You don’t have to be Picasso to paint a picture, or Einstein to figure out that given time, space and a box of markers, children can quickly fill a blank canvas. Kids and crayons just naturally go together. Put a paintbrush in tiny hands, and big things happen.
But did you know that actively involving children in the arts – whether it’s painting, drawing, sculpting, playing an instrument or acting on stage – may actually boost academic performance? The benefits are almost as limitless as a child’s imagination.
The proof is in the painting
Consider this. The New York Center for Arts Education reports that through the arts, children:
- learn to think creatively, with an open mind
- learn to observe and describe, analyze and interpret
- learn to express feelings, verbally or non-verbally
- practice problem-solving, critical-thinking, and vocabulary of the arts
- discover there is more than one right answer, multiple points of view
- discover that playing can be learning
- learn to collaborate with other children and with adults
- are introduced to other cultures from around the world
- can blossom and excel in the arts, even with physical, emotional or learning challenges
- build confidence
- build community
A study funded by the Colorado Council on the Arts revealed that students with more access to art courses achieved higher scores in reading, writing and science, regardless of their ethnicity or socioeconomic status. The report also showed that high schools with more art classes experienced lower dropout rates.
There may be positive physiological effects as well. The left hemisphere of our brain, which controls logic and analytical thinking, is used for math, reading and science; while the right hemisphere is associated with expression and creativity. In our left brain oriented culture, which tends to emphasize the 3R’s, the right brain’s strengths may be undertrained. It has been suggested that by exercising our creative side, the connection between the two hemispheres is strengthened, and both sides of our brain can be utilized to a greater potential.
Strokes of genius at Art’s A Blast
Shay Cronin, retired teacher and founder of Art’s A Blast in Rockwall, recognizes the link between art education and a child’s ability to focus and problem solve.
“In art we don’t say to a child, ‘you must do it this way.’ Instead we provide materials, give them an idea, and they run with it. That’s awesome for problem solving, because kids don’t want their artwork to look like anyone else’s. They want it to be their own.” ~ Shay Cronin
“For kids who need help focusing, the art room is not quite as structured; it’s more comfortable than a quiet kind of classroom, giving them the freedom – an environment where they can shine. When they feel successful in that atmosphere, it spills over into the rest of their studies – into the rest of their lives,” Shay said.
Shay and her experienced team of art teachers host daytime and after school classes for children, private lessons, and adults-only evening sessions in which guests may bring their own snacks and beverages. The paint and party studio, located in the Stein Mart Shopping Center on Ridge Road in Rockwall, is great for birthday celebrations, corporate functions and team building activities.
This summer, Art’s A Blast will host more than 30 different camps for kids ages 4 to 18, led by instructors with art degrees or certifications, as well as education degrees.
“We’re going to cover a lot of ground with our summer camps – not just painting,” Shay said. “We’ll do 3D work including gauze and wire sculpture. We’ll work with clay, charcoal, colored pencil and watercolors. The kids are going to have so much fun, they’re going to want to come back.”
Art’s A Blast provides everything a young artist needs to create a masterpiece. For those who have never been exposed to art or believe they “just aren’t good at it,” Shay explains that all they need is direction.
“It’s just like basketball or piano – or anything. You have to have instruction and practice,” Shay said. “Everybody thinks artists are born that way. There are a few, but most are not. When kids get into art and enjoy the experience, they gain confidence. It’s so much fun to watch those ‘I can do it’ lightbulbs go on.”
One way Shay engages her students is through techniques illustrated in the book, Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain, by Dr. Betty Edwards.
“I give kids an ink drawing and have them turn it upside down. I ask them to start drawing what they see, from the top (which is really the bottom). They totally forget they’re drawing a man sitting in a chair; they’re just looking at the relationship of one line to the other line, what direction it’s going, if it’s dark, if it’s light…all the sudden they turn it around and they’ve got a masterpiece.”
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Written by Dawn Redig for publication in Blue Ribbon News, all rights reserved. Photos courtesy of Art’s A Blast.