Children feel freedom when creating art

Published 9:30 am Saturday, February 18, 2012

Column: Bev Jackson Cotter, Art Is…

I’m not sure what it is supposed to be. Maybe a vase or a pencil container or even a husky mug with no handle. All I know is that my young son was working in clay in an art class. His project wasn’t turning out the way he planned, so he grabbed the top and pressing down, he twisted the moist clay. When the piece was glazed and fired, it resulted in a unique, abstract design, and I love it.

Bev Jackson Cotter

Do we call this art or frustration (his) or nostalgia (mine)? It doesn’t matter. My son made it, the design is his and that’s what counts. For more than 40 years, his whatever-it-is has been in my bookcase with a $2 bill and few odd coins in it.

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I truly admire art specialists and classroom teachers who succeed in planting art appreciation in the minds and hearts of young people. It is often easier for a child to follow the crowd than to reach inside and find the creativity that is tucked inside all of us. I believe that individuality is where future success comes from.

Children feel a freedom with their art. They know they will be encouraged no matter what the subject or the medium, and their imaginations can fly. In today’s society, when so much entertainment is force fed, their art classes are one of the few places where their own ideas can take over.

In the book “Creative and Mental Growth” by Viktor Lowenfeld and W. Lambert Brittain, they say, “The young child does not need to be taught how to draw; this comes as naturally as learning how to walk or speak.. .No attempt should be made to censor the child’s creative expression.”

When I read this, I was reminded of a story that my husband tells about his second grade teacher. It was early in the fall and she had asked her students to draw a picture of something special they had done during the summer. While some of the kids drew sketches of their vacation trips, Michael’s picture was of draft horses. His excitement at learning to drive a team and wagon in the field while the men were haying was very special to that 7 year old. His teacher looked at his picture, asked him what it was, and then started laughing. He was so embarrassed that even today he can remember where he was sitting in the classroom and his feelings of humiliation.

In a another context, Andrew Jackson was amazed at the “art,” (his choice of words), used by the Native Americans in the southeastern part of the country when they built their defense systems during the Indian Wars. It makes one wonder about the creativity in their lives and in the education of their young.

When I was in college, as an older-than-average student, I had a drawing teacher who understood helpful criticism as well as respect for a student who was giving her best efforts to the project. He was inspiring and supportive and realistic. He helped me to learn that I could stretch beyond my perceived limits, and his support continued to encourage me in other classes when I was required to do things that I had never considered before.

In “Meaning in Children’s Art” by Edward Mattil and Betty Marzan, it reads, “School captures only a small part of each child’s life, and in that brief period it must lay the groundwork for all the productive years that lie ahead. If school fails to open up the avenues of knowledge, skills, and appreciation, there are few other chances for our young people to fully develop the potential that they have.”

How does one anyone learn to solve the problems and situations that arise later in life, if while they are young, they are not allowed to be creative?

March 4 to the 31, the Albert Lea Art Center is sponsoring its annual student art show. This year for the first time, it is being co-sponsored by the Northbridge Mall Association. Please join us at the open house on March 4. It is so much fun to listen to the voices of children as they point out their work to their parents or grandparents or even aunts and uncles. Their own art in a gallery. Wow!


Bev Jackson Cotter is a member of the Albert Lea Art Center located at 224 South Broadway in Albert Lea. The area student art show is being held March 4 to March 31 at the Northbridge Mall. Stop out and enjoy the creativity of the elementary and secondary students.