Children are creative by nature and they respond to contemporary art with great enthusiasm. They can also easily relate to modern art because they are focused more on the process of creation than on the final product, and they understand that the outcome is very often a result of their inner journey, which can take them to unexpected places. Introducing children to contemporary art is a very effective method to support their creativity, foster their social-emotional development and boost their entrepreneurial spirit.
Benefits of the Approach:
Children enjoy being exposed to contemporary art as they very easily get inspired with the things they see or experience. They immediately wish to explore their own creativity and engage in a creative process. Whether it’s an art exhibition, a visit to a museum, a visual project they experience, children usually like to explore the methods, techniques, materials or resources used by the artists. This way children take responsibility for their own learning and development planning suitable experiences for themselves and choosing approaches that seem the most inspiring to them. They develop awareness of what they want and need and how to get there. By participating in the activities they plan for themselves children will often decide to take manageable risk, which in turn helps them stretch their skills and boosts their confidence. Educators should respond to children’s cues and suggestions by offering required resources and planning the environment in a way that all children can explore their creativity in full.
Boosting the “can-do” spirit
Contemporary art may be surprising and shocking, especially when it looks like it doesn’t require much artistic skills or special techniques mastered. Children will easily notice it and will often find similarities between what they see at exhibitions and their own creations. This is a perfect confidence booster and if supported by teachers will help children develop the right kind of self-esteem and the “can do spirit”. If an artist becomes famous and admired by painting a single red dot on a canvas, why can’t I? – this is a sample conclusion that many children arrive to after visiting a contemporary art exhibition, and this is exactly what you want them to figure out. They should feel that they are artists already no matter what kind of result they achieve, and one day, if they wished to pursue this path, their work could also be considered as a valuable masterpiece. Contemporary art is an excellent means to boosting children’s confidence and helping them understand that everyone already is an artist and can produce masterpieces, and that there will always be someone who appreciates their creativity and finds it inspiring.
Entrepreneurial skills and attitudes
Showing children that it is possible to make money with their creations opens up a whole new world for them. While early years children will still grasp the concept, it will definitely appeal more to school children. They will already know very well that they can exchange money for goods and that you can earn money for your work. To children modern art seems a very easy entrepreneurial opportunity as they already feel that their work is very similar in nature and in quality to the artists already selling their masterpieces. This very fact itself might be a sufficient confidence booster, and supporting this belief might help children develop motivation to try to fulfil their potential, master their skills and make better use of their talents. Eventually, such motivation might turn into dedication and strong belief to pursue their own path in life.
How to introduce children to Contemporary Art
Offering various ways of introducing children to modern art helps them experience different sides of it and find the way they like best:
Museums, art exhibitions and other places of inspiration
Taking children to museums or art exhibitions offers them a chance to experience art seen by others as masterpieces worth attention, and while exploring they can find out whether they feel similar about the things the see and experience. In museums or outdoor/indoor exhibitions there is usually plenty of space to wander around and the whole trip may even seem like a quest. In fact, you can turn your visit into a quest and ask your children to find the weirdest, the most beautiful, the scariest, or the ugliest pieces of art. It is important to ask your children about their private opinions while working with contemporary art as this way you show them that opinions can be subjective and people have the right to have different viewpoints. Also, asking children about their views about modern art exhibits makes them feel important and shows them that the fact that one masterpiece has been considered beautiful does not mean everybody has to share the same view. Whenever you take your children to an art exhibition skip the factual aspect of it and focus on their own opinions, encourage discussions and ask your children for their own interpretation and understanding of what they have seen. This will stimulate their creativity even further, and may easily turn into a creative story telling.
Another great way to expose your children to modern art is to introduce everyday objects to show them that creative ideas and designs can be turned into unique objects that we use in our daily life. Perfect examples of such objects are IKEA products which due to their catchy colours, shapes and functions are generally very appealing to children.
Creating modern art masterpieces
Exhibitions inspire children to use their imagination and explore their creativity. They usually get so inspired after a museum visit that they will want to start working on their own art projects immediately. You can support this by offering space and resources and by making sure there is no time or goal pressure. Children may naturally wish to exhibit their projects and you may organise a modern art exhibition on your premises. Another great method is to prepare a set of treasure boxes filled with safe bric-a-brac, and encourage your children to use them to create their own modern art exhibits which can be later admired and interpreted by the whole group.
Modern art can be inspiration for children to look for new ways of self expression. As educators you need to approach it with great flexibility and allow yourself to be taken on a magical journey by your children. They will show you what tools and contexts they need to create their own masterpieces, and will invite you to join them on the way. Doing so will take you into the world of never-ending creations which might or might not have any special meaning or purpose from the children’s perspective. What makes the journey meaningful, however, is the fact that they can express themselves freely and by doing so learn more about themselves and the world.
Vito Matt & Magdalena Matt – Curriculum Developers and Instructional Designers for e-learning courses, interactive workshops and conferences, and educational mobile app games