Benefits of Art for Children

The Importance of Accessable Art in Our Community

Mall Art Display.jpg

We have a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the creative work of PrairieArt Studio’s students and to enhance our community as well. We have been invited to display our artwork in the local Mall with an ongoing display as well as some pop up events for Halloween and at the Youth Department  of a local library.  The Mall display is in conjunction with their new hands on S.T.E.A.M. (Science, technology, engineering , arts and Math) play area which is also great for the community. I’ve written in the past of the many benefits that creating art provides (see these blogs) It turns out that even just  looking at art and going to a concert or play has enormous benefits too. The NEA did a study that found that “older adults” who attended cultural events like museum exhibitions, opera and the theater, reported more of both mental and physical health benefits than those that did not. Further, they found that those that just attended had similar levels of wellbeing to those that attended cultural events and created art themselves. (Herzig, 2017)

This access and exposure to art has even more of an impact in less advantaged communities and though wealthier neighborhoods have more access to cultural events it doesn’t mean there is a good amount of them to balance other pursuits. A two year study done by a department at the University of Pennsylvania has revealed a quantitative relationship between the presence of cultural resources in a neighborhood and key aspects of social well being, particularly in less advantaged neighborhoods.  The authors of the study write that “culture is no magic bullet” for broader social ills, but “cultural assets are part of a neighborhood ecology that promotes well being” (Kaplan, 2017)

Though our community offers many advantages it seems that the primary focus of time, importance, the most amount real estate and funds goes to sports. I have nothing against sports, they have many benefits too and being the mother of four, have gone to my share of soccer games, swimming, horse shows, karate, baseball. football, cross-country, track,  and Lacrosse games. My concern is that there should be more of a balance of exposure to and opportunities for creative and cultural pursuits as well, to help us raise more well rounded citizens that are active and can creatively problem solve as well. This may inspire the young (and old) to maybe see or think about something in a different way and see that there is a whole world beyond sports. Additionally , the arts can offer a great outlet for for the un-sporty type.  Sports, many times, can be more ex-clusive and the arts more inclusive. Art enhances  joy, confidence and self-esteem which (for dads still pining for that all-star or olympian) may encourage them to go out and try a sport in additon to doing art.

So go out and see some Art with your family, it’s fun and good for you!



Herzig, E. b. (2017, September 12). "Taking Your Grandparents to Museums Could Improve Their Health". Retrieved from

Kaplan, A. E. (2017, March 29). Retrieved from "New Study Links Art Access to Better Health, Safety, and Education in Lower-Income Neighborhoods".

New Beginnings, Change and Loss~ Fall 2016


“For every time there is a season..”

It has been a bittersweet summer for me. I am very excited to tell you about all the nice things, like the fun Summer camps and workshops that where wonderfully intensive, prolific and inspiring. We touched on a wide range of themes and I love how being immersed in creating for 3- 4 days in a row allows a student to grow immensely. But, I have struggled with whether I should share with parents and students the difficult loss I have experienced this Summer.

I don’t want to burden other people with my struggles and don’t want it to seem that I am needy for sympathy. I am so blessed to have the support of many dear friends and family. Death is an uncomfortable and awkward subject for many and until you truly experience someone close to you dying, you have no idea how someone in that situation feels and what you should say or do for them. I want PrairieArt Studio to be a fun, happy, joyful place and don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable here. I am so fortunate to have my artwork and teaching to focus on. I find so much inspiration and joy in helping others to learn the skills and gain the confidence to enjoy the creative process.

I realized, though I am a very private person, that when I teach, I share a big part of myself, my story and my life. For me, at its best, Art is a refuge of calm, an expression and an outlet for things that are too big for any words. I invite my students and their families into my home and my world. It seems disingenuous not to share something that has profoundly changed the trajectory of my life. You see, on July 1st , I unexpectedly lost someone very close to me, my husband Tobin. We were together on a walk in nature, our favorite place to be and he was suddenly taken from this world. I will forever ponder the reason.

I love Fall and usually love change. It’s an expected change, a chance to start fresh, to refocus. It’s a crisp invigorating reminder to get back to work after a warm lazy summer. As an artist it is so important to really look and observe things and change, whether it’s the season, travel or just rearranging your furniture helps us to see things with “fresh” eyes. Some people embrace change and some are more reluctant but life is change. Every moment is different from the last. We really do need to embrace change and help our children to be comfortable with it. Unexpected change is harder to understand. We are forced to look at our own life with “fresh eyes” and to try to accept that there is a bigger plan. Having a creative outlet to express our feelings with both sadness, loss, confusion or joy and happiness is so important and extremely healing. My loss has helped to reaffirm my goal for myself and my goal for guiding my students to get past and put aside our perfectionism and our need to get it “just right” to be able to get lost in the process. I want to remind my students and myself to get out your head and back to your heart because miraculously the quality, technical skills and beauty will follow.

Our world is getting faster, more stressful and complex. It is easier to be busy and not face our feelings but not good for our health, hearts and minds. Life keeps moving, life goes on and it’s my hope that I can instill in my students a love of Art that will help them through all of the highs and lows of this time we have on Earth.



Sketchbook: Observer, Refuge, friend and More

I recently came across an engaging and funny article (1) (which I re-posted on our Facebook page) about some of the things that happen when you carry a sketchbook with you all the time. (Even if you're not an artist.) I haven't done this since I was a young student but it's such a great idea that I am encouraged to do it again. This particular article is geared for adults and I would like to encourage parents to try this but also to promote the idea to their children, who have a bit more idle time than we do.

A pad and paper is just as portable as a handheld screen but connects us to the present and exercises our creative mind instead of being mindlessly entertained and lost in another realm. It's a way to appease boredom or nervous energy that is engrossing but still present. It is, in its simplest form, a journal and personal record yet can be so much more. When my family moved and I had to start at a new school, my sketchbook was way to deal with that socially awkward moment of where to sit at lunch or during Common-Plan. It allowed me a safe place to feel included but also express my individuality. Not only was my sketchbook a refuge and a friend, it also allowed me to observe the outer world as well as my inner world and my creative ideas in an ongoing, developing dialogue.

An image or idea in a sketchbook is not meant to be perfect or a finished work of art. It can even be a word, feeling, doodle, pattern or impression. It's a recorded moment in time which can be used as a springboard for further development. A sketchbook is a personal place to practice, learn and develop. Don't insist on viewing someone's sketch book and if they do want to share it with you, hold back any judgments good or bad but encourage the effort and maybe just ask them to tell you about it.
An open ended question about a particular sketch can lead to a conversation that may give insight for a parent into a child's life and individual personality.

Most children will want to draw from their imagination in a symbolic style, or in their favorite cartoon style which is good as well but also encourage them to look around and draw things in their own environment or copy pictures of things that interest them. If your child gets stuck, point out some things for them to observe like the shapes of different trees, branches or clouds in the sky, a close up or exploded view of an ordinary object, pictures of a favorite animal or just suggest shapes and lines in an abstract way that represent a feeling or sentiment. Try it, take a pad and pencil with you wherever you go and let me know some of the things that you and your child experience.

(1) Pricilla Frank, "9 Things That Happen When You Carry a Sketchbook With You Nonstop, Go ahead, give your inner artist some space to grow." Huffington Post: Endeavor. February 23, 2016.

There is No Right or Wrong Way to Do Art and the Risks of Saying "Good Job"

                          Henri Matisse "Two Figures in a Landscape", 1921

                          Henri Matisse "Two Figures in a Landscape", 1921

If you have gone to art museums or galleries you will notice that you will see everything you could possibly imagine and you may not like all that you see. Everyone likes something different so praise,  judgment or competition has no place in an art class. In my art classes I try to eliminate words like: Good, Bad, Better, Best and Mistake. I will not give my opinion of a student's drawing, I will give praise on their willingness to try something and advice about skills such as accurate perspective proportion or color theory but it's totally up to the student to do what they want to do. I encourage student's to look and learn from each other but do not allow them to comment on each other's work. Many famous artists have done masterpieces without accurate perspective or proportion. Student's need to learn to draw for themselves.  If they do not like something they need to learn how to change it or accept it, grow and move on. Self esteem does not come from praise, it comes from accomplishment and solving problems.

Student's also need to realize it's OK not to like their drawing and that it's no big deal. They need to get used to only liking some parts of a drawing and learning how to make changes or start over. Even professional artists don't like all their work and it's not a good idea to try to give praise or talk a student into liking something they do not like. From his article "Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job", parenting and education author, Alfie Kohn says, “Good job!” doesn’t reassure children; ultimately, it makes them feel less secure."  It makes them feel manipulated and undermines interest and achievement. In regards to your children's artwork, rather than say "good job," it's much more constructive to provide feedback not judgment by saying what you see or to asking questions: "That's a colorful bird!", "Wow, you used a lot of pink in your picture!" or ask "What is your favorite part?", "How did you figure out how to draw this part?"

This doesn't mean encouragement and support is bad and all compliments and expressions of delight are harmful. We need to be more mindful though of the motives behind them and if they are actually helping the student become independent and motivated.

Kohn, Alfie , Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job" , September 2001.

Mona Brookes, Drawing with Children, New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 1996.


Art and the Importance of Unplugging

In this fast-paced age of technology, the need to unplug, slow down and recharge is more important than ever. Our society is becoming more and more reliant on and addicted to our devices. As adults we can understand the need for balance in our lives but children don't always have that perspective and are much more susceptible to becoming addicted, especially under the age of 10. Most parents remember a time when they didn't have their nose constantly buried in a glowing screen, when things were not instant and you had to create your own fun. Whether it was building a fort, inventing a game, reading or making a "real" book, personalizing your bike or skateboard or cracking open a brand new big box of Crayola crayons (the one with the sharpener) and using every single color, we were problem-solving and creating something.

As a tool for creativity and learning, technology can be extraordinary but even then discretion needs to be used with students to not skip crucial steps of cognitive and social development. Children now use tablets and computers all day long at school, where test scores are the goal but art and music are not valued for their own sake. Surprisingly, Steve Jobs was a low-tech parent and many other tech CEO's adamantly limit their children's screen time based on their age. All agreed though, regardless of age, to absolutely no screens in the bedroom (Bilton)

An important part of learning and growing comes from struggling with a new task or material, focusing and problem solving, being inspired by others and finally gaining confidence by achieving and creating something new. Summer is a great time to take a technology break and PrairieArt Studio offers many opportunities, with camps and classes, for students of all ages to develop their creative side.

Source(s): Bilton, Nick. "Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent." The New York Times. September 10, 2014. Web. May 22, 2015. <>