9 surprising benefits kids get from art classes

On our facebook page, we like to post links to studies about the many ways that art education benefits children – besides the obvious stand-alone merits of learning skills in art technique, history and theory.  Numerous studies prove that kids who study art do better in school and are more creative; we’ve included some links are at the end of this post so you can see them yourselves.painting class kids

But what we’d like to share today are our own observations that we have seen since 1999 – that’s more than 14 years! – at The Messy Artist, teaching thousands of children over the course of that time.  Here are the benefits for kids that we have seen:

  1. A way to communicate without words.  There is a lot of talk about social-emotional intelligence these days (see NY Times magazine article).  Basically defined, social-emotional intelligence teaches kids to tune in to and mange their feelings.  Art gives them a tool to do this; kids can process their emotions by drawing, painting or sculpting something that relates to what’s going on inside them.  And that’s a great way to stay in touch with an inner emotional life.painting class children
  1. Independence.  Our activities and kids’ art lessons are developed to be age appropriate, and therefore encourage independence. As a child progresses through the class and realizes his or her successes, s/he becomes more willing to try out new ideas and becomes more self-assured.  We encourage caregivers in the younger classes to adopt the “hands off” approach and let the children make the artistic decisions –  there is no wrong way to make art.  The “right way” is the way the artist (in this case the child) thinks the materials should be used.  The process of expressing an artistic vision builds children’s self-esteem and sense of autonomy.new jersey kids art classes
  1. Focus.  It takes a while to make a piece of art.  Sometimes completing a canvas or sculpture can take an entire class time – or two.  Children learn to focus on their project and not get distracted.  Which leads us to:nj kids art class
  1. Patience.  Kids learn that if they keep working on it, their artwork will be finished.  They SEE the results of their work and learn the value of patience when their art project is complete.fun nj childrens art
  1. Long term planning.  In our classes for older children and the more advanced classes, many of the projects can take numerous steps, over several classes and weeks.  With the instructor’s help, the children learn to break the project down in to a number of steps and figure out what they want to do in each one.  For instance,  in making these figure sculptures, students must decide the pose, create it from wire, coat that in rigid wrap plaster and finally paint it.  Those are a lot of decisions to make to get to the end product that the artists has in mind.nj kids sculpture class
  1. Fun.  Yes, we have fun in art class!  Being free to create and use art supplies (have you seen our storeroom?) is a lot of fun.  We admit it!nj art class
  1. Bonding with adults. Our classes are small – about 12 kids, max – and the students really get to spend time with the teachers during class time.  They get to develop a close relationship with an adult over the course of a session.childrens art class nj
  2.  Confidence.  Even a child who enters a class with no previous art experience leaves with greater skill.  As they look back over the work they have created during the session, the can see the gains they have made have a confidence that they can make art. And one thing we like to tell our student artists: each artist is one of a kind and only he or she  – out of everyone in the whole wide world –  could have made the piece of art that they’ve created.art class new jersey morris county
  3. Respect and appreciation for other’s work. We often encourage students to look around at the art that the other students are doing. Many times students feel that their classmates are better artists than they are. We discuss how looking at your fellow student’s work is a great way to learn and get new ideas; artists all throughout history looked at and even copied other artist’s work. Copying is a compliment! When we copy someone, we often alter it and make it our own in some way.  tweens art class njWe also often have the students give a positive critique of each other’s artwork. You’d be amazed at how great the kids are at this; they are always able to find something supportive to say about everyone’s art. This is a wonderful skill and constructive for both the student reviewing the art and the student whose art is being reviewed! A win-win all around.new jersey kids art class

Many of the things that children learn in art class help them do well in school and open their minds to new ways of thinking.  We can’t guarantee of course that your child will do better in school after taking art classes, but there is not doubt they will gain skills that  will help them in all kinds of ways in life.   Have you noticed any benefits not on this list?  We’d love to hear what you think!

How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement   http://www.nasaa-arts.org/Research/Key-Topics/Arts-Education/critical-evidence.pdf

Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught? http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/15/magazine/can-emotional-intelligence-be-taught.html?_r=0

Fact Sheet About the Benefits of Arts Education for Children http://www.artsusa.org/get_involved/advocacy/funding_resources/default_005.asp

New NEA Research Report Shows Potential Benefits of Arts Education for At-Risk Youth    http://arts.gov/news/2012/new-nea-research-report-shows-potential-benefits-arts-education-risk-youth#sthash.UMdOTnbR.dpuf


hello Viviana!

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Viviana in front of a mandala she painted in the entry way of The Messy Artist

The Messy Artist studio is a wonderful place to create art, and one of the reasons it is so special is our instructor Viviana.  Her influence is spread throughout the studio, reaching into places most people don’t realize   – from planning the look of the interior, creating part of the curriculum, designing the website, and of course, to her teaching style.  Viviana has a unique combination of honesty, respect and insight which allows her to give accurate feedback and advice with kindness. She brings a distinctive perspective and personality to the Messy Artist (and her own artwork, which is shown at the end of this interview).

We thought there would be no better person to start our new series on the staff here at The Messy Artist, so meet Viviana!

(Video by Catherine Stratton of 9Beach Films)

What are the first art experiences you remember as a child?

Surprisingly, I don’t remember drawing or painting much. What I remember most vividly is my mom teaching me how to sew when I was six years old. She used to let me take apart my old shirts to see how they were put together and to use as a pattern, and she would give me some of my grandmother’s precious fabric to use as material to make a new shirt. I also remember repeating the same process with my Barbie’s clothes. I deconstructed their outfits to use as patterns, and I made new dresses for them. I used sharpies to dye their hair, add nail polish, change their makeup, and draw tattoos. I was the only kid with awesomely funky Barbies.

What is your background in art?

I graduated summa cum laude from Kean University with a bachelor’s degree in fine art. My concentration was in portrait drawing and clay sculptures.

How long have you worked at the Messy Artist? What did you start as and what do you do now?

I began working at The Messy Artist in 2006 as an assistant. As my art knowledge expanded and I gained experience by working alongside my talented co-workers, I began to have more and more responsibilities. About six years later, I created the Art Foundations Intensive program, and was given the title of Director of Fine Arts. In addition, I do the majority of the graphic design for The Messy Artist, as well as maintain the website.

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Viviana entertaining our youngest students during story time

What are some of your favorite projects or topics to teach?

I love teaching projects that introduce the idea of feelings in relationship to art. I find that many people measure an art piece’s greatness solely by its technical precision and the beauty of the work. However, true art is the product of intense emotion, either positive or negative. Teaching this concept to children is the most rewarding for me, since I feel like I’m opening their eyes to something they may never have thought of before. I enjoy giving children the permission they need to release their emotions through their art. Sometimes this can be very therapeutic, since they may not have the words to express what they feel.

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Working with a student in a private lesson

What sort of art do you do on your own time?

I enjoy drawing faces and figures in a variety of different media, including pencil and pastel. I think the best way to describe the visual aspect of my art is fashion magazine meets “Saw.” As for the meaning of it all, I choose to explore stress, pain, and tragedy. While the pieces emanate from my own experiences in the past, I believe that all human beings are pre-loaded with a range of emotions. What I enjoy doing, is forcing those pre-loaded emotions to the surface and conveying them in my own visual way to open a doorway to what resides in all human beings.

What advice do you have for kids who say they are not good artists?

Many children in my classes say to me, “Miss Viviana, I can’t do this!” My immediate reaction is to ask them to change their phrase to, “I can’t do this yet.” I like to encourage them that there is hope; even if they cannot do something in that particular moment, that there will come a time when they will be able to do it. And a time even beyond that where they will surpass their wildest expectations. I borrowed this advice from a wise college professor of mine. I was watching him render an apple, and I told him I didn’t think I could do it. He said, “Maybe you can’t do it yet, but you will.” And now I can.

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Creating a sculpture from wire and rigid wrap

What advice do you have for parents to help them to encourage their children in art?

The advice I have is simple, and cliché. I would remind them that every child is different. “Art” has so many different facets, that it’s difficult to expect each child to fit the mold of performing one kind of art. Some children may gravitate towards the finer arts, like drawing or painting. But some others will take other avenues, such as product design, or becoming a pastry chef. It is important to expose children to different forms of art, keep an open mind, and encourage young children to do the same.

Do you have a favorite food?

I’m a big fan of sushi and Vosges chocolate bars. However, my good friends know that the way to my heart is through coffee.

How about hobbies?

Although socializing monopolizes most of my free time, I also enjoy more solitary hobbies, such as origami, quilling, and making jewelry. I like watching horror movies, singing obnoxiously loudly to music in my car, and reading Stephen King books. In the summer, I spend most of my free time outside, at the beach, swimming, and stargazing. Recently, I’ve taken up cake decorating.

Favorite museum/gallery/online place to look at art?

My favorite museum will always be the MET, mostly because of the large amount of time I spent there in college sketching sculptures, photographing paintings, and writing papers on the works there. In terms of places online, I would say I love looking at thisiscolossal.com. They feature the unique works of contemporary artists.

Favorite place you have been or would like to go?

I’ve actually never been outside of the country! I long to travel to Japan, China, or India. I’m fascinated by eastern cultures, since they are so different from my own. I would love nothing more than to immerse myself in their art, fashion, language, religion, and way of life for a while.

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A few of the expressive faces of Viviana

Below is a gallery of Viviana’s artworks  – please click on any image to enlarge and start a slideshow.