Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. – Pablo Picasso
Two of my favorite types of programs to offer at the library are science and art programs. Many times I find the boundaries between the two blurring, discovering connections between the two areas. That’s probably why I loved adding the “A” for art to STEM to form STEAM (a movement started by the Rhode Island School of Design: http://www.risd.edu/about/STEM_to_STEAM/).
Children experience deeper learning about science through creative, artistic activities and correspondingly, discover more about art through the lens of science (think about light and the Impressionists, Georges Seurat’s scientific approach to pointillism, Vermeer’s use of the camera obscura.) So I’m adding a little art into your Pi day today!
Children are, as Picasso noted, natural artists. For preschoolers, scribbling is a first step toward writing and drawing.
Cutting with scissors, pasting and gluing, molding shapes with playdough, and scribbling all help to develop those fine motor skills that will be needed in school. Learning to appreciate art can be a bit more challenging, but something that can be encouraged. I didn’t take an art history class until college, but with online opportunities offered through Khan Academy and the Google Art Project, among others, kids can explore art quite closely these days even if they live far from a large city with a major art museum. These sites also can develop vocabulary for talking about art. Experience with story is helpful in appreciating art, and it works both ways — children can learn about stories through art, and their knowledge of story and history can help them to understand and appreciate art.
Below are a few technological resources to support your exploration, to encourage you to help create a culture of art at your library. Hopefully these will be considered as starting points and as extensions for other activities, for there is no substitute for messy, hands-on creative activities or for an actual museum visit where you see a painting and think: “Wow! I didn’t know it was so big!”, experience a sculpture in all three dimensions, or wonder at the movement of a mobile.
Background Knowledge & Virtual Museum Visits:
There are lots of great videos and resources included here. Preview videos before showing them and consider the ages and sensitivities of your audience (no fig leaves!)
Zoom in on some objects and be amazed at how close you can get — close enough to see brushstrokes. So close that if you were in a museum, the guard would likely be coming over to talk to you!
Playing with art:
NGAKids, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Explore different paintings in the collection with different interactive experiences.With some activities children will gain familiarity with the work of art: for example, adding boats, figures and changing the light of a seascape before setting it in motion. In other activities they will create their own work in that artist’s style, as when they blend rectangles of color like Mark Rothko. Their works will be saved in an online art gallery and can be shared with parental permission.
MoMA Art Lab, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Explore different artworks with engaging activities — for example, try to make mobile a la Calder, though it can be tricky to balance it just right. Or “Draw with Scissors” and create a collage in the manner of Matisse. You can also choose a blank canvas to begin and create a completely original work with the tools provided. Children can create art they can save and share, and get a smattering of art history along the way.
For the preschool age, this app is a fun early literacy tool to encourage pre-writing and fine motor skills. It is easy for young children to use themselves, open-ended and responsive to a child’s touch. After children make squiggles to the cartoon drawing they press “go” and the picture becomes animated. The more squiggles the artist makes, the more exciting the result.
For more apps that encourage creativity, see the recent Common Sense media guide:
which features many apps and games to encourage creativity. The guide offers detailed content reviews, recommended ages, information about in app purchases and ability to share with social networks. Some are low cost or free, while a few DS games are $30.
“The Art Room” by Heather Acerro, ALSC Blog, Sept. 17, 2013. http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2013/09/the-art-room/
“Library as Art Gallery” Karen Choy, ALSC Blog. May 29, 2014. https://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2014/05/library-as-art-gallery/
Library as Incubator Project. http://www.libraryasincubatorproject.org/
Making Art with Children blog from the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. http://www.carlemuseum.org/blogs/making-art
“Meet Art” by Paige Bentley-Flannery. Jan. 27, 2015. https://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2015/01/meet-art/ – describes a great Matisse program
“Meet Art: Creative Hands-On Art Programs” by Paige Bentley-Flannery, ALSC Blog, Oct. 30, 2013. https://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2013/10/meet-art-creative-hands-on-art-programs/
Robin L. Gibson is a Youth Services Librarian at the Westerville Public Library in Westerville Ohio and member of the Children and Technology Committee.