The Joy of Self-Expression Through Art

By Holly Dykes, Art Specialist Teacher

While in grad school, I worked in a library. It had recently been built and decorated in, what I thought, a pretty wild fashion—fuchsia and orange, hot pink and neon green, stripes, and checks. When I asked the people who worked there if they liked this style, most of them said, “Why would I know what looks good? I don’t know anything about art. I can’t even draw a straight line with a ruler.”

How does that happen, I thought? Watching young children year after year plunge into their art with such joy and confidence, I wondered—when do people lose that feeling of expressing themselves and the confidence that goes with it? It was then that I realized another of my many goals in becoming an art teacher. Along with having all my students feel like they were artists in some way, I wanted to nurture individual differences so students would have the confidence to be able to express those differences in their artwork as well as in their spoken or written opinions. I wanted students to look at each other’s differences (and thus their own) as things of value and interest, instead of good and bad.

No one can experience the joy of expressing themselves if they feel compelled to always draw as either their friends or their teachers want them to; if they feel they have to adjust to fit in. I wanted to create materials and an atmosphere that promoted freedom of expression, self-confidence, and acceptance. I wanted to work in a school that believed in the importance of my goals. I found that in Montessori Community School.

Maria Montessori believed in educating the whole child. She believed that children are born with the desire to learn and, given the right environment, children can be trusted to fulfill that desire. So the environment is critical to opening up the potential in each child. MCS had the foresight to build the Spark Center in order to create an environment that gives us the ability to celebrate each child’s individual expression as part of their continued learning experience. It gives them the space they need to explore, create and learn. In the art room, everyone has differences—different skills, different likes and dislikes, even different looks. But beneath that, everyone is the same, too. We are all just artists together creating art and discovering ourselves.