“…And so we say ladies first.”
As he finished reading, he lowered his paper, looked down and mumbled “It’s not very good, is it?”
“Are you kidding!” I cried. “It’s amazing!” His dad and siblings echoed their agreement. We were blown away by the poem our ten-year-old had written. It was an epic folktale of sorts that recounted the origin of the phrase ladies first. Purely fictional, of course. Fictional and genius (said the poet’s mother).
We talked a few more minutes about our favorite elements and asked him questions about his process, the challenges he encountered, and what he especially liked about the piece. Then we piled into the car and headed to his basketball game.
When we returned home two hours later, my thoughts turned to his poem, now tucked away in his binder. We had spent a few minutes engaging with him about his monumental work, and then spent two hours cheering at his basketball game – one of many in a long season that, frankly, he wasn’t even enjoying that much.
I couldn’t help but wonder if the amount of time spent on each gave the impression that we value basketball more than poetry? Sports over the arts?
Don’t get me wrong, I like sports and believe participation in them benefits kids in many ways – learning to work as a team, to win and lose with grace, to work hard, to be coachable, etc. As a parent, I also appreciate that the role of “sports fan” is fairly straightforward. Time consuming, but straightforward. To be a sports fan you simply sit in the stands and cheer.
But what does comparable support of the arts look like? What does it look like to be an “art fan?”
Performing arts like dance, music, and theater do provide athletic-like opportunities to fill theater seats and shout Bravo!, but recitals, concerts, and performances tend to come around far less often than sporting events. Then there are art forms like painting, photography, or poetry that don’t readily provide fans with stand-up-and-cheer type opportunities.
As I mulled this over, I was determined to find a way to further celebrate our son’s poetic achievement. I wanted to communicate to him, and to the rest of our children, that we support their stories, creations, and artistic aspirations as much as we do their dribbling, batting, or goal scoring. I wanted them to know that we are their art fans just as surely as we are their sports fans.
But how exactly were we going to do that?
BECOMING AN ART FAN
Five years have passed, and our house is now full of budding artists who have given me and my husband plenty of opportunity to explore the role of art fan. Generally speaking, our art fan efforts have focused on 1) celebrating art as a family and 2) encouraging our kids to share their art with others. Sometimes it is no more involved than a quick “Oooh, I like your painting” as I rush to get dinner on the table, and sometimes a bit more time and creative energy is required on our part. But always we look for ways to cheer them on.
Celebrating Art as a Family
We provide opportunities for our kids to display, publish, or perform their art at home as often as possible. This might have an informal “Hey, look what I did!” feel, or it might be something we plan and schedule in advance for a more formal performance or presentation. Either way, here are some examples of what celebrating art looks like for our family:
- Turn the living room into a theater for a performance of a play, dance, or other act.
- Stage home music recitals.
- Ooh and ahh over forts, towers, and other constructed works of art.
- Allow kids to read written pieces aloud and encourage them to “self-publish.” (This could be as fancy as paying a company like Shutterfly to print a book, or as simple as stapling pages together with construction paper covers.)
- Play kid-created games.
- Premier new films with pomp and circumstance.
- Savor culinary creations.
- Reserve wall space to display visual art.
The home stage is without doubt the most important place our kids share their art. The support and encouragement they receive from us gives them the courage they need to keep creating, keep experimenting, and ultimately be willing to share their art with a broader audience.
Sharing Art with Others
Encouraging our kids to share their art–and helping them make it happen-communicates clearly that we are indeed their art fans. Like any good fans, we desire to increase the fandom and share the joy with others, be it with friends, neighbors, members of the greater community, or grandparents (who tend to be naturally-gifted art fans).
The following list contains some of my favorite avenues through which kids can share their art. Some are easy to pull off. Some require a bit more effort. But all can be a lot of fun – a blessing to both artist and fans. (Note: many can also provide fantastic opportunities to practice hospitality in your neighborhood.)
- Set up an “art museum” for folks to come and tour.
- Have a neighborhood Christmas recital/sing along.
- Invite friends over to watch a living room play. Better yet, have friends be a part of the play and then perform for all the parents.
- Host a “premier party” to screen a new film production.
- Start a writer’s circle for young writers to come and share/discuss their writing with each other.
- Surprise someone with the gift of artwork.
- Audition for local theater productions.
- Enter art contests, film festivals, or music competitions.
- Submit written work to magazines or journals that feature young writers.
- Perform at a local nursing home (Note: This will be the easiest-to-please, most loving audience your kids will ever perform in front of. It is a fantastic way to share art, gain performance experience, and spread some serious joy.)
I realize now that what we did with our son’s poem that night–praising, discussing, questioning–even though it was only for a few minutes, was vitally important. Our encouragement gave him the courage to submit it (at our urging) to a magazine that features young writers. It turns out that we were not the only ones who thought it was amazing; it was chosen for publication! But even if it hadn’t been, the fact that he was brave enough to send his work into the world was something to stand up and cheer about. Which we did, in our own art fan kind of way. And that, ultimately, is what being an art fan is all about.
Featured photo by freepik