Saturday, September 3, 2011

Discovery and Joy of Learning

Our son discovered action painting when he was 7 years old. It's a style that suits his athletic and energetic nature. The painting seems to always be in motion, just like our child. He literally puts himself into the painting. This is how he chooses to express himself artistically. Since I am an art teacher, I seized on the opportunity to teach my son about the artist Jackson Pollock and the art movement called Abstract Expressionism, New York School. I told him that Pollock was not just randomly dripping paint. The drips were sometimes based on figure drawings. Pollock could draw and paint realistically before he started working abstract. And Pollock layered the paint, and spent a lot of time working on these large paintings. He placed the canvas on the floor. We talked about the time period in history when Pollock created these paintings, and the music of the period, since our son is also a musician, and has always been interested in history. History has been pretty much eliminated from the curriculum at his school, along with art, music, physical education, and library. When schools don't teach subjects like history, art, or music, then kids don't learn to value those subjects. In our school district, children are being denied the opportunity to make connections across the curriculum. A test driven curriculum, with a strong focus on only reading and math skills, can diminish a child's joy of learning.

His interest in Pollock has sparked an interest in other artists, like Marc Chagall and Andy Warhol. Why did these artists paint the way they did? Studying works of art improves a child's critical thinking skills, helps children to make interdisciplinary connections and personal connections. The arts make learning more meaningful. And art for art's sake brings joy to our lives. This is the kind of authentic learning that gets cut from public education because of budget cuts and high stakes testing. All children must be given opportunities to discover their talents. Not all children have parents who are art teachers and can teach them at home. They rely on school for exposure to the arts. Be an advocate for an arts infused curriculum at every public school.

Painting by Gianni Villa