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Art Education: Nuturing Creative Capacity


There is a little girl in my life who I love profoundly. She is actively developing her sense of creativity in words and in art. In particular, she has a keen facility for color and shape. I want to nurture that. As we read stories, we not only focus on the words, but take time to examine the illustrations to cultivate an appreciation of the artist's work.

At the local library's creative kid's morning, we were given a gopher puppet to color. She went straight for the orangish yellows in a Mr. Roger's Neighborhood-esque pallet. She was in the moment. Then a boy, peering over at her work, belted out, "NO! GOPHERS ARE BROWN!"

She looked at me as if I were the ref calling the shot. Her big eyes were asking, "Am I doing something wrong?"

I let her in on the fact that for the rest of her life, as she is working her heart's


vision, there will most likely be many telling her paint it brown. And brown is ok for them. But she is an artist, and so she will see the nuance that many won't notice until she shows them. Nothing is merely brown, but dark shades tint and highlight into warm golden hues. Yours is the page in front of you, so use your gift and do what you are supposed to do.

Even as grown-ups, we need patience with those who don't "get it" at first. Consider that we may have spent 6 months on one piece. And this work is possible only because we've spent a lifetime looking at light, understanding line, or color. So we can't expect non-artists to grasp all at first blush. Like a lot of things, art takes patient explaination. Since we are all made in God's image, I believe that all are capable of comprehending beauty, even if the capacity has yet to be awakened. You can have the priviledge of being a part of that process.

I once taught a night class in accelerated art appreciation (what an oxymoron :). And I was lucky enough to get football and basketball team, none of which had any remote interest in art. The first night, I gave my spiel, and stepped back to watch them swoon. Instead, the ringleader jock who had failed the class before, raised his hand. Pointing at the Jackson Pollock on the screen, he asked, "Why is that art?"

I knew I had my work cut out for me. I was determined that by the end of the semester, they were going to love this subject. And that's what happened. The last class, that same jock raised his hand and said, "I'd just like to thank you. I never knew that art had so much meaning." And many indicated on their evaluation that artisitic engagement would remain as an ongoing interest in their lives.

I find regrettable the elitism that writes off those who "don't get art". This stems from a lack of compassion. Rarely do people appreciate anything without first understanding. And how do we understand unless someone teaches us? Love people into understanding. Confront ignorance not from a defensive posture (which is self-focused), but from an others-centered stance that invites all into the goodness of beauty and truth.

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