The smooth keys of a laptop clicking, the glassy, glowing surface of a smartphone app, and the soft rubber of a pair of ear buds: These are materials most 21st century youth encounter on a daily basis. The crackle of a dried leaf or tender vulnerability of a new seedpod isn’t high on that list, but SLOMA Youth Education Coordinator Beth Mott has worked to change all that. Well, at least until calculators and schoolbooks take over.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF SLOMA
- IN THE MIX: George Janowicz, age 10, created this mixed media piece during SLOMA’s Youth Summer Arts Camps.
All summer, Mott worked with young artists aged 5 to 16 to inspire “brains-on” creative works that bring kids closer to—not farther away from—the earth.
“We dealt with organic shapes, natural prints, and paintings, as well as recycled materials,” Mott said. “We see the beauty in something that might be discarded or set aside.”
This year’s annual SLOMA Youth Summer Art Camps served about 200 kids, 41 of which were teens (a high number, when you consider distractions like summer jobs, hobbies, and newfound romances). Teen classes explored photography, encaustic painting, as well as basic drawing, painting, and printmaking.
On Aug. 21, a gaggle of youth and their eager parents will take over SLOMA’s quiet halls for a showing of 76 works encompassing Kid’s Eye View. As if by magic, the artwork will be displayed professionally matted and framed thanks to Frame Works. For many of the artists, it will be the first time their work has glimmered under glass.
“The kids just love that,” Mott said. “The works are picked based on which pieces of art stand out; which ones show that growth has occurred.”
- PHOTO COURTESY OF SLOMA
- IMAGINE: During six weeklong sessions, 180 SLOMA Youth Arts campers—aged 5 years to 16—enjoyed “brains-on” art instruction from talented and inspiring teaching artists, learning to use both observation and imagination in creative ways.
Growth. This is what it all comes down to. When a child is asked to wrap his or her mind around a new concept and then dig from within to conjure art out of thin air, new neural and creative pathways emerge like spring flowers.
“Our program is based on process not product,” Mott said. “If you are working just on end product, you are dealing with an artist that has a preconceived idea before the class even starts. It’s important, especially for the first day, to sit down with all the kids and put out a spark of an idea.”
With any luck, that spark ignites lively discussion among the students. A class on “imagination maps” asked the artists to envision floating above a mystical made-up land. These patchworks of color and texture will be on display throughout the show alongside paintings, prints, and sculptures. A DIY toy workshop showed the youth how to transform wooden dowels and other found materials into human figures, animals, and off-the-wall playthings.
According to Mott, children are masterminds when it comes to thinking outside the box. All they need is chance to put creativity into action.
“The kids offer their ideas and expand on them and take [the classes] in a totally different direction than you would even anticipate,” Mott said. “If everyone’s artwork comes out looking the same …”
Mott trailed off, saying everything with her silence. Conformity is rampant, stamped into every corner of society. Why perpetuate it?
With the inspiration of seashells, starfish, found objects, and used treasures bound for the landfills, these kids have found a way to see the world through a different lens.
“We worked with things that are important to kids’ lives now—nature and its impact on their lives,” Mott said.
Hayley Thomas is looking at the world through a child’s eyes at firstname.lastname@example.org.