The Huntington Library Opens My 7 Year old Eyes

As a kid, I lived in Vancouver with my Mom and did the trek down to Los Angeles every summer to visit my father.  Going to the Huntington Library was as predictable as going to Disneyland and Knots Berry Farm, albeit, not quite as anticipated.  My step-mother chuckles every time she recounts me as a little girl with ringlets and my look of frustration and the memorable quote ” Not Bluey and Pinky again!”  And yet, this experience as a child and future experiences with museums around the world, are now highly valued.  This summer I was amazed with the additional gardens and exhibits, and that Huntington Library is now a tourist attraction.  I entered the room with The Blue Boy and Pinky and delighted.  The Ellesmere Chaucer and the Gutenberg bible were reunions with familiar friends.

It certainly led me to reflect on the childhood experiences that helped me to learn how to look at art.  I remember that my childhood eyes saw two friends.  Pinky was obviously just having a lot more fun that Bluey.  After all, they were in the same room.  I remember my surprise when I learned that they were painted by different artists and that when I looked at them more closely, it was obvious.  In order to draw kids into art, they need to be exposed to it and taught that they too can engage in the process.

The summers that I taught teachers in Fuyang, China, I was amazed that ALL of the teachers knew how to draw.  Part of their education included art instruction by teachers with training and proficiency in the area.  They all understood and practiced the basics of drawing which emerged to real talent in many.  When my own children were young, they regularly took classes at Place Des Art in the French Quarter of Coquitlam.  Once a month, The Vancouver Art Gallery had a Super Sunday filled with sessions to get families engaging in art and interacting in various ways with the work of Emily Carr, The Group of Seven and featured exhibits.  On their first trip to Europe, at 7 and 9 years of age, they went in the Roman ruins, the Leaning Tower, the Uffizi, Galleria Dell’Accademia and the Duomo in Florence with their sketchbooks.  That fall our daughter came home from school to tell me that she shared her drawing of The Birth of Venus at school because she didn’t think the kids were ready for David.

I am wondering about how we engage kids in all of the aspects  in the world of art.  I unfortunately didn’t grow up well developed drawing skills.  I remember one of my Kindergarten students snickering as I was using my Ed Emberley book to draw something on the board.  Another protective 5 year old, turned around and exclaimed “Knock it off! She’s doing her best!”  I am creative and can help students to develop artistically in some ways but need to draw in the talents of others as well.  Fortunately in my school, we have amazing number of talented teachers who share their skills with their students.  I’m wondering how we get children to connect what they are doing in schools with that of the artists of the past and of the present?  How do we get them to see themselves as artists?  How do we open up the possibilities for their continued professional or leisure activities as artists?

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