What art did for us in 2020

This year, the arts industry has taken one of the biggest financial hits of any industry.  And yet, we have arguably never needed it as much as we did this year.  

In a year filled with stress, longing, grief, frustration, confusion, sickness, loss, and more, my family has come to appreciate and depend on the creative arts like in no other year.  It was through art that we were able to find beauty.  It was art that transported our minds and hearts to other places outside of the home that we were locked down in, and we’ve learned that art can powerfully communicate hope in a broken world.

Here are some of the ways that art helped us thrive in 2020:

Theatre:  We watched productions from the National Theatre, including our first pantomime, we tuned into various Shakespeare plays by the Globe, we watched the 25 year anniversary of Phantom of the Opera (Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Show Must Go On YouTube series), and became huge Hamilton fans (Disney Plus).  The kids on our street also got together over the summer holiday and performed Macbeth for the neighbors.  

Books:  We read countless picture books and were even able to share many with friends via our Zoom storytime sessions. We all individually read more broadly and deeply than any other year. And we are finally about to wrap up reading Little Women aloud (despite pleas to just give up and watch the movie already)!

Music:  The kids continued their lessons with a teacher who every week brought the joy of music to our home (even if virtually for a while).  They have shared their music with neighbors, with our church, and we have enjoyed making music together in the home.  

Fine Arts:  We have both studied more works of art and created a lot more of our own art this year than any other.  Inspired by various artists, we tried our hand at impressionist paintings, expressionist art, portraits, recycled art and the kids even put on their own neighborhood exhibition. 

This is not to mention the hours of music (Over 48,000 minutes according to Spotify) we listened to, dance routines the kids learned, films we watched, etc.

Simply put, art kept our bodies busy (along with my husband faithfully getting the kids out of the house for exercise) and our minds active. If you are an artist, I want to thank you for being “obedient to your work” during such a difficult time.  I’ve created this print for you, taken from Madeleine L’Engle’s, Walking on Water:

The benefits of art do not, of course, only apply to times of pandemic.  From an educational standpoint, Elliot Eisner (1933-2014), professor of art education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, advocated that the arts were critical to developing skills in young people that could not be developed in other “academic” disciplines. 

Click here to download Eisner’s 10 lessons the arts teach (National Art Education Association).  It’s worth printing out and keeping in a place that you’ll review it often throughout the year.

Let’s make 2021 a year filled with art opportunities.  Perhaps you’ll invest in an art gallery membership, commission a local artist, read and write more poetry, attend local music gigs, read some great books aloud, make music with your family, or take a class at a local art studio.

A couple of artsy sites that we frequent:

Tate Kids: This site is loaded with bios, games, activities, art projects, and more.  

Skillshare (14 day free trial) has countless courses that you can take from drawing to videography to any other art or craft you can think of!  

One more thing…What do you do with all your children’s art?  

When we are creating something, the question I now ask is, who are you creating this piece for?  This allows for 1) Less art to clutter up the house and 2) The chance to visit someone else, make someone smile, etc.

For the pieces they choose to keep, here’s how we display them in our home.  When there is new piece to be put up, we take a photo of the old work, and stick it into a digital album to eventually be printed into a gallery of the child’s artwork (at least that’s the idea).  

How have you seen art benefit your own children?  How do you organize your children’s art?  Leave a comment below!

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