Children’s art on display

Last Thursday night was Pelican Primary School’s first ever Art Show. An artwork by every child in the school was framed and on display. It was a huge effort by the staff team to get all the framing done in time. The year 5 and 6 students were in charge of hospitality, and walked around with platters of finger food for everyone to try, some made by the students in the Kitchen Garden classes, some made and donated by local restaurants.

These events are important for many reasons – they display the talents and visual expression of the children and show the range of interests and ideas, and they bring the parent community into the school. It can be difficult to draw refugee and immigrant families to the school on a regular, ‘helping-out-in-the-classroom’, ‘running-the-sausage-sizzle-on-election-day’ kind of way, because for many of them, school is about their children and expectations of their children. Building stronger community links and parent involvement can be a big challenge. Events like the art show encourage the parents to participate, make them feel welcome, and hopefully make them feel proud of their children, and connected to the school community.

There are some true artistic souls in the school, children who have a way of expressing the complexities of their feelings and sense of identity. I loved the two artworks pictured below, both by girls in grade 4/5. The upper picture is incredibly detailed and my snapshot will not do it justice. Notice the items she is holding – pencils, a book, dolls. And notice her hair is in fact strands of tape measure. And the look in her eyes – I see a desire for challenges and extension and opportunities, and at the same time an anxiety about the future. The lower picture has a wonderful insouciant energy – I love the sense of defiance and sense of lightness and possibility she conjures up with her choice and positioning of images.

Parents had the first option to buy their children’s work ($5 each). The parents of the child who did the painting above weren’t present. A bidding war started up among the other adults present – it was a very popular work! In the end it was bought for $50 by the parent of one of the girl’s friends. But she took the young artist aside to tell her, “Do you want this picture? I bought it for you – you can take it home with you.” But the child decided she wanted it to go home with her friend’s mum.

I fell in love with a picture by one of the Prep children – a child I don’t teach. His parents weren’t present so I got to buy it at the end of the evening. It is leaning against the wall in my study, a pastel blend of rich orange and yellow, merging into a lower strip of blue (mixed with glimmers of yellow), with an angular pink shape in the middle of the yellow, and the child’s name – YUSUF – written down the right hand side of the page. “I asked them to do a picture of something lying on the sand at the beach,” the art teacher told me. “The pink thing is a shell.” I love it.

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