How to Introduce Kids to Visual Art in Central Arkansas
The benefits of introducing art into children’s lives are immense. Through art, kids develop a sense of self, they can harness their imaginations and explore their environments through a variety of mediums.
Central Arkansans are blessed with plenty of great local resources to explore as children begin their journey into the wide world of visual art. Here are a few places your kids can try their hand at a variety of art forms.
McCann Fine Arts
Jason McCann took over the studio classes from his parents, who are both artists, in the late ’90s and has been teaching art lessons ever since, all while continuing his own art career. McCann also teaches high school art at Little Rock Central High School and then offers classes in his in-home studio in Maumelle.
Classes: During the school year, McCann offers two children’s classes on Monday nights from 5-6 p.m. and 6:30-7:30 p.m. Instead of a long program, McCann’s weekly classes allow students to explore a variety of mediums such as charcoal, chalk pastel, acrylic paint and watercolor in a free-range, small class setting with hands-on instruction. He’ll also offer summer courses.
“I don’t think there’s any limit to what any age group can do, it just depends on, as a teacher, what you’re comfortable doing and you have to know you’re kids and see where they are,” McCann says. “That’s why I do this class in a very individualized manner. I give them a chance to work on things I think they’re ready to work on.”
“There’s no doubt that art provides a lot of problem-solving skills. I think that you deal with a lot of problem-solving and critical thinking whenever you’re doing any kind of artform — 2D, 3D. You have to work through a problem — you have a thing you want to get to and you have to work to achieve that. I think that kind of rigor is good for a kid.”
- Jason McCann, artist, teacher and owner of McCann Fine Art
For more info: Visit McCannFineArt.com or call 501-944-9907.
Museum School at the Arkansas Arts Center
The Museum School breaks down its youth classes into ages 2-5, 6-9 10-14 and 14-18. The Museum School aims to expose children to a variety of mediums, as they find out what they’re drawn to and want to explore. Randie Young, the school's youth and community engagement manager, says the 6-9 age group is their most popular.
Classes: Classes include woodworking, drawing, clay making, painting, ceramics and watercolor. Young says one of the most popular youth classes is Studio Zoo, which lets kids try clay, printmaking, drawing and more while focusing on animals. The Museum School also hosts spring break and summer break programs, which tend to fill up quickly. This summer, they’ll offer even more classes by utilizing studio space inside The Terry House.
The Museum School also partners with the Central Arkansas Library System to offer a free program called ArtStart on the third Wednesday of every month. The program, for ages 1-4, pairs a book with a piece of artwork in the museum followed by an exploratory art project, and kids who attend each receive a free book.
For more info: Visit ArkansasArtsCenter.org or call 501-372-4000.
When Mona Bowers retired from her career as an elementary art teacher, she decided it was finally time to open up her own studio space. At ArtLab, Bowers offers open studio time, which allows kids to experiment with watercolor, tempera, Play-Doh, Legos, pegboard, chalk/felt board and sensory stations as well as the studio's Art Buffet.
Classes: In addition to the open studio, Bowers offers a variety of children’s art classes, including painting, drawing and clay. With her background in elementary art, Bowers has tailored classes for children as young as 10 months old through adulthood. Classes are frequently updated and added to the schedule. ArtLab is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and open studio is $15 an hour for kids, while adults are admitted free.
For more info: Visit ArtLabofArkansas.com or call 501-379-9175.
5 Art Projects to Try At Home
Make an at-home play dough recipe or make a trip to the store. Let kids use the play dough for pretend play. The sky's the limit, but one idea is to encourage kids to make food out of the play dough for tea parties, cupcake stores or living room picnics.
Best for ages 3-5.
Try the paper bag project: parents put an object in a paper bag, but kids can’t look inside — they can only feel the object, then draw what they feel. Another easy activity is continuous blind contours. Challenge your child to choose something to draw — like a face or an animal — but they can’t look at what they’re drawing and they can’t pick up their pencil.
Best for ages 5-9.
Make painting an extra-cool sensory experience by using easels, working on large sheets of craft paper, or using large canvases. Let kids choose what to paint or help them trace their body on paper and create a fun character from the outline.
Best for ages 5-9.
Provide your child with a disposable camera or an easy-to-use point-and-shoot camera and challenge them to capture close-ups of everyday objects — think flowers, insects and food.
Best for ages 9 and up.
Let your child explore mixed media as they create their own paper dolls using fabric scraps, Sharpies, sequins, glue bottles and some paint. Let them draw a character and then they can clothe their creation using designs from the fabric scraps.
Best for ages 6 and up.