Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mess Up Your Paintbox

When I was a kid there was always art class in school. From fingerpainting in kindergarten to more sophisticated projects later on, my classmates and I had a chance during the school day to make something.

My junior high school art teacher was an unperturbable man with silver hair and dark-rimmed glasses who moved slowly through the room as we worked. I won't lie, sometimes we giggled and passed notes--it was junior high, after all. But most times we worked furiously, engrossed in our projects. Art was a fun class. We looked forward to it.

I feel guilty for not remembering the teacher's name. But more importantly, I remember him encouraging me to "mess that up a bit" or "try splashing." I thought he was terribly sophisticated and wise.

I didn't become a great painter but I learned to mess things up a bit. For a girl who felt internal pressure to get things perfect, this was a valuable lesson.

I'm sorry some kids don't have art class in school today. However, there may be hope in the workshops at Paintbox Kids, 1383 E. Washington Blvd. You can sign your little one up for "Ladybug Picnic with Queen Laura," "Lego Engineering" or even "Light Saber Training," which I must witness before I die. (Can a fly on the wall have a camera?)

They also offer open studio, which your child can attend with or without you (check the website and/or call for the details). An open studio full of kids making art sounds like wild fun to me. I hope they mess the place up a bit. I hope they try splashing.

What do you do to mess up your paintbox?

24 comments:

J+P said...

Kids don't have art classes any more? WTF?

Shell Sherree said...

Whaaaat? No kids' art classes at school? Did they make too much mess? I'm stunned. Thank goodness for these other venues.

Jean Spitzer said...

That open studio looks like fun. Hard to believe there's no time/money for art in school.

Anonymous said...

ginab

It was Dr. Dale Lake. Kind of a mix between Frank Langella and Karl Lagerfeld. He would ghost around and say softly that he didn't want to hear any sound except the soft rusting of crayons on paper.

Anonymous said...

ginab: sorry--rustling

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I was always partial to messing things up. Mr Lake and I would have gotten along fine

Petrea said...

I don't know if it's universal. But there's no funding. Arts are the first things to be cut. Hey--they're closing school libraries out there, people. Those came after art classes.

Dr. Lake! Thanks, Ginab. He was exactly as you describe. What a perfect choice of characters to give people a picture of him.

PA, yes you would have.

Bellis said...

I knew his name would be a four-letter one!

We didn't have art classes in my school in England, though we had needlework class (which I hated as the other girls all had help from their mothers and came in with perfect aprons they'd rustled up) and domestic science (baking rock hard rock cakes), so I joined an after-school art club run by one of the teachers. It's a shame kids don't have any of these lessons any more.

That's a very colorful photo!

Irina said...

The room in the photo has very in order mess))
Our schools have art classes but with very tight budget. They plan to make art and gym lessons to be on pay-basis and we foresee no more art classes for poor families in future...

Susan Campisi said...

I often walk Tommy by Paintbox Kids studio, but at night so it's dark and the store is closed. I've never seen the wild display of colors. Love that. Lately I've been feeling the urge to mess up my paintbox but haven't done it in awhile so I'm rusty. I think it's time.

Petrea said...

Bellis, I'd better explain that. On another blog, I told commenters about teachers and principals I had (at the same school) with the interesting, four-letter names of Mr. Funk, Dr. Fink and Dr. Gogo. (They were all contemporaries of Dr. Lake.)

Irina, I guess it's the same all around the world.

Susan, time to shake it up! Tommy's all settled now, he'll allow it.

J+P said...

Okay, so, what—now we’re supposed to start calling art & beauty & self-expression luxuries? Because some benighted wart of a legislature can’t figure out how to reapportion his weapons allowance?

I’m thisclose to resigning my commission in a species which tells me that beauty and losing-one’s-way-in-the-forests-of-metaphor are less valuable than carnage over oil, or someone’s holy book. We can’t afford to teach kids art? So, then, the painters at Lascaux and Altamira—I guess they had it pretty comfy, 15,000 years ago. That must be why they handed their works of hallucinatory reportage down to us … not because they were in constant danger of attack from man & beast, nor cowed by nature’s baffling whims. They could afford art and its fierce timesink.

And what of the heroes lost to Nazi murderers—the Karels, Kleins and Weisses who withstood torture and starvation and still found a way to make art? They smuggled out symphonies and novels written on toilet paper rather than let their inspiration & craft fade away like smoke from a chimney. But we just can’t shift a few bucks out of the “Hummer” column into the “fingerpaint” column.

It makes me smolder like a coal. We spend our present and bankrupt our future; this is no problem merely of money. When Shelley called poets “the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” he didn’t mean just writers and he wasn’t just being smug. Art has a power to drive the human imagination which war nor politics nor terror can ever match. But sometimers I wonder: maybe we know that and it scares us …

Art is central to our survival—it’s food for our invisible selves. Jesse Helms may have vilified Robert Mapplethorpe's photos because he knew about the towering outrage in the “Guernica”; and the subversive punch of Soul On Ice..

That’s pretty risky stuff, no? Better not let the kiddies get none o’that into their heads. But maybe if they’d had a little more free expression as kids, the Stalins and Cheneys and Ahmadinejads of the world might have trained their energies into something positive.

This year, we cut the art budget. Gotta save the bucks, Charlie. Never mind the future—our appropriations guidelines were laid down for us …

Us. Never “them.” Never the kids. Always—us. It’s like we never got past the sixth grade, but we’re the ones with the plutonium.

Speedway said...

I'm with you J+P - WTF?

I was truly a mixed-up child and my art skills were all I had to offer that could get me acceptance from my teachers and peers. In the end, it saved my sanity because my teachers told my parents about a school in town which had a good art teacher. Grades went from Ds and Fs to As, testing found I had an IQ that got me Mensa membership.

"Art" gives value above money to everything we touch, see and feel. (He**, it even adds beauty to money, but that's been reduced to little electronic credits transferred from bank to bank.) Everything begins with an artist. And teaching the same creative processes makes it possible for scientists and engineers to produce their own version of miracles.

When one sees the terrors wrought by the Hitlers, Stalins, and Cheneys among us, then we know that a society cannot progress that does not cherish its artists. Kill off the artists, subvert original thought, you kill off the very quality that keeps civilization vibrant and relevant.

And these people often come with the most moralistic reasoning; sometimes the terrorists among us are the ones who look most like us.
Cut the art and music programs, cut back library hours and only allow the most innocuous books to be read, and you create a society who will follow the loudest voice, the most glib slogans and catch=phrases.

I've always got pictures running through my mind, most too fast to catch, always some abstraction. And the day I knew I was depressed was the day there weren't any pictures. I wonder, is this what internal life/voice is like for most people who'd have no art in the schools? They must be depressed!

My pictures came back, and I feel sorry for those who don't have them, but they've no right to kill off the pictures, the internal voice in children. To do so dooms us all.

Miss Havisham said...

Oh, this is all very well said.

My niece went to Haiti last month with a suitcase full of very inexpensive paints, brushes, and glue. Her students, ages 4 thru 10 lived in tents that often leaked when it rained and tore in the wind.

Bits of tent, old plastic bottles, bricks and rocks were all around and they used these things to paint on. One assignment was to paint one word that sums up or is your favorite of the moment. Then these words, created on these different objects were arranged into poetry.

It doesn't take a lot of money, just time and imagination. Art is more that just art.

And a picture is more than what you see.
LOVE.

Bellis said...

Wasn't it the No Child Left Behind policy that killed off all non-academic activities in schools? As well as budget cuts, of course.

altadenahiker said...

I wish you a good and colorful goodnight.

Petrea said...

I don't know the answer to your question, Bellis. I'm moved by these comments, all of them.

TheChieftess said...

I took art classes in and out of school all my life, as I come from an artistic family...my favorite teacher of all time was Mr Cohantz in Junior High. He gave me confidence where I had none and he encouraged me to stretch my talents far beyond what I thought I could do. Mr. Cohantz was a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He told us how he had been in the shower room in his boxers when the planes came. He described his shipmates scrambling to safety and to guns to retaliate. When I was in college, I heard that he committed suicide. I still mourn his loss today...

Dina said...

This post and these comments -- so moving.

As a kid in the Chicago public schools, I was never told to mess it up or splash (to the best of my memory). We were taught to color INSIDE the lines. I never got to fingerpaint until my own kids were born. I hate to think what all that might have done to me.
But at least we HAD art classes in school. And music too.

Latino Heritage said...

When I was going to college, both times, I worked in the music library. Loved it.
There were three main groups of students who came in to listen or check out keys for practice rooms. Those that were obligated to fulfill listening requirements for the appreciation classes. Those who were music majors or minors and last, but certainly not least, the bio-med majors. They found the music relaxing and soothing - whether they were listening or playing an instrument. It is no surprise that both the Mexica and the pre-renaissance monks felt music and science were complimentary expressions that allowed for greater balance of one's life.

Petrea said...

An enjoyable discussion. I had a piano teacher in college, a fellow student who was a terrific pianist, who tried to teach me mathematically. That was his way of understanding the instrument. Not mine, unfortunately.

Gina said...

We haven't visited Paintbox kids yet but are planning to do so in the near future.

One of the most fun (and ridiculously messy) thing I have ever done with the kids was to do "pudding paint". I made vanilla pudding, divided it into four servings and used food dye to dye one red, yellow, green, and blue. I then covered the kitchen table with butcher paper and let the kids finger paint with the pudding...art and a snack all rolled into one!pa

TheChieftess said...

That sounds downright scary Gina!!! As a grandma...I'm into taking them elsewhere to make a mess!!!

Petrea said...

Gina, for some reason that reminds me of a kids' birthday party I once attended, where they had a huge, plain white cake. The kids were given all sorts of things with which to decorate it--colored frostings, flavored sprinkles, etc.--and these kids were all about four years old. It was a delightful mess.