Kids with Crayons Can Save the World (If You Want 'em To)

by Serge Bielanko


(This is a sponsored post, but you should read it's about kids and art and that's basically the two most important things in the galaxy.)

I have three kids, one of them a baby.

Charlie is five-months-old and he could care less about art. He's too young, you know how it is;  his interests don't really span a wide array. Charlie has like a three-track mind. He's into deep bottles of drink and slobbering and smiling at everyone, smiling at the walls and the ceiling.

Which, when you think about it, actually does sound like some of the exact same characteristics as quite a few legendary artists from across the centuries, huh? So maybe he is already showing signs of talent. Maybe his artistry is blooming as we speak.

But my other two are already there. Oh they've got the bug, the beautiful magical art bug. Like so many kids their age, my Violet and Henry are standing at the cliffs of so much possibility  when it comes to the rest of their lives. The opportunities they will have, as Violet heads to kindergarten in a few days, and stretching across the next 15 years or so of their honest youth, they are the sorts of opportunities that help define lifetimes. And school plays such a monumental role in all of that.

Violet is 5; Henry, 3. And they've both reached that charmed age threshold parents before me know all to well. It's that era of a kid's life when broken crayons and plain old typing paper offer this kind of endless portal into your own flesh and blood's imagination and it's nothing short of sublime, really. The very first phases of any kid's introduction to art and all of the deep meaning that that relationship can have for the remainder of their lifetimes are also times that result in the wildest, most treasured works of art any parent could ever dream of owning.

I'm an art fan, a museum dude, if you will. I don't own any masterpieces obviously, but I own the memories I carry with me of the many afternoons I've spent strolling the long, cool halls of some of the great art museums in the western world. And I'm not lying to you when I tell this: even if I could have walked out of the National Gallery in London or the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, or out of any of the many museums I've been lucky enough to see with a famous canvas tucked under each arm, I still seriously doubt their effect on me, hanging in my little living room or wherever, would be as overwhelming and soulful as when one of my kids hands me a magic marker depiction of an elephant walking through New York City or a finger-painting of their mom chasing six flying cheeseburgers through a magic forest.

The stuff I magnet up on my fridge are the most exclusive, renown works I will ever see or contemplate, let alone own. And trust me, the pipeline in which these masterpieces  are being produced is, well, it's gushing, people. Violet and Henry have discovered the joys of artistic license and free-form creation, and it's a thing of real beauty for a dad who digs art to see.

The only problem with any of this is the fact that I can't bring myself to get rid of anything they make. It doesn't matter what it is either! From preschool, they drag home snowmen made of paper plates and cotton balls. From the YMCA, they bring me construction paper spring flowers on a canvas of old pizza box. And from my own kitchen island comes such a steady stream of crayon images depicting everything from me and their mom holding hands in a field of daisies with a crocodile bearing down on us to scenes of our dogs mingling with martians and flying slices of pizza.

I keep 'em all. You probably do to. We're all gonna need some warehouse space here before long.

So, the whole notion of watching my first-born, my 'baby', my daughter, Violet, heading off into the annals of the American public school system, a system which is more or less hacking away at it's arts programs for students with an over-caffeinated machete hand, it all makes me incredibly frightened and disappointed and mad. How could this possibly happen? How could a nation that has produced so many of the world's greatest painters and sculptors and photographers and performance artists and graffiti masters (yes, it's art/accept it) and design gurus simply turn around and say to itself, "Well, we need to save some money around these parts, and so the first thing to go ought to be the thing that makes the most people feel good about life and living...the arts programs."

How could our country, our school districts, districts that have been responsible for helping to foster and send so many brilliant artists out into the world for so long now, suddenly find ways to justify assassinating art to save a few bucks?

I'm no expert on the financial side of things, but I do think that cutting arts programs from school curriculum is both tragic and criminal. To deny young kids the chance to learn about what makes art such a valuable part of any life, no matter who you are, no matter where you live or how much money you have or whatever, it irks me more than almost any other stupidity going down out there in the world these days. And, as we both know, there's plenty of stupidity happening.

But guess what?

Surprise! All of this artistic frustration actually leads me to pretty special little place, specifically to a really cool campaign being sponsored by Schoola, a pretty innovative business on the net.

Schoola is a site where parents like me can donate any kid's clothes we just don't need anymore, or just visit to buy awesome used kid's clothing for really reasonable prices. Now, the folks at Schoola have decided to invite a bunch of bloggers like me to pick one of three schools in America that are each trying to have a real impact on young kids by creating opportunities a lot of schools have turned their backs on. 

The school I picked is Yick Wo Elementary School in San Francisco, where even though there is no budget whatsoever provided for an art program, the parents have all banded together to make sure that their kids have one anyway. But they need help and are trying to raise $25,000 to keep a good thing going. 

How can you help make a difference? How can you help a bunch of San Fran kids be exposed to something that may just change their lives forever? 

Easy. 

First off, take a minute to watch the short video below to see exactly how cool Yick Wo Elementary's vision really is.  Then, once you're on board, head on over to Schoola's special campaign page where they make it super easy to find the school of our choice (Yick Wo!) and either donate directly to the cause, or better yet, shop for some name brand recycled back-to-school clothes, a portion of your purchase going right towards the art program at the school. And check this out: each time you request a Schoola recycle bag to send in some kid's duds you don't need anymore, another buck will be tossed at this great program. It's a win-win situation, really.

I'm a proud daddy, a pretty smart guy, and I've got a fridge decked out in priceless works of art, man. And I think there ought to be room for that kind of awesomeness to spread and flourish in the classroom, in every school from here to the edged of the world.


This post is brought to you by Schoola, the best place to buy discounted kids clothes all while give back to schools in need. Click here to learn more about Schoola. Click here to see what people are saying.



Art Class Kids Make Better Humans

by Serge Bielanko


(This is a sponsored post, but you should read it because it is awesome in a million ways)

Art class was one of the few saving graces for kids like me, I think. Here I was, smart and creative and interested in so many things, and yet most of my school days were spent listening to zombies read from outdated text books. Art class quickly became the exception.

 I remember we had this art teacher, Ms. Spring, and she was way younger than all the other dinosaur bones who taught at my school. She was young and beautiful and she had this kind of electric spirit, this infectious excitable way of talking to her classes about paintings and color palettes and charcoal. She was always asking us what we saw within a certain drawing or a certain photo she was holding up and every kid in that class was into it. It was inspiring from the very start, just being around a human being who really seemed to dig what she was hired to do. I guess it was rare enough around those parts that it made me and lots of other kids excited too.

Look, I wasn't any good at art.

I'm still not.

I suck at art.

But art doesn't care if you're good at it and so I never cared either.

See, art class was a riveting place to be because we were there with someone who encouraged us to try things that no one else was trying. I didn't know any artists in my world; I knew construction workers and barflys and exhausted women who'd spent the last 42 years perfecting a recipe for a meatloaf with a ketchup glaze. Yet suddenly, here I was discovering the real joys that come with trying some oil paints or touching a mound of clay in the middle of another dull day. Twice a week, for just an hour each time, Ms. Spring and her fifth grade art class lessons slightly hinted at the idea that there was another world out there beyond the tedium of the one hanging around the street corners of my town.

That woman managed to inject art into a lot of artless lives. Not many people can ever say that.

I went on to play music in a band for most of my adult life and I toured a lot of the world and guess what I did on my days off in Paris or London? I went to the greatest art museums on the planet and walked around and basked in the glory of works so divine and beautiful that I somehow think they seeped into my skin and became a part of me just by seeing them in person.

And for what it's worth, here's the real kicker. I think appreciating art from a young age results in makes you a better human. I really do. When you love and respect art in all of it's forms, I tend to believe that you then understand the finer points of passion, love, and the vital connections that come with understated grace. Think about that for a sec.

All of this leads me to a really cool campaign being sponsored by Schoola, a pretty innovative little business on the net. Schoola is a site where parents like me can donate any kid's clothes we just don't need anymore, or just visit to buy awesome used kid's clothing for really reasonable prices. Now, the folks at Schoola have decided to invite a bunch of bloggers like me to pick one of three schools in America that are each trying to have a real impact on young kids by creating opportunities a lot of schools have turned their backs on.

The school I picked is Yick Wo Elementary School in San Francisco, where even though there is no budget whatsoever provided for an art program, the parents have all banded together to make sure that their kids have one anyway. But they need help and are trying to raise $25,000 to keep a good thing going.

How can you help make a difference? How can you help a bunch of San Fran kids be exposed to something that may just change their lives forever?

Easy.

First off, take a minute to watch the short video below to see exactly how cool Yick Wo Elementary's vision really is.

Then, once you're on board, head on over to Schoola's special campaign page where they make it super easy to find the school of our choice (Yick Wo!) and either donate directly to the cause, or better yet, shop for some name brand recycled back-to-school clothes, a portion of your purchase going right towards the art program at the school. And check this out: each time you request a Schoola recycle bag to send in some kid's duds you don't need anymore, another buck will be tossed at this great program. It's a win-win situation, really.

And I'm pretty proud to be involved, even if I still can't draw a stick figure to save my life.

This post is brought to you by Schoola, the best place to buy discounted kids clothes all while give back to schools in need. Click here to learn more about Schoola. Click here to see what people are saying.


Ceremony

by Serge Bielanko


It’s close to 90, I guess. It’s all kinds of hot and muggy. It’s my kind of weather, this is. I roll the window down in the Suzuki and I rip down the valley road with the music loud. I play New Order, some greatest hits I bought off Amazon. I don’t have time for deep album cuts anymore. I need the damn hits. I skip to Track 5, Blue Monday ,and the cold English machine-gun drum machine shoots thrill bullets into my fat face.

I’m on my way to the county courthouse to get the paperwork I need to file for divorce. I’m not supposed to feel good about that, I know, but I feel good anyway. I feel wide-awake and unstoppable.

I feel fucking alive.

Maybe that’s weird, I don’t know. It is what it is.

67 mph wind is blowing all through the car, lifting all the crumpled-up McDonald’s receipts and straw wrappers and pieces of dead grass up off my scuzzy mats and making them dance and I am smoking a cigarette and ashing it out the window. Most of it flies out into the endless cornfields I’m whipping by, but in the back of my mind I know damn well that lot of it is probably turning around and jamming itself right back into the car too. I don’t give a damn/ashes to ashes and all that.

Well, all of this makes me giddy: driving fast all by myself, thumping ashes, moving towards some distant horizon in my personal life, some horizon I never imagined I’d ever see. I’m seeing it now, though. I’m seeing loud and clear, I guess.

What does a person think about on the way to get divorce papers? I mean, what are you supposed to be thinking about? That’s what I’m wondering at the moment. That’s meta, I know, but it’s also true. I’m wondering if I should be crying or something. The sadness is still all up in my bones. I’ve been mourning the death of my marriage for months now, trying hard to pretend that it wasn’t happening or that if it was actually happening then it wasn’t a bad thing or that it was meant to be and all of that happy horseshit, but at this point I’m not feeling any of that stuff anymore.

I just want to drive, man. I just want to aim this car of mine at the deep blue afternoon sky and drive a hole right through it. I feel like I’m in a movie and that is one of the better ways to live your life, if you ask me. More and more, I find myself moving through the random scenes of my day as if I am starring in this Sundance Film Festival version of my own existence. With each passing day I think I have begun to pretend that I’m a movie star playing me. Maybe I’m mental. But maybe I’m just awesome.

In another 20 minutes or so I’ll get the paperwork on the other side of the mountains. What will happen is this: after I drive down into the county seat/park/pop two quarters into the meter on the curb/move beneath the big Greek columns of law and justice/waltz through the metal detector/find the office that you find when you are seeking the needle to euthanize sick love/get ‘em/turn around/and go. Nothing will be written in stone today. But hey, things are in motion and I guess I’m in motion, too.

On the way back to my house I wait until I’m way out of town to hit the music again. I wait until I roll the car up to the bottom of the Madisonburg Mountain, until I feel that ancient cool of the Appalachians move across my arm dangling out the window, the long miles of old forest closing in around another cigarette wedged between my fingers out there in the wind, out there in the force of my movement.

And then I hit Track One.

Ceremony.

That’s the name of the tune.

It’s my jam/it’s so perfect. And I’d be lying out my ass if I didn’t say I planned it this way. I knew what I was going go to play, people, and I knew exactly where I wanted to be in the world on this certain afternoon when I finally hit the button and let it roll out of my tinny speakers, covering me like beautiful smoke.

Ceremony.

Ceremony.

Ceremony, indeed.