ARTdart: There are as many ways to think about art as there are to create it. Join Pamela Beck in her column, ARTdart, as she explores and considers the different perspectives that define the art world.
It’s powerful for children to use their own creations to ride a time machine into the future and consider how a particular profession might suit them. I thought about this while enjoying the children’s drawings in “What I Can Be With a College Degree,” an exhibition focused on promoting the value of higher education.
These drawings were done by the fifth graders at Emma E. Booker Elementary School, in collaboration with the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee College of Education’s (COE) Alliance Student Organization. The idea grew out of the COE’s Partnerships for Arts integrated Teaching (PAInt) Center, which incorporates the arts into all teacher preparation.
Booker students worked with student teachers from the COE and their art teacher, Susan Ambrioso. The fifth graders were first assigned homework researching different state universities to see what college degrees were offered and which would interest them. They even learned about salaries, length of time to obtain particular degrees and attire requirements for their careers of choice. According to Ms. Ambrioso, the students “…came upon the realization that college was a possibility rather than something that was out of their grasp, and it wasn’t that far in the future. They also figured out that some professions require a college degree and some need a special training route instead.”
Then photographs of each child’s face were taken and converted into individual computerized line drawings that every child received to begin a self-portrait. This approach personalized each drawing and helped the students focus on their chosen profession rather than their drawing skills. The students drew on the paper around their faces, adding the bodies, clothing and object references of their selected, professional future selves.
Be it a veterinarian, teacher, doctor, nurse, sports agent or paleontologist, the children were encouraged to visualize and draw themselves in a future that higher education can provide.
Expressing thoughts through art usually taps undeveloped ideas and unknown desires. Most of the time our responses to the world remain hidden to others and, often, even to ourselves. But turning reflections and dreams into tangible form through art takes them out of the world of hazy rumination and places them in the forefront of, in this case, a child’s developing identity.
For these students, art was the vehicle through which they could begin a process of self exploration. The portraits in this collaborative program introduced the idea that multiple options are available through education and personal choice. The drawings helped the children concretely identify their interests and imagine new possibilities, while learning the steps necessary to pursue them.
This ongoing exhibition is open to the public to view. Bring your own children to see these drawings. You and your family might find out that your daughter is a budding paleontologist. She just never thought of being one until she saw the drawing and asked you about it.
University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee
College of Education, Third floor
8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota
941 359-4200, call to confirm hours
Mon-Sat 9-10 P.M.