Monday, February 25, 2019

Advocacy For All K-12 Art Programs: 2019 Youth Art Month Address

In 2006, Art Education Association of Indiana President Leah Morgan appointed me to be our state art education advocacy person. Since that time I have served 6 AEAI presidents. I have spoken with parents, governors, mayors, legislators, state and municipal school board members, corporate entities, law enforcement and lots of other citizens. Our Indiana Youth Art Month event brings in families from across the state each year to the capitol. The AEAI floods the first floor with all kinds of 2-D art where citizens and politicians are able to view the work and read the artists statements.

The YAM Celebration event is a one hour spectacle that includes art advocacy talks, music and a recognition ceremony for the children.

Here are pics and my comments from our 2019 YAM event:

2019 YAM chair Carrie Wilson Billman addresses the crowd at the Indiana State Capitol.

AEAI President Elect Addie Thompson reads the proclamation from Governor Holcombe.
Indianapolis First Lady Stephanie Hogsett addresses students, parents, citizens
and reads a proclamation from Mayor Joe Hogsett.

Photo by Karen Hagen Kincaid, with Carrie Wilson Billman
It was my pleasure to accept Indiana Youth Art Month Chair, Mrs. Carrie Wilson Billman's invitation to speak at this years Indiana Youth Art Month celebration at the Indiana State Capitol on February 24th, 2019. Here are my remarks:

"Greetings Students, Families, Teachers and Supporters of Youth Art Month!

Would you do me a favor?
Can we do a quick survey?

If you can answer this question would you raise your hand?
How many people here, young and old, like art class?

Holy Smokes! There are a lot of you out here!

I remember when I used to teach elementary art…..….When it was time to clean up...children would tell me… “We don’t want to clean up! We want to keep making art!”

That’s one of the mysteries I’d like to solve... “why do kids love art class so much?”

The Youth Art Month Exhibit at the State Capitol showcases some of the finest drawings, paintings, photographs and prints produced by children in K12 schools across the state of Indiana! What we have to show you in the South Atrium are beautiful examples of what we call, two-dimensional art.

What I’d like to talk about now is a story about the power of three dimensional art…. Or sculpture.

I have this friend who is also an art teacher, his name is Clark Fralick. Clark is the Art Education Association of Indiana’s 2003 teacher of the year. There’s Clark now!

Clark and I have a friend at the Indiana State Museum. Her name is Bethany Nold Thomas. Bethany is director of educational programs
and last September, Bethany invited Clark and I to create sculptures at the museum’s Cardboard Engineering exhibit.

The best part about this exhibit is that kids get to build stuff!

For the past 4 months, Clark and I have been in that gallery sculpting with cardboard...What we also have the opportunity to do is observe what goes on in there.

What we see are lots of kids experiencing the joy of creativity and self-discovery with their families. The children realize they can successfully task themselves with the challenge of creating scary masks, wild hats, medieval suits of armor, swords, shields, funny puppets, miniature houses and buildings, costumes, boats, cars, trucks, ships, submarines even super-sonic space ships using cardboard, tape, scissors and little plastic saws.

The third floor of the Indiana State Museum hums with all kinds of creative energy!

Those kids and their families will build almost anything!

One of our observations ...and I feel bad about this...if an adult prematurely interrupts a young child from their sculpture making activity?

There could be trouble.

One time, we heard an adult say, “OK’s time to see the rest of the’s time to leave the exhibit.” Little Johnny said…”No...No...I don’t want to go!”

So...I’m thinking….the reason the child doesn’t want to leave the art activity? They are in a biological state of creative bliss!

Children are naturally endowed with the capacity for creativity! That’s why they love art!

What we know about creativity, and scientists are just now discovering how powerful this experience is, is that it is the best time for learning.

When the imagination, in concert with the mind, body and spirit all work together to achieve an idea or common goal, one remembers such experiences. There is no higher quality learning experience.

This is the essence of art education. Art rooms are the centers of creativity inside the schools where they exist.

Think of it, individuals who can develop ideas, and realize them in two, three or four dimensions, are like Leonardo da Vinci! They are super thinkers!

You would think elected officials who control education laws would understand this. They would make art education with expert art teachers more available to children in schools.

Unfortunately….that is not the case.

Instead, there are laws that have been written that cause schools to lose art teachers and children to lose time for art.

Authentic fine arts learning experiences are powerful, trans-disciplinary experiences that provide important developmental pathways for the unique in-born endowments of the child to unfold. Fine arts experiences have the potential to ameliorate violent tendencies and unleash the emotional drive of children. Increasing fine arts education is in the best interest of the Nation and is the foundation of real education reform.

As a parent or citizen advocate, you have a powerful voice. I urge you to advocate for children’s K-12 fine arts programs wherever and whenever called upon.

No more failures of imagination!

The Art Education Association of Indiana thanks you for your support!"

Video by Clark Fralick