is supposed to liberate our creative spirit, but all to often we're
afraid to set ourselves free. After all, with every act of creation,
you put your ego on the line. Will other people like this? Will they
laugh at what I've done? Can I dare to experiment with something I've
never tried before? What if it doesn' work out?
But inside a classroom at J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School there's
a quiet revolution going on. Armed with paints, glue, colourful bits
of cloth and paper, a group of students is restoring art to the exciting
adventure it's supposed to be. Eleven year old Krista Patterson says
that in this room, "we get to respect each other. It doesn't matter
if you're good, you just do what you can." "We're free to express
our feelings," agrees Samantha Russell, who's painting black wings
on her bird puppet.
Across the table, the youngest student in the room, nine year old
Brandon Tripp, has chosen a peacock's array of colours to paint his
puppet with its long yellow nose and purple and blue eyes. "No one
judges you," he says, twirling his puppet's single leg in front of
him as he marvels at what he's been able to create.
And art is more than just paints and shapes, eleven-year-old Andy
Nesbitt says. It's about who you are as a person. "You can express
your feelings by making something."
On any other afternoon after school, you'd find most of these young
students at home watching television or playing on their PlayStation
- passive recipients of someone else's creativity. But on Tuesdays,
they get to be the ones who put on the show. These students - and
eight others at Archie Stouffer Elementary School in Minden - are
among the current batch of young people benefiting from the Art Adventure
program. Using money from the federal government's child benefit program,
Family Services of Haliburton County offers four such programs a year.
In a few weeks, when programs at JDHES and ASES wind down, new programs
will start at Wilberforce Elementary and Cardiff Elementary. Family
Services provides a recreation co-ordinator - Sue Ferren in Haliburton
and Cindy St. Pierre in Minden - to support the artist who spearheads
the program. In Haliburton Fay Wilkinson has volunteered to spend
seven of her Tuesday afternoons teaching the students how to find
their inner artist, while in Minden, Michelle Pierson is doing the
same thing on Monday afternoons. (Karen Phipps, who runs the local
healthy snack programs, makes sure there are lots of nutritional munchies
on hand to get the students through till dinner.)
The goal is to provide an environment where they feel safe to be themselves,
says Wilkinson. She believes that everyone is creative, only some
of us have shut that part of ourselves down. Maybe our earlier efforts
were criticized or corrected. Maybe our art classes at school were
too regimented, taught by people who weren't comfortable with themselves
and this whole creative thing.
By setting the tone of mutual respect and support early in the adventure,
Fay's helped the students feel comfortable with their creative side.
"When they first get together they're apprehensive," Ferren says,
noting that in the first week, some of the students declined taking
part in the "sharing time" that opens each session. "The program takes
them out of their comfort zone." Within a few sessions, however, the
students are quite at ease about explaining that, in one example,
their mask represents a hunter who paints his face the same colour
as the animal he just killed. And if that happens to be a yellow deer,
then his face is yellow.