Last weekend I participated in the annual SmARTsplash event at the Canton Cultural Center for the Arts. For the past couple of years, I have been hired by ArtsinStark to create a “Dialogues” mural with children at the event. It is an activity that I enjoy, because children being creative is so fun!
The entire event offers a number of creative activities for children and also showcases performances and artistic creations from various groups in Stark County. My mural is one of those activities.
I wanted to do something that captured the essence of childhood aspiration, so I used my mural to ask the age old question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I painted the background and the child images beforehand. At the event, I and a volunteer helper asked children that stopped by to draw a picture of what they wanted to do when they grew up.
I emphasized to my volunteer helper that I wanted to say, “What do you want to do…” instead of “What do you want to be…”. It is a slight distinction, but an important one. I wanted them to focus on what they wanted to do, because they have no real choice about what they will be.
After they drew their pictures, I glued them into the background of the mural, and I put a wash of color over them. As you look at the mural you are drawn into looking at all of the children’s aspirations.
As I glued the images in, I listened to the interactions between the children and the adults with them as they drew under my volunteer’s guidance. There was an awkwardness, as parents tried to explain the task to their youngsters. Their explanations often fell to traditional gender roles, girls being asked, “Do you want to be a teacher or a nurse or a ballerina?” and boys being asked, “Do you want to be a policeman or fireman or a doctor?” I say awkwardness, because they would quickly throw in some less gender specific roles after realizing what they had done.
Let’s face it, it is not easy to change our traditional ways, especially when it comes to raising children. We tend to fall back on what our parents taught us, even though intellectually, we have strong opinions different than our parents’ ideas.
I was encouraged, though, because the children, male and female, recognized that they had options that were beyond what was available when I was growing up. Two girls (apparently future entrepreneurial partners) drew pictures that said, “I want to make a bakery!” and an equal balance of males and females drew pictures of themselves as scientists. There were many children who wanted to be artists, actors, singers and sports heroes. Local universities might want to take note of how many children wanted to be veterinarians. And a number of boys said that they wanted to be “dads,” recognizing that family roles were of great value.
The purpose of a “Dialogues” mural is twofold. First, the goal is to create a dialog between the artist and the community as the artwork is created. Second, the dialog is continued as the mural is viewed by others. The first part is now complete. The second part is about to begin. The mural will be displayed in my gallery at Second April Galerie and Studios at the next Canton First Friday. After that, it will travel to different schools in the community and other locations for viewing.
I hope you get a chance to join the dialog.
Life is an Adventure!
Contact BZTAT about having a Dialogues mural created for your event!
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