Olivia Benish Artist
Art provides a common ground for all people; a language that can be spoken by everyone. Anywhere and everywhere people are creating. Everyone is an artist in their own way. All students need to be given the opportunity to for expression. No matter the age, gender, cognitive ability or economic position, all children should be exposed to their inner creativity and exercise their imagination. Experimenting with art is crucial to creative and mental growth for all students. The process of creating art helps children develop mentally by stimulating both the logical analytical left side of the brain as well as the holistic visual right side. This practice of creating art is far more important than the product. All too often the focus is on the artwork and the final product instead of the process. The outcome should not be the goal for art but more the experience of creating.
The life work of Rhoda Kellogg speaks volumes to me. The educator and psychologist spent over 30 years collecting millions of drawings of children all around the world as they taught themselves to draw. This study produced incredible results, showing that a three year old from Africa will produce the same types of lines and patterns that a three year old from Denmark creates. This phenomenon shows the deep connection between the youth of the world and humanity in general. A connection that is sewn and enhanced through art. It’s this lesson that I carry with me into the classroom every day.
Over the past four years I have had the opportunity to instruct young and old, well off to underprivileged, enthusiastic to apathetic. And although the journey from picking up the paint brush to completing the canvas is different for each individual, more often than not, the joy, self-fulfillment and pride they leave the studio with warms my heart and brings tears to my eyes. I am so fortunate to have facilitated and been a part of so many individuals’ artistic journeys. It is one of the greatest joys of my life and I am honored to continue this path with future artists. To engage students through personal interest, support them in their discoveries and encourage them through their challenges is the basis of my practice. I aim to reach all students on an intimate level and assist them through their own exploration of their passions. Whether a student has an interest in sports or the outdoors, weather they are visual or kinetic learners, I do my best to tailor my teaching style to their specific needs and interests. I use kindness and compassion to sympathize with students as well as humor to keep the mood positive and upbeat.
Everyone is an artist. Given materials, guidance and support all students can be successful in the art room. Through art students gain self-confidence and the realization that there is not always one solution to the problem. It prompts them to think outside of the box and expand their minds to life’s possibilities. Art is a valuable tool in which we all can grow from and learn from one another. Art brings us together and all people need to be given the opportunity to explore art.
Art provides the valuable tool of connection. The arts connect us to history, other cultures, various disciplines and to one another. A well rounded visual arts program should incorporate the vast and differentiating facets art has to offer. Typically, when one hears the word ‘art’ a painting comes to mind, but there is so much more to art than a framed painting in a museum or gallery. Art is for everyone and visual art can be seen everywhere. It’s evident in nature and architecture, in the design of our laptops and in the faces of our loved ones. Art curricula should be focused on the accessibility of art for all students and the application of art in our everyday lives.
An art program that is well rounded will incorporate what students are learning outside of the art classroom. Science, technology, engineering and math, otherwise known as STEAM when connected to art and design, should be a part of the art room. Other humanities, such as Language Arts can also be woven into the art curriculum seamlessly. Introducing a lesson by reading a book is one of my favorite ways to begin elementary lessons and get students excited for a project. While art is a subject on its own, it can also be used as a method of instruction and should be utilized to incorporate other subjects. My ideal art program includes working closely with other subject and classroom teachers to emphasize key information and assist in areas students may be struggling to comprehend. Incorporating STEM can easily be done through subject matter focus while students still meet the National Core Arts Standards. Examples of this may include a lesson in biology, where students are learning about botany in their science classroom. When they come into the art room we can continue to talk about plants on the microscopic level and can do a drawing observation lesson based on these concepts. This allows students to learn about drawing from observation, value and line while supplementing their knowledge about science. Art can be used as a tool to cover an endless amount of topics and provides students with a hands-on approach to learning in addition to a different perspective.
Humans have always had the impulse to create and express themselves. From almost the beginning of our existence people have depicted the world around them. Ancient cave paintings show the handprints of the first artists and the animals of prehistoric times. Art is generally indicative of the time period it in which it was created. It provides us a glimpse into what life was like at a certain time or what the artist or patron wanted us to think it was like. This can be obvious and describe a specific event, such as in the painting Guernica by Pablo Picasso which famously documents that bombing of the town during the Spanish Civil War or the iconography of the painting can be more subtle. For example, Ukiyo-e is a genre of Japanese Woodblock prints from the 17th and 18th century that depict the people and scenes of the time. By studying it students can get a glimpse of what life was like at that time on the other side the world. Taking this a step further, students can see how more modern western artists have been influenced by this in various works such as those of Mary Cassatt, a famous American impressionist painter and printmaker from the turn of the century. Its imperative students learn about the past and humanity as a whole. This global connection helps students grasp the world outside of their own and in this manner art acts as a bridge to the past and other cultures.
In addition to global connection, connecting to one another personally and our inner selves is another aspect of a successful art program. Art, visual, theatrical, musical, or otherwise, has a way of bringing people together. This connection should be celebrated and embraced. One key component to my teaching practice is the importance of individuality and respect for others. Although we have more alike than different as a species, our unique experiences create a vast variety in our thoughts, opinions and actions. It’s imperative that our students accept and respect one another for their differences for the future of our planet. Visual art can spark in depth conversation on each child’s personal experiences, opinions and feelings about a certain subject matter. Critique is a great way for students to make observations, practice respectful communication and build their confidence. Right outside of the classroom is another opportunity for students to find connection. Interacting with the local community is another aspect that students benefit highly from. Bringing in a local artist or having students do a project that will be displayed locally helps them to become engaged citizens and community members.
All and all a well-rounded art program is comprised of many elements. Art is a subject all on its own but can also be used as a tool for connection. The versatile nature of art and its various mediums make it valuable in all students’ education. From connecting students to the past and cultures around the world, to supplementing their knowledge of other subjects in order to promote high levels of achievement, to actively engaging them with themselves, their peers and community, a well-rounded art program can do wonderful things for students