelled across a table “they’re almost as big as killer whales!“) “Blue whales are bigger …”

He kept going for another minute or so. His knowledge of sea creatures, particularly the large, slightly scary ones, was impressive; though it was important for him to make me understand he had never seen a giant squid in person.

The technical beauty of what he had drawn was less important to him than the joy the subject matter brought him, and its connection to other disciplines like science. Imagine how that opens up a child’s mind. Imagine how that makes a student a better reader, writer, scientist, mathematician, or even just a calmer more engaged participant in the classroom.

I know what it was doing for the young people I saw in that room. They all wanted to show off something they had created. Some of them even wanted to try out new means of artistic expression. Thank goodness there are resources available for them to have some chance to do so. I wish they had much more.

With just a little nudging, some of them could blossom into incredible artists; but all of them would have more opportunities to find pieces of themselves they did not know were there — did not know they could be proud of.

Don’t get me wrong. Not every kid is the rebirth of Leonardo Da Vinci. In fact, one young lady, when asked about her work, said “Yeah, it was fun … can I have another cookie?”

But that’s OK, too. Even if all kids learn about artistic exploration is that it can be fun, they’ve opened some doorways.

Meanwhile, my hat is off to the organizations, schools and teachers who guide these experiences. As is the case for all of public education and the community organizations that supplement some of their work, resources appear to be dwindling just as the need is greatest. The good work these folks do is certainly not out of any hope to become wealthy (or even particularly comfortable); it is because they have a passion for helping kids grow and learn.

Watching a kid jump up and down and point to a piece of her artwork on a wall as part of an exhibition, it is hard to argue with the results.

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com


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