SchoolArts Magazine

SEP 2019

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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Page 15 of 62

A D V O C A C Y T o kick off Youth Art Month last March, NAEA President Kim Definbaugh encouraged mem - bers to post photos and stories of Why Art Matters with the tag #Visual - ArtsEdMatters. I thought about it and realized that the best instruments we have for art advocacy and evidence for the need to protect time and resources in the visual art classrooms are our students themselves. So, as students entered my artroom the next morning, I distributed pencils and index cards and asked them to each write the reason that art matters to them, personally. I told students I didn't want them to necessarily write about our class, or about a big art idea, but I wanted them to think about how they per- sonally benefit from experiencing, looking at, and making art. I also asked them not to say what they thought I wanted them to say, but to really speak from their own uniquely wonderful hearts. I told them I would be sharing their responses anony- mously and asked them to put their initials on the back of the cards. A Suitcase Comes in Handy I placed an embellished suitcase open at the front of the class where students were asked to submit their cards when they finished writing and before they began working on their art. The response was overwhelming. Each student took this activity seri- ously, some asking if they could use markers to decorate their cards and others asking for more than one card to continue their thoughts. As they placed their cards in the suitcase, I tried to read them to myself, but had to stop because, well, I got a little emotional. No two state- ments were alike, but the running theme seemed to indicate that art provides a way for students to express the feelings they simply cannot com- municate with words. Another theme was that art is the place where they can come to relieve the stresses that Wh rt Reall atters to Me Melody Weintraub surround them in the outside world. Here are a few excerpts: Art matters to me because when I was in Pre-K, I found out that I was color blind, and art was my way to show everyone that being color blind is not bad if you have a passion for art. Art matters to me because, without art, there would be no way to express myself, no way of communication. It would be like stitching my mouth together, forcing me to stay trapped in my own body screaming out for some - one to let me out...Because with art, I am free, I am safe, and I don't have to feel the weight of the world alone. Art matters to me because it is a simple way of expressing how you feel about something when you don't know how to say it. Art has helped me a lot in my life. When you go through tough times, art can make it better. It gives me someplace to go and some- thing to do when I am going through Art provides a wa or students to express the feelings the simpl cannot communicate with words. An embellished suitcase contains students' Why Art Matters to Me cards. CONTINUED ON PAGE 54. SCHOOLARTSMAGAZINE.COM 11

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