Virtual art program engages and educates children during COVID-19


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Before COVID-19 disrupted education in the United States, an estimated 1.6 million children between the ages of five and seventeen were homeschooled, representing just over three percent of the total number of children. ‘school-age children.

But today, virtually all kids, Kindergarten to Grade 12, study at home, using a concocted mix of online instructions, videos, and collaborative presentations using meeting tools on the web. Internet like Skype or Zoom.

“Art, culture and creativity have always made a difference in powerful ways, especially during difficult times. Being inspired and creative hasn’t been canceled.

Their tutors, meanwhile, have had to become additional educators and turn to the arts – from music and movies to theater, painting and poetry – to keep children engaged in learning and pushing for panic. in the background.

Fortunately, many museums, galleries and visual artists have joined the fray.

One example is Keep Kids Smart with ART, a program sponsored by the Boca Raton Museum of Art in Florida, which offers a free online program that not only introduces viewers to a wide range of existing artwork, but also offers constantly updated suggestions, via the museum’s Facebook and Instagram pages, for spin-off projects at home.

“Art, culture and creativity have always made a difference in powerful ways, especially during difficult times,” the museum’s executive director, Irving Lippman, wrote in a press release. “Being inspired and creative hasn’t been canceled.”


The seventy-year-old museum, with its own art school and art faculty, features two exhibits in this educational effort. The first one, Look at me, focuses on sixty self-portraits from the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC, which were completed between 1901 and 2015.

The selections presented include paintings, drawings and woodcuts by renowned artists, including María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Chuck Close, Edward Hopper, Jacob Lawrence, Alice Neel, Louise Nevelson, Alison Saar, Roger Shimomura and Lee Simonson. The styles are varied, but all are intended to elicit an emotional response that gives students a starting point to create something of their own.

The second online exhibition, Edward Steichen: In the exaltation of flowers, presents viewers with seven three-meter-high wall panels depicting two women and dozens of flowers that Steichen painted for the New York home of Eugene and Agnes Meyer, him a successful investment banker, and she a journalist and social activist. The website features the signs alongside a photograph of purple and blue delphiniums. The suggested task asks the viewer to cut shapes from pieces of multi-colored construction paper to create a “flower mosaic” in response.

The Museum insists that the focus should be on pleasure and not on production. And the goal? Pleasure.

But as important as it is to foster enjoyable activities for children locked inside, art promotes more than just a healthy imagination. In fact, educators say that art allows children to integrate sensory, cognitive, emotional and motor development. Additionally, experts credit art, music and literature for fueling awareness and respect for others. They also say it promotes creativity, problem-solving skills, self-expression, and increased self-awareness. Plus, doing something inventive reduces stress, which is increasingly needed in these uncertain times.

Artist Marcia Annenberg, an arts education teacher at Teachers College of Columbia University, calls Keep Kids Smart with ART evocative and notes that the works on display in Look at me suggest a variety of projects in addition to those offered by the museum.

Take the painting by María Magdalena Campos-Pons, When I’m not here / Estoy Alla [I Am There], which depicts the artist holding a plant native to his Cuban homeland while standing still, deep in thought.

“Have you ever felt blocked and longed to be somewhere else?” Annenberg asks. A parent or guardian, she says, can ask a child to take a picture of themselves holding an object that reveals something about who they are, maybe a basketball, a skateboard, something they made or favorite garment. They can also place the image in a place they hope to visit on a day or a place they have visited and missed.

Likewise, she says that Lee Simonson’s 1912 self-portrait, showing the artist standing with an apple in hand and a bowl of fruit nearby, “is unified by an intense saturation of color,” something that could lead to a discussion on primary and secondary. colors and their impact on sighted viewers. His suggested homework? Use a color wheel and create a self portrait using two opposing hues.

Both suggestions, she notes, will work best with children in grade five or older.


Elly Lonon, author of Among the liberal elite: the road trip to discover societal inequalities solidified by Trump, columnist at McSweeney’s Internet Trend, and mother of two school-aged boys, agrees but adds another caveat. “Much of this home schooling story asks kids to stand still,” Lonon says. “We are all so anxious, we have to move whenever possible. Lessons should be twenty minutes or less. This is the ideal point of a young child’s attention span.

This explains why Lonon has not yet used Keep Kids Smart with ART with his children. Nonetheless, she says she is grateful that the museum stepped up and created the program, if not for her family, then for others.

Likewise, she notes that this trend has spread to other art museums across the country, including the Brooklyn Museum in New York and the Albany Museum of Art in Georgia (via her Facebook page).

Many individual designers also do what they can. Among them, Mo Willems, artist in residence at the Kennedy Center (his class is offered daily at 1 p.m. EST on his YouTube channel); illustrator and author Jarrett J. Krosoczka (his class is offered daily at 2 p.m. EST on his YouTube channel); children’s book illustrator Carson Ellis (@carsonellis); and Wendy MacNaughton (her class is offered at 1 p.m. EST, daily @wendymac).

A new extended video for “Eye to I: Self Portraits from the National Portrait Gallery” at the Boca Raton Museum of Art is now available online for the home public.

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Kayleen C. Rice

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