“Every child is an artist. The
problem is how to remain an
artist once he grows up.”
The Artist in All of Us
Twenty-two first graders stand pulling it into shapes, coils, people,
at the artroom door, waiting and animals. Shouts of excitement,
to enter the classroom they “Look what I made,” “Can I have
heard so much about as kin- more?” For most the simple joy of a
dergartners. Little bodies stream in new material motivates, stimulates
opened-mouthed. They take in the emotions, and encourages self-dis-shelves filled with colorful art mate- covery. Little bodies bid farewell and
rials, books, artifacts, and paintings. the artist/teacher awaits the next
Inquisitive voices call out questions: group.
“Did you paint all those pictures?” The group this time is a little
“What are those things over there?” bigger, but full of expectations. Feet
“Are we going to make that?” Then now touch the floor and eyes gaze at
you hear, “I know you are an artist!” the familiar. Classroom rituals take
“I am one too!” place. Every hand
Little hands pick Little hands pick up a begins to draw;
up a brand new brand new box of crayons, the papers quickly
box of crayons, eyes examine every color, fill with multi-
eyes examine every tudes of color. The
color, and a blank and a blank piece of paper class is coming
piece of paper awaits the first mark. to an end as stu-
awaits the first dents’ voices echo
mark. Hands are busy, dots turn into sighs of disbelief. “Seems like we
lines, lines turn into shapes, and just got here.” Papers are collected,
shapes turn into people. Students see materials put away and another class
their self-portraits hung up only to session has ended.
be put away for a four-year hiatus. Another hour, and twenty-three
Now lined up, students slide their faces,\ greet the artist/teacher. Now
arms into oversized work shirts, not-so-little people enter the room.
forming a train and fastening each They settle into the expected rituals.
other’s buttons. They slide back into Students are introduced to Mexican
chairs and balls of clay are distrib- tinware. Motivated and excited with
uted. Happy hands caress the clay; a new material; inspired by exam-
molding, stretching, tearing, and ples, busy hands set off to experi-
ment. Voices vibrate throughout the
classroom. It is rewarding to hear
students talking about their work
and feeling good about it.
Another class has ended. It is
the end of our four years together.
The business at hand is to pass back
the first-grade portraits drawn so
long ago, when the only motivation
was a new box of crayons. Together
we have journeyed far . . . over the
years, the teacher/artist has seen
great works of art that began with
just a scribble. “Art is not what you
see but what you make others see”
(Vincent van Gogh).
As the teacher/artist passes back
the portraits, many emotions flow
freely—portraits hidden next to
student’s chests, braver souls sharing hardy laughs, simple joys in just
remembering what it was like to be
little. The “artist” returned for just
an instant remembering the admiration, unconditional trust, the awe,
the feelings her students had as they
announced to the class that they
were “artists” too!
Helene DiCarlo is an art teacher at South
Elementary School in Plymouth, Massachusetts. firstname.lastname@example.org