I told this story long ago, and it needs to be told again, with photos. There are moments in teaching that make a big difference for the student and also for the the teacher. This is one I will never forget. I think the student, Juliet, will also never forget.
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.
I love the backstory and how what we do can grow and have a ripple effect. You are so right- art is important.
You are so right, Beth. We don’t know at the moment the effect of what we do, yet it often appears years later. How wonderful that is, and how lucky we are.
Well done for inspiring your children with art!
Thank you, FR!
It did need telling again!!
I thought so, too. It was a great moment/story.
I love this story so much! It proves how important art is to children and to the world. “When Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts funding in favour of the war effort, he simply replied, ‘then what are we fighting for?’.”
Darlene, Churchill’s comment is profound. Yes, art is so important to children. And to the world. I’m glad you loved this story, it’s one of my favorites. Thank you!
My heart is smiling!
A beautiful story I Juliette continues to love art 💜💜
She does! Thank you, Willow. 💕
What a neat story! I hope she continues with her art!
She is still the artist. I’m so glad you enjoyed her story, it’s one of the best.
I honestly can’t get enough of your feel-good stories, Jennie. They are a wonderful contrast to the daily news we get here of yet another mass shooting in America, or the antics of the odious Mr Trump.
Best wishes, Pete.
Pete, my feel-good stories are straight from the children, and I feel the same way you do. We need more feel-good stories. The news is a drastic contrast, and only a small percentage of what’s happening every day. Thank you, my friend.
What a wonderful experience for you all!
It was, Pam. When Juliet’s mother sent me the photo and told me her story, I was bowled over. Thank you.
It probably is just the beginning, Jennie. Great story!
Yes! Thank you, Bruce.
Art always makes a difference. These kids are blessed to have this experience.
It really does. Always. Thank you, Dan.
Always love the backstories!
Me, too. They’re always my favorites! 💕
Another terrific story, Jennie. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you, John.
I love this story!
I’m so glad! Thank you, Becky.
I remember this story. One year, long ago, we had an art teacher on staff who went from room to room. That would be rare in any elementary school today. One of her projects was to give the students a chance to paint Starry Night. I wonder how many children stay in school because of art or music. Isn’t that the goal—to help kids get a well-rounded education? Unfortunately, the love of art or music doesn’t appear on any test score, yet every educator knows their importance.
This story was one of my best moments in teaching, Pete. I’m glad you remember. Yes, art teachers used to go to all the classes. My school had an art room, so we went there. I bet some of your students remember painting Starry Night. What a great teaching experience, and as you say, an important part of a well-rounded education. Your final sentence is very powerful. Amen! Thank you, Pete.
This did my heart good, Jennie. Thank you so much for the reminder of the Peace Quilt too. I only had one art class in school and was told I was no good at it by the teacher. I made a fuss over everything my children did art-wise and always encouraged any artistic expression. It feeds the soul even if not the bank balance. I hope Juliet continues with her art in any form. Sure do miss Millie.
Hi Marlene! I am so glad this did your heart good. We all need more good in this world. Yes, the Peace Quilt and Milly, what wonderful memories. I miss her so much. Teachers can make or break children’s self esteem. How sad that your art teacher told you that you were no good at it. But, you made lemonade out of that lemon by encouraging art with your children. Art and music really do feed the soul. I feel like they’re the sun and the rain that makes everything grow, including children.
I so agree. MY art is quilting and crafts. My way of showing that other’s opinion matters not. Let’s hope that teacher finally learned something too.
Well said, Marlene! I sincerely hope she learned something. Yes, your quilting IS your art!
Indeed a picture is worth a thousand words. Juliet’s smile proves it.
Exactly, on both counts!
Precious Juliet. Precious Jennie. The stories of your love for art, your students and THEIR love because of your passion, warm my heart. Just look at her. Here she goes! I love the pictures and the quilt just stuns me! Well-done all around! Art is the heart! 💕❤️
Karla, you have filled my bucket with your kind, wonderful words. My heart is full. Thank you! Her big smile is worth a thousand words. And the quilt (big wow) still hangs as a permanent display at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia. Yes, art is the heart! ❤️
Oh, Jennie! How are buckets need filled! I’m
so happy your heart is filled! It’s just fascinating, and heartwarming, how that quilt still hangs at the National Liberty Museum! Please stay safe and blessed! 💕💕🙏🏻
Bless you, Karla! 😍
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I remember this little girl and her Starry Night painting. A lovely choice. I like it too.
It is one of my fondest memories, Robbie. Thank you.
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Thanks so much, Michael!
Thank you for guiding children to develop, strive and strengthen their skills, Jennie. Thanks also for sharing this wonderful backstory. Have a beautiful weekend! xx Michael
Your very kind words are much appreciated! Best to you, Michael!