Every kid is an artist. Every single one of them. It’s universal. We all know this. As a kid, the only class that got me excited in school was art class. Art was the place where there were no right or wrong answers. It was safe.
Sensible people can agree that art is a powerful tool for teaching kids. Equally important, art is sometimes the only way of reaching kids. Art can be instrumental in helping establish self discipline, project organizing, team work and other vital skills.
At MoKA we have seen that when we've been able to inspire children, to move them with dance, painting, sculpture, music, poems—it can change them. Experiencing another's self expression (another phrase for 'art') can open children's eyes to possibilities and potentials in themselves that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
President Kennedy often said of his experience:"To those who have been given much, much is expected." I would add: "To those who have been given little, even more is expected," because they will have to overcome daunting obstacles just to get where more privileged kids start. There has to be a way of reaching them before there can be any hope of teaching them. I sometimes joke with my friends and say, 'Art will save the world.' But I am only half kidding. I have seen the faces of kids who are proud of what they create. Pride can never be taken away from them. That is the place where equal footing starts.
We are now able to predict outcomes for kids by about the age of six. Unfortunately, whether that prediction is made in Hyannisport or Watts is probably among the most significant intervening factors. I live in the neighborhood MoKA serves. For 3 years I have been teaching an after school art program in the public school just a few blocks away from the museum. Today, 75 % of the students in this neighborhood will not graduate from high school—a staggering tragedy in our neighborhood and a sobering prospect for the larger community.
Having worked with the kids here, I can now say that I am hooked. I love them. I have seen young, tough boys who had little positive to say about school and had difficulty even making eye contact with others transformed into gentle, outgoing, sensitive and active participants in our classes. It has been the most difficult and rewarding process I've ever experienced, a feeling shared by all of MoKA's staff. We all wanted to make a difference when we began MoKA and now we know that art can be the difference.
We hope a nurturing early influence for these kids will carry into adulthood for them so perhaps they can spend their lives doing what they love. Isn’t that what we all want for our kids?
Please contact me if you would like to be a part of MoKA.
Peace and love to all.