Friday, June 25, 2010

A Blue Flame In The Sky

A few days ago I posted about how we Fremonsters (it's a state of mind, not a geographic location) celebrate the summer solstice with an art parade. What I failed to make clear is really how strong our school's ties are to this event and the Fremont Arts Council (FAC), the good folks who have put on this event for the past 22 years. We count four former presidents of the organization (including myself) in our preschool community, not to mention the dozens of us who have a hand each year in creating this and other community art events throughout the year.

Our walls are decorated with art from the parade and our winter solstice feast. Both of our little red wagons are veterans of the parade, one of which is now a little silver wagon. And we've now installed a new piece of art donated to us by Rodman Miller, FAC veteran and incredibly talented glass blower.

It has made me so happy this week to drive up each morning to see this flame flickering over our school's 7-foot fence. Thank you Rodman!

We're not the only school with strong ties to the parade, including the B.F. Day Elementary School (where Rodman's son attends) and the Salmon Bay Elementary School, both of which have had long-term involvement in creating this magnificent piece of community art. It's exciting to me that in an era in which schools are cutting arts education, there are still some children who are receiving a genuine arts education that extends beyond their classroom walls. It makes me happy to see children playing around the Powerhouse (the FAC's headquarters) as their parents work their butts off, not to put food on the table, but to make art. And not just any art, but gigantic, silly, profound, public art that will be literally paraded through the streets to the cheers of tens of thousands of their neighbors.

I love that these children get to experience adults, especially those who are not professional artists, taking their art seriously. I wish every child could be part of the hard work, emotion and problem-solving creativity that goes into it. When we fence off part of the street for a month to build our floats, all of us coming together as a community to create, we are sending a message to our children that art is not an afterthought, but rather a central, vital part of our lives.

Making "preschool art" is wonderful, educational, and important, but that just can't be the end of it. For too many children, art ends at the school house doorway, and all too often disappears entirely by the time they hit middle school. This is insanity if you ask me. No one doubts the importance of literacy or math or science, but we are fools when we pretend that the kind of creativity one learns through making art isn't an equally important, if not the most important, life skill. As Sir Ken Robinson points out, none of us have any idea what the world will be like in 5 years, let alone what skills will be important in 25 or 50 years, yet we expect our educational system to prepare children for that unpredictable future. If we are not teaching creativity, the kind of creativity that can only be learned through creating art, we are failing our children. And frankly, if we as adults are not making art, we are failing ourselves.

This TED talk has been around for awhile, but I still find myself watching it at least once a month. It will delight and inspire you -- I promise!

The day I installed Rodman's artwork, little Parker, barely 2-years-old and brand new to our school, rounded the corner, paused and wordlessly pointed to the blue flame he saw in the sky. He knows great art when he sees it. All I want to do is help him keep that sense of awe and wonder, and to let him know that he too can make blue flames in the sky.

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Unknown said...

The more art in this world, the better.

Anonymous said...

I recently found your blog and I now read it religiously, although I will seldom, if ever, actually post. I just wanted to share that your blog is AWESOME, timely, and makes me a better mom. You've made my home life better (I am trusting my boys with more, they are doing more, they are prouder of themselves and their accomplishments). The only thing thats suffering is the house and, well... it will survive. Thank you!

Mary B. said...

Love this post-- I am also a big fan of TED and sir Ken Robinson's TED talk & the idea that creativity and art are critical to a child's mental and emotional development. So glad to have Parker at Woodland this summer and starting up in the pre-3s this fall!