Art and the City – June 9, 2012
Edith and Raymond are my two new friends. They are staying with the woman next door for a few days, as their school finished early this year. Edith is her niece and Raymond is Edith’s best friend, and they are both seven years old. I met them at our neighbourhood festival where I was (wo-)manning the face painting booth. Edith wanted to be a fish and Raymond, Bat Man. Bat Man was easy, the fish a bit more of a challenge but, all to say, they were happy with the result and we had become fast friends by the time their faces were done. Edith asked me if I liked being an artist, and I replied that I loved it more than almost anything. “Me too!” she said. She is very earnest and asked if they could come to my studio at the Montreal Art Centre.
We had a grand time. After an exhaustive tour of the building and meeting the artists there, Edith and Raymond settled into my space to do some art. They both knew what they were going to do. Edith pulled out a yellow paper package from the woman next door’s shopping basket – they had come via the Atwater Market – and unfurled it on my art table. It held the brightest and most beautiful stalks of gleaming red rhubarb with vivid green leaves you could imagine. After setting her up with a paint tray, brushes, water, and such, I turned to Raymond. He was already hard at work doing a drawing in his own sketchbook. A bit hard to make out at first but when I asked him to tell me about it, he clearly described the Griffintown Horse Palace across the street. It is the last one standing in our neighbourhood, and they had had a look at it before coming to the Centre. The scene was completely rendered from a bird’s-eye view and it was all there: stables and carriages, horses, buckets of water, roof tops and puddles. It was quite spectacular, and I wished I had his ability to see from space! Looking back to Edith, I saw that she had dashed off an enviable expressionistic rendering of the glories of the rhubarb and the yellow wrapping paper. When I asked why they were such wonderful artists, Edith answered, “Well, we do art all the time, of course. It’s the only way to get good!”
I have spent my whole life doing art with children. Art is good for children, for the development of their creative minds, their imaginations, to discover who they are and what they particularly like to think about – what they find beautiful, or scary, or weird, or funny, or even sad about the world. Human beings develop because something in the human psyche demands it. The creative spirit resides in each of us: it is the impulse which animates our personalities. It unites us and at the same time gives us our unique identities.
In the course of my work and research as an artist, art teacher and art therapist, I have come to learn that the basic human impulse to play, ritualize and make special is the source of creativity and art, and, as we develop, it becomes more complex. Through it the individual evolves; through it the human ability to perceive is enlarged. Each of us uses symbols in art in a way that is personal and expressive of self. A work of art is the maker’s vision: a refined, illuminated and even mysterious revelation and expression of his/her perception. The images we make directly reflect and influence how we think. Art enables us to show how we each perceive our inner and outer lives: what is important, what is not. We use the elements of our existence to do this. Art-making assists us in the lifelong resolution of reality and fantasy, what goes on around us and what goes on in our minds, and thus it fosters individual development and enriches our lives. I know this because of my long experience with children and art, yet never cease to be fascinated and enlightened by their discovery of themselves and the world around them through the creative process.
The ability to be creative requires the acquisition of skills and the discovery of what one is really interested in, and then learning more about it and how to express it. A fine balance must be struck between the teaching of skills and the encouraging of self-expression. There is a great deal of current research out there which shows that fostering creativity affects behaviour, relationships, emotional expression, school work and socialization in a very positive way.
School will be out soon and the young people you know and love will be looking for things to do. If you want to find ways to keep them busy and happy, and would like to advance their development through the arts at the same time, here are some practical guidelines to promote artistic expression and creativity:
- · Do art with your children but also encourage them to work alone.
- · Take cues from your children when you work together – let them suggest to you what to do rather than the other way around.
- · Work with your children at their pace and developmental level.
- · Allow feelings (even negative ones) to be expressed in the artwork – and talk about them if the child wishes to.
- · Set up an art space – a corner of a room with a little table and chair, containers with glue sticks, scissors, crayons, pencils, sparkles, etc., and a variety of paper. Or store art materials in a box to bring out and use at the kitchen table on a regular basis.
- · Acknowledge and encourage your children’s artwork – display it: put it on the fridge or frame it.
- · Borrow from the library or buy arts and crafts books to get ideas, or look on the Internet.
- · Recycled materials and inexpensive items from the Dollar Store can provide hours of artistic expression.
- · Give art supplies, music CDs, puppets, costumes, art books, etc., for birthday and holiday presents.
- · Go to museums, puppet shows, concerts, children’s theatre.
- · Check out the many art classes and art camps in the city.
And on a nice sunny – or rainy – day when you are looking for an outing, go to a museum or gallery. If you missed last week’s column on museums, or want to read more about visiting a museum with children, please go to my blog, www.montrealartcentre.com/blog. There you will find a list of games and workshops that will add to the fun of a museum visit.
Also, do drop in to the Montreal Art Centre with the children in your life. They will be fascinated by the old building, and the neighbourhood. The many rooms and staircases, galleries, studios and cubbyholes invite exploration and adventure, as does of course the art. Every young visitor to our Centre has always found something of fascination to stop and pay attention to. Pop by and see me too if you like. Usually I am there during the week and easy to find, and would be happy to visit and tour around with you.
Unfortunately I won’t be able to show you Edith’s and Raymond’s finished art because they took it home to put into what they call their Treehouse Gallery, where only the very best work goes. I’m mailing them my photo of themselves as Bat Man and the Fish to hang there. I hope it meets with their selection criteria.
On this week:
P’tit Tour Des Arts Fibre, Paint, Metal. June 9, 11-3; June 10, 11-2. Rain or Shine. Fibre artist, Carlolyn Ells 4456 Melrose; Painter, Ondine Guralnick, 342 Brock N; Metal, Mona Rutenberg, 5411 West Broadway. http://www.monarutenberg.com/p/events.html
Pointe-à-Callière A world-exclusive, The Etruscans – An Ancient Italian Civilization, is an exhibition on one of the world’s most remarkable and renowned civilizations, inviting visitors to explore and admire this people and their culture which figured prominently in the evolution of humanity. June 20 – November 25. 350 Place Royale (Corner of de la Commune), Old Montréal. (514) 872-9150. http://pacmusee.qc.ca/en/exhibitions/the-etruscans-an-ancient-italian-civilization
McCord Museum Alexander Henderson – Living Landscapes . June 15 – October 14.
Cartooning Calamities. June 20, 2012 – January 26, 2013. 690 Sherbrooke Street West. (514) 398-7100. www.mccord-museum.qc.ca/expositions
Stewart MuseumCraving for Design – Kitchen design from the 18th c to tomorrow.
June 14, 2012 – April 14, 2013. Located at the British military depot on St. Helen’s Island, Parc Jean-Drapeau, 20, chemin du Tour-de-l’Isle. (514) 861-6701. www.stewart-museum.org/en/craving-for-design-106.html
Montreal Art Centre Dual Metaspaces – paintings and engravings by Dr. Hamid Bouhioui. Now till June 14.
Seeing Through Clothes – Open Studio with live model in costume. Every Monday – 6 – 9. $10. Coffee, tea and cookies.
In the Heat of Summer – Call for submissions. This show is open to artists working in all media; two- and three-dimensional works are accepted. The exhibition will be displayed at the Centre’s galleries from August 11 – 25. Deadline for submission of your artwork, July 10.
*Art, Jazz and Gospel – Mark this date: June 30, 6 – 10pm – Fundraising Silent Auction of our artists work will be held, with live musical entertainment and refreshments. Performing that night will be Continental Rhythm, Skipper Dean, Claire Jean Charles and Julian Macintosh. Oliver Jones will be making a guest appearance, available to sign autographs. $8 pre-booking/$10 at the door.
(514) 667-2270. 1844 William (corner des Seigneurs). www.montrealartcenter.com/category/events/
If you are an artist, or an aspiring one, looking for a home then the Montreal Art Centre is for you! Visit the Centre’s website www.montrealartcenter.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information on becoming a member artist with your own studio space, and about classes and events. Or visit the Centre at 1844 William Street, Montreal, Qc H3J 1R5. (514) 667-2270.
Catherine Wells is an artist, art teacher and art therapist working at the Montreal Art Centre. Her website is artandmind.ca. She can be reached at email@example.com. Read her blog Art and the City at www.montrealartcentre.com/blog