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Teaching Children Beauty Through Art

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I think there is a reason that nearly every human society past and present has had some form of artistic expression. The reason is that we need it. Art, in all its forms, is the human expression that makes everyday life more meaningful. It’s a magnifier of beauty and the substance that can convert a series of events into a story. To teach our children to appreciate art is to give them a tool that they can use forever, a tool they can use to look at the world around them and draw significance from it. It’s the gift of looking at things in a deeper way.I want to be clear that art is to be found everywhere, not exclusively in museums, galleries or concert halls.

As I mentioned, art is the gift of beauty—of seeing beauty. Seeing beauty in our everyday lives elevates our existence and makes unbearable things more bearable. Not all art is beautiful, of course, nor does it need to be, and there is meaning and a beauty in that too. Who wasn’t comforted by music when they suffered their first broken heart? I know that hearing songs about others’ broken hearts helped me. I wasn’t alone. This was a part of the human experience. A broken heart was survivable. Music gave me that. I cannot begin to tell you what literature gave me. This former teenager will forever be grateful for what the Bronte sisters did to help me through my most angst-filled, adolescent years, not to mention Judy Blume or J.D.Salinger! Then there are everyday “pause moments”, stopping for a second to appreciate how a spider-web covered in dew catches the light, or the how the sunset turns the mountains a shade of pink. These brief moments are a balm to the stress and clutter of daily existence.

Teaching children to appreciate art can be as simple as pointing out the colors on a flower, turning on the radio in the car, or pointing out the pattern that the wind leaves on sand. Buying your child a set of crayons, paints or pens and paper is perhaps the most wonderful gift of all because it is the gift that says “and you too can create art.” Summer is a time to go further in teaching children to appreciate art. Summer’s change in schedule often allows us to visit a new place and see something with fresh eyes. Our family goes to museums when visiting new places. We soak in new architecture, new views, new food. We go to dance and music performances. Who knows what form of artistic expression will resonate? These moments of exposure to the arts in new places feel good. They feel exciting because they are a change from the same-old, same-old, and they teach us to keep looking… even when we are back home again.

My second child now brings a sketchpad with her when we travel. As I glance up at the bulletin board near my desk, there is a sketch of a courtyard of a house we rented in France one summer. In her bedroom is a book of sketches. Some of them are of scenes in our own garden, of our dog curled up while taking a nap. As I look at my daughter’s sketch on my bulletin board, I am grateful for the reminder of that wonderful trip, but I think I am more grateful for the fact that my daughter was moved enough by the beauty of a scene to sit down and draw it. Seeing this sketch, I know that my daughter has the ability to see and search for beauty wherever she may be. More importantly, I know she has the ability to find it.

[HILARY DOUBLEDAY]

June 16, 2015

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