Major pieces of art? Masterpieces? Introducing this to preschoolers? It is not easy to explain to people how and why art can make a difference with young children. A picture is worth a thousand words, and this picture was just sent to me.
Juliet the fourth grader is beaming at seeing Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I have a story to tell. It’s about teaching art in many ways, and about Juliet’s pathway to art. As I say in my classroom, “It Happened Like This”…
When Juliet was a three-year-old in my class, she was thoughtful. She played, loved stories and books, developed friendships, and drew pictures. The next year things changed, or perhaps she just grew in her interests. She drew pictures all the time, perfecting people figures and experimenting with color. Children’s art adorns the classroom walls with the exception of a Starry Night poster, yet Juliet did not seem to focus on that piece of art. Well, that’s what I thought.
And then Juliet met Milly, the master quilter. Milly joined our class to quilt a magnificent Peace Quilt (which is now a permanent display at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia). In the process of designing and creating the quilt, Juliet was a captive audience. Making this quilt was a big deal, from sketching all the parts to selecting fabrics for each element. She drew an exact replica of the quilt, which is my blog photo, down to every triangle in precise direction and color.
In the spring we studied France and the old masters, in preparation for our annual Art Show displayed for the entire community. Juliet was in her element. She was struck by Starry Night and using real paints from tubes on pallets. She practiced brush strokes and mixing colors. She loved simply looking at art, especially Usborne’s Children’s Book of Art. As we worked on perfecting our pieces of art, we often played classical music. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons became a favorite, and children would often ask for a specific piece. “What would you like to hear today? Winter, Spring , Summer or Fall?”, I’d ask. Music and art go hand-in-hand. Together, the results are impressive. For our Art Show, Juliet drew the Mona Lisa. It was the central piece in our exhibit.
When Juliet moved on to kindergarten her art continued to flourish. She visited my class periodically, once to show me a winning polar bear she had drawn. When her little sister joined my class Juliet visited more often, frequently admiring our Starry Night poster. Now as a fourth grader, her trip to New York to see the beloved painting seems to be the pinnacle of the journey she started as a preschooler. Perhaps, though, it is only the beginning for her.
Art makes a difference.