So back in November I went to the “Patchogue Art Museum,” a well-intended but perhaps over-stated site where the person in charge had installed art from two local schools. I had offered to give a talk on children’s art and this was the reception. When I arrived, I quickly calculated that the attendees, preschoolers and their families, were not particularly interested in any theoretical lecture on the nature of artistic endeavors by children so I re-calibrated and spoke with the children about what they had done. Fair enough.
But what about children and art? Can a child be an artist, other than in the eyes of a doting mom and dad? Why do we not take their work seriously beyond the display on the refrigerator? And how do adult artists emerge from childhood to become the artists that they are?
Project Zero at Harvard University has been dedicated both to studying and to encouraging art in children’s’ lives for many decades now. Ellen Winner, Howard Gardner, and associates have written many books and articles on how children manipulate the media of art to produce the striking products that they so often do. Interestingly enough, young artists are at their best in preschool and even earlier. Once they hit elementary school, the art becomes more formulaic and typical.
I will be working on an article that explores how children do art, reflect on their art, and whether we ought to consider it “real art” or not. Stay tuned…!