Sunday, November 23, 2014

Child's Play is Valuable

Last week I shared a link to pictures and a video of Aelita Andre’s work. She has been labeled as an artistic genius. But like many abstract artists, her worked is judged by some as child’s play. I have been thinking a lot about how she has taken the world by storm and struggled with my own paradoxical feelings. I find some of her paintings really beautiful but I also recognize her process as child’s play. And after tumbling it around in my head, I have decided that the most important thing that could come from Andre’s success is the idea that a child’s play is serious, it is brilliant, and, when allowed to self-direct and explore, a child is capable of more than we typically give them credit for.

 Aelita Andre’s parents who saw value in her first smear when she was nine months old. They stepped back and let their child explore very deeply in what drew her interest. As a seven year old, she has a resume that rivals adult artists. She has sold out art shows and been recognized by arts scholars as a genius. Genius? Really? Perhaps… 

…Perhaps not. Maybe she is just lucky to have so many people value her process AND her product. I chuckled when I watched the video montage of her process and products. I marveled about how powerful music and beautiful videography made her work seem superb. I don’t mean to discredit her talent because I found some of her paintings truly moving. However, I think that music and videography could transform almost any child’s work/play into something more substantial and seemingly more valuable. 

And that is the point for me. Like all children, Aelita Andre’s process and product are valuable. But I guess valuing a child’s process is rare. It is so rare that A had an audience of 20,000 people watch her paint! Having adopted Magda Gerber’s tactic of watching my children play, I couldn’t believe that watching a child paint could draw such a crowd. Have those people never watched a child play? Have they never seen the value in child’s play? It seems a little absurd to me. But here at preschool engineering, I  advocate the value of child’s play. I try to help you see the pre-STEM learning that can happen in sandboxes, at the beach, in the kitchen or just on the floor of the living room. And I don’t anticipate that all of us have children who will create art, build sculptures, or otherwise hone their craft to the point of world-renowned fame. However, if we value our children and their play then they will earn family-renowned fame and that will be enough. 

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