By Rebecca Massie Lane
Special to The Herald-Mail
For more than 60 years, in April and May, the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts has hosted an exhibition featuring works by students in grades kindergarten through 12.
Receptions sponsored by the museum's volunteers in collaboration with art teachers, are held for the students and their families and friends. More than 8,000 people annually attend the events associated with this popular program.
The Washington County art teachers and art curriculum leaders, Rob Hovermale and Don Viar, work tirelessly to encourage students, select work and prepare the works of art for exhibition. This year the kindergarten-through-fifth-grade art exhibition at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. The show opened Saturday, and a reception will be from 2 to 4 p.m. today. The middle and high school students' exhibition opens Saturday, May 11, with a reception on Sunday, May 12.
Overall, some 3,000 public school, elementary, middle and high school students participate in the annual Public School Art Exhibition, which is an outpouring of creative ideas, budding craft and exuberant expression.
Since 1967, Project Zero has examined the development of learning processes in children, adults and organizations. Project Zero is an educational research group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education composed of multiple, independently-sponsored research projects. Over the years, Project Zero has maintained a strong research agenda in the arts while gradually expanding to include investigations into the nature of intelligence, understanding, thinking, creativity, cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural thinking, and ethics.
Howard Gardner, co-director with David Perkins from 1972 to 2000, has authored influential books, including "Leading Minds," and "Creating Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Ghandi."
At Harvard, where he teaches in the Graduate School of Education, Gardner became absorbed in Project Zero, which explored the nature of autistic thinking.
"Every day I was seeing kids who were good at an art form but not other things," he said.
This triggered his interest in identifying different types of intelligences, which resulted in his book on the subject and his list of eight intelligences: linguistic (poet); logical-mathematical (scientist); musical (composer); spatial (architect); bodily kinesthetic (dancer); interpersonal (leader); intrapersonal (reflective individual) and naturalist (botanist).
In "Creating Minds," Gardner investigated the life and artistic accomplishments of Pablo Picasso around the concept of the prodigy. As with the musical prodigy Amadeus Mozart, Picasso presented extraordinary artistic giftedness from an early age and was strongly encouraged by his father, who was a practicing artist and teacher.
Like Mozart, Picasso surpassed his father's artistic capabilities in early adolescence, was enabled by his father's boostering and that of other family and associates to move to an artistic center (Paris for Picasso; Vienna for Mozart) where his abilities could thrive. Each prodigy then single-mindedly pursued his artistic vision without concern for prevailing tastes, styles, rules or subject matter, yet financial patrons were of utmost importance to each artist as were artistic collaborators. But neither of these creating minds would have succeeded without parental fostering, and a culture that supported art, even though the radical artistic ideas of Mozart and Picasso did not initially succeed with members of the public.
Project Zero's mission is to understand and enhance high-level thinking and learning across disciplines and cultures and in a range of contexts, including schools, businesses, museums and digital environments. The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts is one of many U.S. arts institutions which supports and encourages the works of artists, young and old, in the past and in the present, and which provides support and opportunities for art education. It is part of an artistic infrastructure that includes artists, their families and boosters, artistic organizations and institutions, schools and higher educational institutions, individual and corporate patrons, and a broad based audience.
Children are an especially important artistic group, for their creative minds have not yet been channeled in conventional ways. Who does not enjoy the delightful insights of children on many topics of everyday life, including art?
In Gardner's book, "Artful Scribbles: The Significance of Children's Drawings," he explores the linkage between children's art and their emotional, cognitive, and social development. He connects the stages of childhood development, to the stages that unfold in childhood artistic development. For example, in drawings of the human figure, the child first represents a hand as a circle, then as a circle with sticks coming out to represent fingers, then the stick fingers become sausage fingers.
In the coming month, the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts invites the public, encourages visitors from near and far through its free admission policy and welcomes all who seek to engage with creative minds, to view and enjoy works of art by the emerging artists in our schools and by the established artists of the centuries to be found in the museum's art collections.
Rebecca Massie Lane is director of Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. To find out more about the museum, visit www.wcmfa.org
If you go
What: Washington County Public Schools Art Exhibitions
When: Grades kindergarten through fifth — today through Sunday, May 5 with reception from 2 to 4 p.m. today; Grades sixth through 12, Saturday, May 11, through Sunday, May 26, with a reception 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 12
Where: Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, in City Park, Hagerstown
Contact: 301-739-7861, www.wcmfa.org