Art making is a fun and rewarding way for people to express themselves and to learn a broad range of skills and concepts. In making art, students explore the materials and techniques used by artists and architects, and experience the decision-making practices that artists have used over the centuries. While many art educators emphasize the creative process and exploration through art, others focus on developing studio skills and a fully realized final product. Students interested in working further in their craft become amateur or professional artists.
Benefits of Art-Making Programs Include:
When educators emphasize the art-making process over the final product, students increase their sense of mastery, decision-making, and feeling of inclusion and independence, and ultimately grow in self-awareness. Working in groups offers opportunities for shared risk taking and completing works through teamwork, cooperation, and the exchange of ideas.
Enhancing the Curriculum
Collecting and working with natural materials to make a collage, for example, can expand students’ learning in an environmental-studies program. Science classes can use modeling and construction projects. Basic physics can be addressed through sculptural projects. Math concepts, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and geometry can be reinforced through creating patterns that incorporate both line and color.
Developing Thinking Skills
When students make art, they have the opportunity to express their feelings, fantasize, tell stories, and give their ideas concrete form. They can reflect and draw upon their everyday experiences and observations. Students find relationships between objects, consider alternatives, and make choices. They identify with the ideas and feelings explored and expressed by well-known artists.
Improving Tactile and Motor Skills
|Student creates mosaic, ArtAccess Program, Queens Museum of Art, New York|
Art making is a fascinating and effective way to introduce students to a wide variety of textures and help them develop their tactile exploration skills. Younger students develop their motor skills when working on construction or modeling projects that involve manipulating paper, cardboard, clay, plaster, and other materials.
This learning tool is a basic component in almost all programs for children. School programs frequently use art to access other areas of culture. Art making, even with limited materials and resources, can enrich almost any museum program. Paper and pencils are safe to use in most gallery settings. Create clipboards for writing and drawing with cardboard and binder clips. Then incorporate other materials.
Creating "temporary" or ephemeral art in the galleries is a good, safe alternative. No wet media or adhesives are involved; therefore it is safe to use near works of art. This exercise also emphasizes process over product, which builds confidence and encourages freedom of expression and creativity. For example, place a large 2’ x 3’ piece of white foam board on the floor. This can be your blank “canvas” on which to create your temporary work, ranging from a “Pollock” created with yarn dropped by tour participants, to a “Mondrian” made with strips of black poster board and geometric primary-colored shapes. Or to explore concepts of pattern and repetition common in almost all art, including non-Western and modern art, have each person place a repeated shape on the board.
|Art Workshop for Older Adults, Cummer Museum of Arts & Gardens, Jacksonville, FL
If possible, include art making in adult programs as well, either before or after a tour. While some older adults may initially find art making challenging, there are ways to approach art-making experiences to make them less threatening. Minimize the need for representational drawing, and emphasize process and freedom. A collage project is a good place to start. While you should emphasize process throughout, adults may prefer products and materials that are naturalistic as opposed to craft materials.
|Art Workshop for Older Adults Cummer Museum of Arts & Gardens, Jacksonville, FL|
Older adults enjoy and benefit greatly from art-making experiences. Suggestions for further research, reflection, or activities, even if they are only informally presented at the end of a tour or mentioned in an exhibition brochure or flyer, may encourage adult audiences to explore their creativity and responses to the art.
If you have a multi-visit program where participants can become comfortable with the art-making processes, consider exhibiting their work. This allows participants' friends, family and other members of the community to recognize their efforts, gives participants another chance to discuss and enjoy their work, and creates an opportunity for outreach and education for all museum audiences. You will find resources for planning an exhibition in the Community Outreach and Open House module of Art Beyond Sight's Programming A - Z.
Accommodations for Art Making by People with Disabilities
Basic supply list: long-handled paint brushes, masking tapes (assorted widths and colors) poster board/cardboard, foam board, Masonite boards, thin foam strips and scraps (packing supplies)
Some people may need thicker handles to facilitate grabbing; wrap foam and masking tape to reach the desired width. Others may need longer handles or extensions of tools. Keep long-handled paintbrushes and masking tape on hand.
Create physical, visual, or textural boundaries for work. Tape down edges of paper to table with contrasting color masking tape. This secures the object, and creates strong boundaries and a clearly defined, safe space for creativity and self-expression. Use trays to help control materials and supplies and provide a safe working area.
For wheelchair users: Some wheelchair users may want to use a slant board. There are slant boards placed on the arms of wheelchairs. Alternatives include Masonite or Plexiglas boards placed on arms of wheelchair. These can also be used as table extensions from wheelchair to worktable.
How to Get It or Make It. Cheap and Easy
You do not need expensive art supplies. For many audiences, the benefits of art making can be had with simple media: black crayon or oil pastels on white paper may provide enough contrast for individual with low vision.Go hunting and gathering. Besides your local art store, use recycled and found materials. If your museum has an in-house shop or framing studio where crates or pedestals are built, it may have scraps of foam, wood, Plexiglas, or matboard. Your gift shop or mailroom may also be a source for packing materials, foam, boxes, cardboard, etc. For household items like paper-towel tubes, cans, or plastic bottles, send an email or mailing to your docents for donations and collections. Check the butcher or meat department of your local grocery store. They may be willing to donate unused meat trays.