(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?
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.