Today's Post is by artist, Deber Klein, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Find out how you can be a guest author.
The Young Artists of Happy Hearts Kindergarten
The basement of the old church was cool and damp, and smelled of concrete mingled with fresh baked sugar cookies. Every step of my little Saddle Oxford shoes could be heard echoing down the narrow cement stairway at 9:00 each weekday morning, and then heard again while going back up with the noonday sun directly overhead. The only windows that I can remember were high and small, so it was dark and sometimes spooky -- especially when walking alone down the long hallway which led to the bathroom. However, that hallways's walls, being dressed with ever changing brightly colored artwork, made my journey far less threatening. These welcoming works were created by the young artists of the Happy Hearts Kindergarten.
While learning the ABC's was an important part of the school's curriculum, "The Arts" were definitely a high priority at Happy Hearts. My favorite activity was daily art time, which was preceded by the ceremonial opening of my most treasured, eight color Prang Crayon Box. You may be familiar with these, as they were standard issue at the time. They were big, fat crayons -- flat on one side so that they stayed in place, not rolling off the desk. I remember the scent of Prang's "secret wax forumula" as particularly delightful.
We would pull them out at "coloring time" as the teacher passed out simple blue outlined pictures for us to color, called mimeographs -- they too had a strong scent -- strangely of medicine. It was my habit to hold them up to my nose and take a big whiff, followed by a sniff of my crayon of choice before beginning the task at hand.
I labored hard at the coloring technique taught to me by Sandy Link, a girl who not only was brave enough to eat a dogwood leaf just to impress the boys, but was the finest colorer in class. Being a perfectionist, I didn't always finish my Little Dutch Girl by the end of the appointed time, and would sadly put everything away to be completed later at home - where I'd have to resort to our broken, less fragrant crayons which were peppered with sand from having been foolishly carried outside on sunny mornings.
After those carefree years at Happy Hearts, I went on to South Ocala Elementary School. Compared to kindergarten, first grade was a grave disappointment. Though I did like reading and writing, the art teacher visited only once a week with her Cart of Art... that special day which I pretended was designed especially for me. But sadly, 45 minutes a week just wasn't enough.
Art Is No Longer A Priority In Schools
Lately, when these memories come to mind, they arrive with a tinge of disappointment, magnified by the fact that many public schools in North Carolina are now dropping art classes. I don't know if the elimination of art in local schools is primarily for financial reasons, or if it's so teachers can focus on a traditional curriculum of reading, writing and 'rithmetic (with a bit of sports and music added).
It's important to note that not all children are meant to work as future business managers, investors or doctors. Though these hard times have made financial income a more powerful motivation than ever, art still goes beyond the "practical" side of life. It isn't only about money, markets and finances. If it were, most of us would have given up long ago.
I'd be interested in knowing what you think about the lack of art curriculum in our schools, your childhood memories of art, and the projects you and others in your community are doing to enhance the artistic experiences of children, yours or otherwise. Maybe together, we can help today's young artists find a way to make their own dreams come true. It would be a shame to lose talent that is destined to contribute to the world of tomorrow. I welcome your comments.