At the dinner table a three-year-old is squeezing ketchup out of the bottle onto her plate and she causally remarks, “This looks like Jackson Pollock’s painting.” Her parents are more than a little amused and wonder how she knows who Jackson Pollack is. As it turns out, the three- year-olds at the Charlotte Children’s Center have more than a passing knowledge of artists like Jackson Pollock and Grandma Moses due to an innovate focus on the arts at the Center.
This focus on the arts recently culminated in a Center-wide art show that was held at the Charlotte Senior Center. More than 60 different pieces of art were displayed ranging from canvases conceived in the style of artists such as Pollock and Moses to sculptures modeled after Degas ballerinas. Each of the classrooms worked with the school’s contracted art teacher, Amy Tewksbury to come up with a special project to work on over a period of three months.
The group of threes called the Explorers took a special interest in the work of Pollock after checking a book out of the library titled, Action Jackson. The book is written for preschoolers but tells some of Pollock’s life story and how he came to create some of his canvases. After reading the book many times, the children spent the next several weeks working with paints they had thinned making it drip and splatter on various surface such as newsprint, construction paper and even fabric.
Next, the children’s teachers held a class meeting and asked the children if they were interested in creating a collaborative canvas in Pollock’s style. The children were excited by this idea and insisted they wanted to use house paint just like Pollock did. They also chose the colors they wanted to use and the brushes. The teachers know that house paint and three-year-olds don’t necessarily mix but the problem was solved by having the children wear painter’s jump suits and shower caps while they were painting. Each child in the classroom had the opportunity to spend individual time working on the canvas adding layer after layer of paint.
Other pieces of art work revolved around children’s books and literature. For example, another group of three- and four-year-olds called the Voyagers used the book, Fish Eyes by Lois Elhert as inspiration for their artwork. The children also began by spending weeks experimenting and working with their medium which in this case was water colors.
Over a period of several months the children returned to their mediums and each time they gained a greater understanding of the materials and confidence in how to use them to express themselves. All of this culminated with the Art Show where families gathered to see their children’s special art projects framed and displayed. In addition to the art work on display each classroom also had a documentation panel that told the story through pictures and words of how the children came to create their pieces and some of what they were talking about and thinking while they were involved in the process. All this tells the children in a very concrete way that we value them and the work they create.