When You Give a Kid a Paintbrush…
Throughout my summer in New York City, I had the opportunity to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art several times. Although the Met’s Manus x Machina exhibit was creating the greatest buzz in the art world and general public, I was particularly excited and intrigued by the museum’s exhibition of artwork created by New York City public school students. I have always had an interest in childhood art education and my eleven-week operations internship at a Success Academy elementary charter school in Harlem made me even more passionate about art enrichment. Because of this when I learned about the P.S. Art exhibition, I immediately planned another trip to the Met.
In conjunction with the Department of Education and Studio in a School, the Met’s annual P.S. Art exhibit displays 90 chosen works in a variety of media created by students in prekindergarten through twelfth grade from all five boroughs. The students’ imagination and creativity are on full display in their juxtaposition of colors and their unique painting, drawing, and sculpting techniques. Since the works are displayed in order of increasing age, it is incredible observing the progression of artistic processes as well as maturing views of the world from childhood to adolescence. With a range of silly imaginary animals to impeccably realistic portraits, the works are heart-warming, thought-provoking, and awe-inspiring.
“When you look at this painting, I want you to think about what was going on in my mind at that moment. My artwork is part of me, and every piece of my artwork that I made has a story behind it.”
Maori Koru Design in Primary and Secondary Colors by Willyne Michel, Age 7, Grade 2
The children’s descriptions are possibly the best aspect of the whole exhibit because they allow the visitor to interpret the works in the special – and often times quirky – perspective of a child’s mind. Just as I had firsthand witnessed at my internship’s elementary school, the students wrote about how creating art gave them another avenue to express themselves and how it made them “feel better about themselves”.
“I practice and practice at home – that’s why I’m so good. I like drawing painting. This is an alien. He’s running away from the other aliens. Did you notice he doesn’t have a mouth? I used black oil pastel and pencil to make the lines. Then I added watercolor paint. I like making the splatters.”
An Alien by Ryan Fleming, Age 4, Prekindergarten
Seeing the finished works of art reminded me of the interactions I had with children in the Princeton University Art Museum. The Saturday mornings families created various arts and crafts in the PUAM main gallery. The countless number of times I walked between classes and smiled to myself as dozens of elementary school students were lined up outside the museum for a field trip. The muffled shuffle of children’s feet on carpet as they excitedly point and whisper-shout while on a scavenger hunt to find specific works throughout the museum galleries.
It is comforting for me to know that at a time when public schools are losing funding and cutting back on extracurricular enrichment activities, art institutions like the Met and the Princeton University Art Museum are working to expose students to art and art history. Personally, I know my exposure to art history in high school has broadened my perspective and formed the basis of a well-rounded lifetime of understanding and enjoyment. Because of this, I am honored to be a member of the PUAM Student Advisory Board and a PUAM Tour Guide that works toward the goal of connecting the greater Princeton community to
“As a member of a minority I have often felt that I don’t matter, but art has given me a voice. In my current work I want to break stereotypes and expose my unique people and culture particularly from the perspective of my generation.”
Faces of Youth by Cyra Cupid, Age 16, Grade 11