Young Artists Making Revolution Irresistible

We are not staging a revolution. But I read an article by Lisa Russell today on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation blog, Impatient Optimists, which had originally been posted on, and it struck a chord.

We have talked at our dinner table about how the problems of the world will be solved by artists who can combine math, science, creativity, engineering and passion.

I believe that there is art behind every great and courageous act. I believe that the art devised by children, detailing their elaborate schemes to change the world, to invent machines that will fly – doesn’t matter that we already have that technology – when a kid invents it independently, it is an astounding thing.

When children are given power to express their artistic, creative voices – I believe mountains are moved, heroes are born, kingdoms may be toppled, revolutions may be fueled. Organizations of adults are mobilized.

It is impossible for me not to think of Caines Arcade and the filmmaker Nirvan who created the organization Imagination Foundation to find, foster, and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in kids. It is a recent found brilliance and spark of hope and delight for me.

Tonight was an Art Night at our house. We were rearranging the living room to make room for presents and decorations. Yes. We are a bit behind in this area. As I was moving books so we could move the bookshelf, I happened upon Creative Time and Space: Making Room for Making Art, by Rice Freeman-Zachery. In it there are gorgeous photos of artist’s spaces, which make me drool to have all those art supplies so neatly organized. But it is more than creating a physical space. It is also about developing mental space to create art. We talked about the regular habit of art. I get up very early every morning to write before anyone else awakes, before I go out to feed the chickens, ducks, goats, cats and bunnies on our farm, and before I leave for work.

When I get home from a day at my office, I am generally exhausted, and my kids are at the height of excitement bursting into explosions of sound and bounce throughout the house. While looking at this wonderful book together, we started brainstorming about time and space for them to create their boundless art, about making a ritual of time between when mommy gets home and dinner is served – where they can sketch, dream, ponder, create, invent, design, or engineer greatness. At the same time, we will be creating a cocoon of calm that morphs into a lovely creature of intelligent conversation around the dinner table.

We have so much more fun when we are all calm and focused on dialogue that moves us. If the kids are just bouncing around stressing the parents out – it is not as much fun for any of us. The kids totally agreed. And immediately wanted to start sketching in their journals. I decided to read to them about one of our favorite artists while they drew. I pulled up a Wikipedia article about Leonardo da Vinci and read parts of it out loud. I moved on to famous quotes of his, and the kids drew and sketched, and tried their hands at backwards writing, as da Vinci did in his sketchbooks to keep people from stealing his ideas.

We discussed the idea of a Renaissance Man – someone who is equally gifted in a wide variety of talents. Ben, my eight-year old said, “I am one of those.” He is. He is an artist, an engineer, a writer, a welder, a movie-maker. It is endless with him, and his confidence to claim his talent as his own, to embrace it and always want to push to become even more, astounds me.

Ben showed me one of his sketches from tonight, and it was of the moment a match strikes a hard surface and sparks with little wisps of smoke just before it catches fire. Oh, that boy will light up the world.

Bean drew a picture of a rifle and wrote Dad & Mom on it, because it is going to be a gift. He wants me to frame it. He might well shoot his eye out, but he is a love and a budding artist in his own right.

For all of 5- and 8-years old, I have every reason to believe that they will change the world, as will any other child given the gift of attention and encouragement to create.

photo from here.

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