This blog is by our Art Feeds Intern Katie Knecht. This cat-lover & aspiring novelist will have spotlights on our blog to share her point of view during her time with Art Feeds. Enjoy!
When I learned that more than 90 percent of students are on free and reduced lunch in one of the schools I lead Art Feeds programs in, I was appalled. But it made sense.
It made sense that the kids often have to hear their instructions twice before really catching on. It made sense that a fifth grader asked me what a “palette” was last week. It made sense that simply asking the children not to mix colors in order to respect their classmates was not enough.
Being on free and reduced lunch doesn’t mean these kids have bad parents. It doesn’t mean they are being neglected or aren’t being fed. But it does mean that they come from a less stable financial background, and their parents are most likely under more stress. Their home lives may be less secure and provide them with less stability than children whose parents are not under financial strain.
Art Feeds allows students to express themselves through therapeutic art. The kids at the schools I lead have invented their own soups and made labels, circa Andy Warhol; used pointillism like George Seurat to design their own images; painted themselves through the eyes of an animal who might have had more or less color receptors than them; and looked in a mirror in order to create an oil pastel self-portrait. The last project was the one many children struggled with. There has been little exposure to proportions or drawing a human for these kids.
It was the final bit of the assignment that was the most problematic.
“Think of things about yourself that are true, but that people can’t necessarily see when they look at you,” I told them. “So if you’re funny, creative, smart, athletic, or anything else, I want you to write those words on your paper.”
Of course, “funny,” “creative,” and “smart” showed up plenty of times, but one little boy had written “dumb” five or six times beside his self-portrait. I tried to help him find something he was good at, but he was uncooperative. He wanted to believe he was “dumb.”
The value you find in yourself is one of the most important components of living a fulfilled life—especially when you’re in elementary school. If no one has told you that you’re not “dumb” and that you are worth something to someone, where would you ever learn that? My heart broke for the little boy who had not found his self-worth.
Art Feeds strives to teach our kiddos that they should have confidence in their significance. Satisfaction in life comes much more easily when you believe in yourself.
Art Feeds programs work to instill positivity in our students each week. So I couldn’t help but smile when, after instructing a class of kindergarteners to write down qualities about themselves, a little boy asked me how to spell “lovely.”
Love Naively. Give Generously. Be Foolishly Compassionate.
For more information on Art Feeds Internships, visit www.artfeeds.org/mobilize.