Every one of us can showcase student Art in a way that fits our population. And we must. Waynflete School in Portland, Maine hosts an annual exhibit of children’s Art, which focuses on part or all of the school community.
Fortunate to have a dedicated gallery space, their teachers inspire and collect work on a given theme. This year’s theme was identity, and the artwork took multiple forms. Kindergarteners and First Graders, studying the city, used clay to portray themselves in an urban context. Sixth Graders used found objects like puzzle pieces, rick-rack, and even couscous to form facial features on collagraphs. Studying Egypt, Fifth Graders gave canopic jars a new twist. Once designed to hold significant organs after death, these student-made jars, accompanied by handwritten letters to the gods stating their personal aspirations, were boldly contemporary.
What made this exhibit so remarkable was the quality of student work driven by Art teachers who hold high standards and value difference. Aptly described by Ron Berger in his book, An Ethic of Excellence, Waynflete student Art would have surpassed Berger’s expectations. Whether on a small or grand scale, each was carefully labeled, mounted, and presented.
Viewers, including students, could not only appreciate the piece, they could better understand the maker’s process and intent. When we make student Art visible, each young artist, who has undoubtedly overcome struggles, acquired new skills, and reached a certain level of satisfaction, will take still greater pride in his or her creative capacity. By engaging students in the Art making process in the first place, we have empowered them in important ways. Displaying their Art in our classrooms, our schools, and in our community spaces shows them that we believe in their ideas and that we believe in them as contributors to the world in which they live.
With gratitude and admiration to the Art teachers at Waynflete School,
Nancy Harris Frohlich