“Making art is hard, but it’s fun!” – 4th grader
For many of us, making art can be many things: hard, easy, interesting, frustrating, fun, funny…
Exploring identity and community is probably my favorite way to engage youth through art. I adapted my Passport Series to teach high school English-language learner students how to draw self-portraits. The students engaged in conversation about identity and stereotypes, and came up with the most important things about themselves that they would want to share in a re-imagined passport. In addition to chosen name, culture/religion and important dates or life events, they also thought it was important to share their dreams.
For some of the younger students I work with, my primary goal is to help them develop habits of mind, especially to stretch beyond their perceived limitations, and to persist. Many young students already have such a fear of failure, of not getting something right, that they would balk at even beginning to draw, paint or carve. During one residency, I worked with 4th graders over eight sessions to make Salish-inspired linoleum carvings and prints. It was so thrilling to watch them get over their fears and remain undaunted when things didn’t go as planned, when their wrists got sore from carving, and even when they cut themselves! Yes, making art is hard — even painful and bloody! — but it can still be fun.