Art Makes a Great Gift!

The New York Times recently ran an article offering their art critics’ favorite art books. It is well worth the read, especially if you are looking for a thoughtful gift for a friend or family member this holiday season.

The Best Art Books of 2017

And if you are looking for a gift with more “hands-on” appeal, check out the winter/spring offerings on our page:

Paint Draw & More!


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Local Art Shows and Fundraisers

If you are looking for some things to do over the next few weeks that don’t include battling crowds at the mall, but does include supporting local artists and non profits, check out the neighborhood art scene.

Local talent will be on display at the Mark Twain Library Art Show and Fundraiser. Opening reception is December 1st and the show will close on December 10th. Over eighty local and regional artists will be exhibiting.

439 Redding Rd, West Redding, CT 06896

Trailer Box Project will be hosting two Events in December. The first (running from December 9 thru December 21) will benefit Ann’s Place, a support group for cancer survivors. The show will feature Artist made ornaments and much more. The second show will be a group show featuring 11 local artists (running from December 9 – January 20).

15 Great Pasture Rd., Unit 15, Danbury Ct. 06810

For a listing of even more Arts events check out the “things to do” page of the Cultural Alliance of Western CT. You can filter results by venue,category or date, etc.

Enjoy the shows!

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Art as a Gateway to Learning

The US Department of Education published a report in 2002 on “The Value Added Benefits of the Arts,” which states, “Studies have shown that arts teaching and learning can increase student’s cognitive and social development. The arts can be a critical link for students in developing the crucial thinking skills and motivations they need to achieve at higher levels” (Deasy, & Stevenson, 2002). The importance of Art in a well-rounded education curriculum can’t be overstated. With recent cutbacks within the formal education system, it may be up to parents to provide their children with opportunities for Art education. These opportunities can be as simple as providing varied materials for exploration at home, or more formal experiences such as after school programs or summer art camps. However the experiences are provided, children gain much from artistic endeavors. These are just a few of the skills children learn from art exposure.

  1. Art encourages and develops creative thinking: children are asked to “think on their feet” and brainstorm various approaches to a design problem, trying new things and experimenting with the range of materials provided.
  2. Art provides a means of communication, self-expression, and emotional release: feelings and ideas that children may not yet have words for can be readily expressed through art.
  3. Art builds confidence: appreciation for their own (and others) creations teaches children to respect the process and the results of their hard work as well as the individuality of others.
  4. Art teaches perseverance: children get “lost” in the creative process, sometimes working for long periods of time to get the reality to match their vision. This commitment will serve them well in any future project.
  5. Art increases self-understanding and self expression: having to think about what they want their work to communicate encourages children to really examine their beliefs and emotions.
  6. Art provides problem-solving and decision-making opportunities: turning their vision for a project into a reality requires children to solve problems repeatedly. Shaping the materials they have into the artwork they see in their head makes them learn how to work within the constructs of the media.
  7. Art offers feelings of accomplishment: when a project is finished to his or her satisfaction the child feels that their efforts have been worthwhile, encouraging future dedication.
  8. Art serves as a balance to academic activities: STEM subjects are important, but children need varied experiences in their day as a respite from the intense focus needed in when confronting science, technology, engineering and math problems.
  9. Art aids physical coordination: fine motor skills andmanual dexterity are improved when children finger paint, or use scissors, paint brushes or other tools.
  10. Art familiarizes children with receiving feedback: constructive criticism is important in any field the child may choose to pursue as they mature. Learning to appreciate the “constructive” component of that feedback is vital and only comes with exposure.
  11. Art develops good work ethics, a sense of responsibility and accountability: especially when an artwork is collaborative, children begin to understand the importance of listening to and respecting other’s opinions, and compromising for the greater good, skills that are invaluable as an adult.
  12. Art aids the adult in understanding and helping the child: emotions revealed through a child’s artwork can be explored and expanded upon through asking open ended questions about the child’s project. Something as simple as “Tell me aboutyour picture/sculpture/song,” can open up lines of communication and offer an invaluable window into the child’s mind.
  13. Art generates joy: Art is FUN! Children love the tactile experience of exploring various media and getting their hands dirty with no repercussions is an added perk!

As parents and caregivers we must view art not as an afterthought if there is time after the “more important” subjects have been tackled. We must remember that art is vital to the well rounded education of our children.

Remember: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” – Pablo Picasso

For an amazing exploration of traditional craft materials repurposed as fine art, check out a free exhibit running from October 26 thru December 6, 2017 at the Flinn Gallery located in the Greenwich Public Library
Of Art and Craft


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Kindergarten & Beyond Art Education 

Childhood education experts agree on the importance of exposing kids to art early in life. As parents and caregivers, the importance of encouraging kids to experience and explore artistic expression cannot be overstated. Early school age experiences in art creation and appreciation foster exploration, self expression, logical thinking, self-esteem, imagination, and, of course, originality. Part of that process is to have readily available and varied art supplies, including, but not limited to crayons, washable paints and paintbrushes, markers, modeling clay, construction paper, glue, colored tissue paper, shoe boxes, paper towel tubes, sponges, empty water bottles, chalk, paper plates, scrap paper, fabric, buttons, sequins, glitter, pom-poms, felt, colored tape, cotton balls, ribbon, yarn, string, feathers, leaves, twigs, etc. Even oddball items that we might not readily associate with art can be useful tools to a child. Think of empty and washed out roll on deodorant bottles filled with washable paint, or an old toothbrush, or cotton swabs. Any and all of these can lead to non-traditional painting experiences. Don’t be afraid to let kids make a mess! Lay out a drop cloth or newspapers over a table or a section of floor and let kids create with abandon. Even children younger than school age can be presented with shaving cream with a few drops of food coloring added on a cookie sheet. The tactile and visual stimulation of “playing” with the foam lets youngsters experience the process of making art and cleanup is nothing more than a quick rinse. 

Another important factor in childhood art experiences is art appreciation. Even five-year-olds can enjoy discovering the treasures in adult art museums, and though the Metropolitan Museum of Art might be a mite intimidating to a young child, smaller, more local museums and galleries can be only a short drive and a short investment in time away. Follow the child’s lead—literally! They may not move in a logical fashion viewing the artwork sequentially as an adult would, but dart around from one piece that catches their eye to another. They may not want to view everything and may not have the patience for a lengthy visit. Be sensitive to when they need a snack or potty break—the exhibit will still be there after a short rest. Be sure to ask open ended questions about the art to encourage free thinking. “What do you think is happening in the picture?” “What do you like about this picture?” “What don’t you like about this picture?” “Can you pose like the figure in the artwork?” “What do you think the artist was thinking about when he/she created this?” “What colors do you see?” “Why do you think the artist used these colors?” “What do you think will happen next?” You just might find your child sees things you’ve never noticed or sees art in an innovative way, without the pressures and preconceptions of adulthood. Below are listed a few local (and not so local) museums and galleries to get you started.

Stepping Stones Museum for Children
Mathews Park
303 West Avenue
Norwalk, CT 06850

While not specifically an art museum, they do have a new permanent exhibit focusing on creating art and music.
From their web site:
“Our Newest Permanent Exhibit on Social-Emotional Learning 

“To help children and families acquire the social-emotional learning skills to be successful in an increasingly complex world, Stepping Stones developed Express Yourself. Through art, music, cooperative games and more, children, families and groups will practice expressing themselves and exploring their own emotions. They can act out their feelings on camera and explore how creating artwork, listening to music or dancing can affect their mood. Children can learn how to overcome frustration as they cooperate with other visitors to successfully move a ball through a maze. Express Yourself is filled with fun and effective tools and techniques for children to use in their everyday lives.”

The Aldrich
258 Main Street
Ridgefield, CT 06877

Ridgefield Guild of Artists
34 Halpin Lane
Ridgefield, CT 06877

Katonah Museum
134 Jay Street – Route 22
Katonah, NY 10536

Connecticut Children’s Museum
Children’s Building
22 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT 06830-7157
Phone: 203-869-0376

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Morris Museum

This was a wonderful fiber and basketry exhibit at the Morris museum (Morris, NJ) featuring artists from around the world. If you have a chance to go please do. Not only was this exhibit excellent but the museum has an outstanding (if not the best)  music box collection.

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Talented Russian Artist Uses Creates Stunning Art Using Paper

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 10.47.01 AM

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This is why art is important!


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Check out these amazing animations!

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For Adults, Coloring Invites Creativity And Brings Comfort by Barbara J. King

Finding tranquility and mediation through art for adults can be challenging…but so rewarding when you find the right outlet you’ve been searching for.

In 1982, anthropologist Adrienne Zihlman, now professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz, published The Human Evolution Coloring Book. Students of biological anthropology were invited to learn about DNA, genes, monkeys and apes — and the fossils, tools and evolutionary relationships of our human ancestors — by coloring in pages rife with factual information presented visually, as well as in words.

A Ph.D. candidate back then, I had never encountered such an object before, with its mix of a children’s activity, as I then thought coloring to be, and an adult student’s science material. I learned from Zihlman’s presentation. Side-by-side skeletal comparisons of the australopithecine “Lucy” and a modern chimpanzee in one case, and robust (large-boned, thick-jawed) and gracile (more slender) australopithecines in another, helped me visualize facts and concepts. I didn’t color in the pictures, though. That seemed, well, just a little bit juvenile to me.

Now, 33 years later, I’ve joined the ranks of adult colorers. We represent a wide range of artistic abilities, including what could, in my case, kindly be called “minimal.” Some of us may prefer the science genre, perhaps marine biology; others steeped in the Game of Thrones novels or show await a coloring book by George R.R. Martin scheduled to be released in the fall. (Given what I hear of the show’s plot, you can bet this coloring book is for adults.)

As for me, I have joined with those delighted by the flowers, birds and beetles in Joanna Basford’s best-selling The Secret Garden, which I first learned about at NPR.

Adult coloring is surging in popularity, and I’ve wondered why. Sure, it is engaging, relaxing and helps combat stress — and who doesn’t in our too-hectic lives need more of that terrific trio? Yet I can experience those things from my primary leisure activity, reading fiction. What coloring offers that reading does not is explained aptly by clinical psychologist Kimberly Wulfert for

“In coloring, you’ve got this physical sensation of the tool you’re using touching on the paper. You also have the feeling in your hands and fingers holding this tool, and moving in different rhythms as you fill in the space,” she says, adding that “you’re being mindful, and when you move in a rhythmic fashion for an extended period of time, that becomes a meditation.”

For me, after a day of writing and reading nonfiction for work, then reading a novel for pleasure, coloring brings a different kind of sensual engagement, one that perhaps echoes the embodied pleasures found in creative cooking, gardening and carpentry. But even that isn’t the full story.

Basford’s two coloring books (The Enchanted Forest is the other) are so popular that a long wait to obtain one is now commonplace. I waited for two months for The Secret Garden.

While I was waiting, my personal world shifted suddenly. On April 17, my mother died. Just in February, I had written admiringly of her enthusiasm for reading science books even while struggling with vascular dementia. Is it possible to say that an 88-year-old woman with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) died unexpectedly? Yes, I think so. On that Friday, I visited with her in the afternoon, saw her fatigue, and tucked her into bed. She expressed no physical complaints, and we parted lovingly at 4 p.m. with every expectation of another visit soon. By 7 p.m., she had died.

I’m grateful that my mother died in her bed, peacefully. And, yet, my grief is still fresh.

Perhaps coloring for me, right now, offers something more than the benefits I’ve already described. Maybe it offers me the very mix I wasn’t able to value in my 20s: the combination of remembering the comforts of being a child while incorporating the creativity of an adult.

Most evenings, I take out my pencils, savor the shades I choose — golden yellow, jade green, peach — and start coloring.

Barbara J. King, an anthropology professor at the College of William and Mary, often writes about human evolution, primate behavior and the cognition and emotion of animals. Barbara’s most recent book on animals was released in paperback in April. You can keep up with what she is thinking on Twitter: @bjkingape.

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Arts Education Matters: We Know, We Measured It

Arts Education Matters: We Know, We Measured It
-Cari Vander Yacht for Education Week
Though the arts receive relatively little attention from policymakers and school leaders, exposing young people to art and culture can have a big impact on their development. The problem is that almost no one is bothering to study and document the extent to which the arts and culture can affect students. Instead, policymakers, researchers, and schools are typically focused on what is regularly and easily measured: math and reading achievement. This leads defenders of the arts to attempt to connect the arts to improved math and reading scores-a claim for which there is almost no rigorous evidence. Other arts advocates believe that the benefits cannot and need not be measured.
But the important effects of art and cultural experiences on students can be rigorously measured. In fact, we recently conducted two studies that used random-assignment research designs to identify causal effects of exposure to the arts through museum and theater attendance. In the museum study, we held a lottery with nearly 11,000 students from 123 Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma schools, roughly half of whom were assigned to visit Crystal Bridges of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., while the other half served as the control group. In the live-theater study, we conducted a lottery to offer free tickets to roughly half of the 700 Arkansas students applying to see “Hamlet” or “A Christmas Carol” at a professional theater in Fayetteville.

By comparing outcomes for students who had these art experiences—by chance—with the outcomes of those who did not, we can identify with confidence what the arts do for young people. The approach we took, which is typical in medical research, creates treatment and control groups that are, on average, identical in their backgrounds and prior interests, with only chance determining the distinction between the two groups. Therefore, any subsequent differences we observed in the students were caused by touring an art museum or seeing live theater, not a result of pre-existing differences among them.

We were also careful to focus on outcomes that could plausibly be altered by the arts. We didn’t look at math- and reading-test scores because we have no reason to expect that arts experiences would have an impact on them. Lois Hetland and Ellen Winner, who are affiliated with the education research group Project Zero at Harvard University, have conducted systematic reviews of the research literature and found little credible evidence that the benefits of the arts transfer to other academic subjects. We should no more expect the arts to boost math scores than expect math to enhance appreciation for the arts.

Instead, we looked at whether exposure to the arts affected students’ knowledge of the arts and altered their desire to consume the arts in the future. We also looked at whether art experiences had an effect on student values, such as tolerance and empathy. Finally, we looked at whether students’ ability to engage in critical thinking about the arts was affected by these experiences.

The results across our two experiments were remarkably consistent: These cultural experiences improve students’ knowledge about the arts, as well as their desire to become cultural consumers in the future. Exposure to the arts also affects the values of young people, making them more tolerant and empathetic. We suspect that their awareness of different people, places, and ideas through the arts helps them appreciate and accept the differences they find in the broader world. Arts experiences boost critical thinking, teaching students to take the time to be more careful and thorough in how they observe the world. Noticing details in paintings during a school tour, for example, helps train students to consider details in the future.

These improved outcomes may not boost scores on math and reading tests, but most parents, communities, and educators care about them. We don’t just want our students to learn vocationally useful skills in math and reading. We also want them to be knowledgeable and frequent patrons of the arts. We want them to be tolerant and empathetic human beings. And we want them to be astute observers of their surroundings. Some of these qualities may help students earn a living, but their importance has more to do with students’ development into cultured and humane people.

Our experiments suggest that rigorous study can document the additional effects of the arts on students, including the educational benefits of poetry, literature, music, film, and dance. Future studies could also consider other possible outcomes. Perhaps the arts encourage students to be more engaged in school, improve graduation rates, and increase college attendance, all of which tend to contribute to happiness and productivity.

None of this research will occur, however, until defenders of the arts recognize the need for it. Arts advocates can no longer rely on weak studies that simply compare students who participate in the arts with those who don’t. Such studies are pervasive, and the claims they make are likely overblown. Skeptics can correctly wonder whether the research truly demonstrates that the arts make people awesome, or if awesome people are simply attracted to the arts. To convince skeptics of how the arts can influence a student’s trajectory, future studies will have to adopt rigorous research designs that can isolate causal effects.

Art collectors are bidding up prices, and enormous fortunes are devoted to acquiring and displaying art. It makes little sense for arts patrons to spend a fortune acquiring and commissioning masterpieces, while failing to demonstrate the benefits of the arts with quality research. To determine whether there are important social benefits derived from arts activities, money should be invested in funding rigorous research, which can be expensive.

If the arts and culture are to remain a vibrant part of children’s education, arts patrons will need to step forward to help pay for the kind of quality research that shows not only what those benefits are, but just how significant they can be.

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