For the past six months amid lockdowns(and there have been a few),I have been working in a school delivering a creative programme. I had no idea at the beginning how the programme would work out, but safe to say it has surpassed my expectations. I quickly realised that the children had some real artistic talent and I was to be more of a facilitator than a teacher, this was an advantage as I could develop the programme with a lot of freedoms and it existed separate to the school curriculum.
One of the first exercises I did was colour mixing, using primary colours to make secondary colours. There was a moment of glee for the students when yellow and blue turned to green. We had great fun with paint and the messier the better, I soon realised children don't always do what the adult expects and that was the joy of creativity. As soon as the paint was put out,they were in there,up to their elbows in colour and there was sometimes a rush to protect uniforms and clothes.
I soon decided to come armed and equipped with table covers and smocks. My main aim was to allow for a free and fun session.
Another group explored self portraits, although they were young and faced some challenges with language and communication they were so enthusiastic about the whole subject,we looked at demonstrations, and used templates to draw oval or round faces. Using mirrors,I encouraged them to examine their eye and hair colour and facial features. We examined this subject for weeks and kept finding a new angle to explore, they would quickly tell me all about portraits and kept repeating my mantra back to me, that in art there are no rules.
They seemed to find this idea so liberating, that there could be an area in school with no rules, I thought about it and wondered if there should be rules, but they wanted to be free to make mistakes, or missteps. Kids I realised try really hard to please and it was fun to see them get excited about art and the freedoms it allowed.
For me I was constantly learning, how to deliver information and to "teach", but really my best results came when I facilitated and let go of my predicted outcomes. They constantly surprised me, whether it was telling me about art history facts or picking up on a detail on an image I showed them. Also when the technology failed, even the young kids would say things like, "make sure you are not in airplane mode" or "are you connected to the wi-fi". But the best thing was their unfettered enthusiasm, and their wonderful greetings, asking me "When are we going to make art, Dee?".
I learnt one thing about art making, that it really is the process and not the product that matters, its hard when the adults like to see a finished piece of art or craft, but the children just had a great time. I also saw the benefits of creativity, the problem solving aspect and the confidence building which happened. Art is a great enabler even for those with their own challenges or specialist needs, there are many ways to make a mark and not just the conventional methods that we think of, the tools can be tweaked, the canvas can be put at a slant, small adjustments but it can make the difference between an art session being accessible or not. If an adult asked "What is it?", I wanted to say, its not really anything, or what it is means very little to the child. I watched a range of skills, like problem solving, social abilities and communication develop all under the guise of creativity, it is a shame that the school system concentrates on what can be made instead of what can be discovered through artmaking.