According to a law passed in 2010, there is now a National Arts in Education Week in September. That’s significant, because it marks a time when the federal government decided to recognize that arts are important to education — which is not always a given, especially when budgets are tight. That’s the case this year, but thanks to the many, many online arts classes available these days, it doesn’t have to mean we’ll deprive our children of a creative education.
We honestly don’t know what our kids’ music and art classes (let alone fancier subjects like theater and dance) are going to look like in public schools this year, especially given the mess of in-person and distance learning. Some specialty teachers are having to teach regular academics in order to keep their jobs. Some are doing their best to turn their traditional curricula into online art classes. Some are teaching it in the classroom but with limited art supplies and contact with the students’ work, in order to maintain social-distancing. Whatever the situation, we really hope they figure out how to keep arts in the schools one way or another, because it is so necessary to making us human. People, and children especially, connect to each other and connect to their feelings through the art. And we hate to use this phrase, but now more than ever, we could really use those connections.
The kids art classes we have found online won’t take the place of a live studio, but they do temporarily fill that gap in our children’s lives. We’re not just talking about visual art, but also dance, theater, and music — which present more of a challenge in video instruction but has not yet proved impossible. So there are some awkward pauses thanks to Zoom. So the notes get a little warped and the color a little faded or exaggerated. If the Ancient Greek actors could manage without electricity on their stages, we can manage with an excess amount of it.
A strange side effect of the pandemic is that artists whose careers have been on pause this year have taken the time to share their talents with the next generation, whether to make ends meet or to feel connected to the world in some way. For either reason, we are forever grateful. This explosion in online art classes means that kids from all over the country can take a class in New York City or Iowa. And the subject matter available to them is endless. Does your kid want to take a standard watercolor class or enroll in a course about Japanese printmaking? Your ballet-loving child can take a five minute break from the barre (or a chair) and tune in to a free West African dance lesson sponsored by Lincoln Center. And if their school schedule is erratic, they have many on-demand options that will fit into other times.
Taking art home also doesn’t necessarily mean nonstop screen time. In addition to online art classes, we also have included subscription craft boxes and free printable projects, to give those eyes and devices a break. And we’re not suggesting that all our children will be creating masterpieces. This is about education and expression. Oh, and also, a lot of fun.
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