by Cathy Saunders, Director of Education, Providence Children's Museum
As a camp counselor many years ago I found leading art activities a challenge, and I avoided them as much as possible. They were messy and I didn't know what to do with the children's creations. Glue stuck pinecones, amoeba shaped sand candles, weavings of old yarn, cardboard crayon colored cutouts - they all seemed pointless to me.
The problem was that by the time I was 22 I was convinced that I was not creative. I firmly believed that I was evidence that some people are just not born artistic. I believed that if my creative efforts did not "look like something" I had wasted my time. And I wanted to protect the campers from that disappointment.
It wasn't until I was 30, at my friends' monthly "art nights," that I reclaimed my childlike joy of doing art. Jill would cover the table with newspaper. Maureen would provide boxes of interesting papers. Out would come the glue, the glitter, the stamps and inkpads, the watercolors and brushes, and scissors, too. There I found myself, just like a preschooler, experimenting with how much glue to use and which textures of paper were easier to draw on. I stopped comparing myself to my seemingly more talented friends and started pasting paper, stamping with abandon, drawing shapes and coloring them in.
It was then that I realized the mistake I had made as a counselor. I had denied the campers wonderful creative experiences. My job was not to ensure they created masterpieces. I was there to provide them tools that they could use to create their own unique works in their own unique fashion. I finally understood that the process was more important than the product.
Last month on a gray Saturday, families gathered at the Children's Museum for Ocho's Art Cart activity. Armed with construction paper, markers and glue, children added their own creations to a jungle mural. On it one can see the remarkable individuality of the creators. A brontosaurus mingles with a monkey. Trees are made of tissue paper and feathers. A pyramid is in the shadow of a flower.
July provides more art opportunities for visitors to Providence Children's Museum. Kids will gather at Ocho's Art Cart to add their creations to a desert landscape on July 7, and every Monday brings the ultimate open-ended art activity, Creative Studio. Trays of fun recycled do-dads will be laid out for children to build into fantastical sculptures. So whether you come to the Museum for your art explorations or do them in your kitchen, let your child express her inner-artist this summer and applaud the process!.
Providence Children's Museum - 100 South Street, Providence, RI. 401-273-5437 (KIDS)