On December 11, Vinalhaven School’s 21 second and third graders launched themselves as artists and creative thinkers at an exhibition of their art at NEW ERA GALLERY. They described, step by step, their work in LEAPS of IMAGINATION, a three-week program integrating art and literacy. Speaking confidently, they clearly felt like experts.
Vinalhaven is an island off the coast of Maine, just over an hour’s ferry ride from the midcoast mainland. There’s a thriving lobster and fishing industry there, and many of the children in our group were from fishing families. As such, they had an enormous knowledge base about boats and the sea. LEAPS gave them the chance to translate their passions into art.
From the beginning, children made connections between literature and their work as “team members.” Partners learned to negotiate, be considerate of one another’s points of view, and occasionally give up their own idea for the good of the group. For some it all happened naturally. “I thought of space and she thought of a city, and ‘boom,’ we made a city on the moon!” There was nothing simple about the process. Each day, after zeroing in on literary themes, comparing ‘messages’, and applying them to their work as artists, kids were over the moon. Their positivity propelled their artwork down new paths. We observed children engaged in doing what they love while devoting hours on end to developing increasingly complex art.
Nearly two months after their program had ended, they were “on stage” before a sea of adults. We marveled at the vocabulary they’d retained and the pride that came through as they told the story of making art as twosomes.
With a new sense of self, they were accomplished designers who were riding the wave of success. Their imaginations in gear, there would be no stopping them now. One parent said it all, “This was a wonderful way to show the children’s hard work and make them feel important. This program seemed to make the children very happy, and the hard work done shined through!”
As we look toward the New Year and a future in which young people will be at the helm, what could be more important than giving children the chance to imagine and connect? Synthesize their ideas into something new and make new waves?
With gratitude to the artists who make LEAPS possible – Alexis Iammarino, Sarah Rogers, and Sandy Weisman,