Guest Blog: What is Art?

Due to a truly hectic schedule, I’ve not had chance to update my blog. And, believe me, there’s been so much that I’ve been wanting to share! This will be a collaborative blog post connected to a very interesting project that I’m very fortunate to be involved with. Written by Rebecca Boyle Suh, Executive Chairman for Artis, this is the follow up on an interview about a competition among primary school children to answer the question ‘What is Art?’ in no more than 10 words. Quite a challenge!

Children’s minds are fluid and free. They explore in an undaunted manner and have a flexibility in the way they connect things. But encouraging children to develop their own imagination doesn’t always fit into the school setting where their minds can become restricted by categorisations and boundaries.

Schools and teachers face pressure to produce results and hit targets. Incorporating the arts across the curriculum can help teachers approach subjects in many different ways, giving them tools to teach flexibly. As a child, I was very lucky to have a maths teacher who could see that teaching me in a formal way was not registering with me. But because he could see my interest in music, he was able to transform his teaching into a language I could relate to. Fostering a sense of exploration in children is really important when dealing with subjects that may feel more rigid in form.

The body is also important in the learning process. Sound is all around us, and just as things around us vibrate, the body vibrates too and receives resonance. When I’m teaching young children, I like for them to discover what a sound is with their body. Because if you imagine that sounds only comes from musical instruments, you already have a barrier there. But if you ask a youngster to create a happy sound from a cushion or a chair or a school desk then suddenly this object becomes a thing of exploration for them, and they’re using their bodies in ways they might not when in contact with an actual musical instrument. I encourage them to feel the sound, to analyse it in accordance with their particular journey and thoughts, and to develop a sense of discovery and freedom regarding who they are.

Some children might say “I can feel that drum through my feet” and someone else might say “I feel that drum through my tummy.” Whilst the eyes are unable to pick that up, your actual body becomes the resonator. In fact, the body will receive more of that sound than the ear, the ear will have lost that sound long before the body has, and the sound will resonate far longer through the whole body. What young children can do is really tap into the senses. It’s not just that the eyes are there to see, or the ears are there to hear; everything is connected. Which means we can relate to things around us in greater ways than we probably are.

And the wonderful thing about the arts is that you never know what’s going to happen because you’re feeding off the environment you’re in and the people you’re with. Art helps you become comfortable with the unexpected, the uncertain. It allows a form of creativity whereby if something doesn’t go your way you can feed off that and let it take you in a completely new direction.

I think this is why the arts in education is so important. Art allows us to listen in different ways, to see in different ways, to connect in different ways, to move in different ways. But if you’re introducing arts at a later age, there are only a few who can hold onto that childlike curiosity, to have freedom in their own thinking and to do something that is truly them. The younger we can catch children the better.

Image: © Artis

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