Who says great art is just for grown-ups??
This little “teacher” is showing her even-littler cousin Wind from the Sea, by Andrew Wyeth. She is saying, “See the curtain blowing? It isn’t really blowing but it looks like it’s blowing.” And the little guy says, “Mmm hmm. . .” They stand there together for long moment, a shared moment, completely immersed in that moment that Wyeth captured in his painting.
Great art speaks for itself. Redemptive Educators bring the art to the children, the children to the art, and let the art and the children interact, unmediated.
Once upon a time, for a class of first graders, I hung large prints of Van Gogh’s trees all around our classroom: mulberry, cypress, olive . . . I didn’t say a word. And neither did the children, for one long week!
I almost gave in to the pressure. I almost said, “Have you noticed the pictures on our walls?” but I resisted, wanting the artwork to impress itself on them without my interference.
Finally, on the day I KNOW I would have caved, John raised his hand in the middle of snack time and said: “Mrs. Imbody, WHY did that artist use so much paint?? He has blobs and blobs of it!” and suddenly, everyone had something to say about the paintings they had looked upon without commentary for a whole week!
“I think he really liked trees . . .”
“Yeah, but they don’t really look REAL”
“I think they do look REAL!”
“But they’re weird colors . . . “
“I think they look kind of . . . dancing!”
. . . and so it went. Their observations and their dialogue eventually opened the way to our reading a biography of his life and work; of using their own bodies to show the shape of his mulberries, his cypresses, his olive trees; of drawing and then painting their own reproductions – and then we “branched out” (pun intended) to explore his other subjects: starry nights, sunflowers, wheat fields, stormy self-portraits and so on.
Don’t be too quick in your introductions! Let paintings, stories, landscapes, and objects first speak for themselves to the children before you give too many explanations. And never underestimate the power of beauty to attract and inform the heart of any image-bearer, no matter how little, no matter how young.