Reflecting on the Emotive Impact of Teaching the Arts

On Friday, May 27, the High Tide art gallery hosted an art show for the spice paintings, dreamscapes, and Andalusian collages that students created in Al-Bustan’s Moffet Arab Arts After-School Program., led by teaching artist Lisa Volta. The highlight of the evening was my illuminating conversation with attendees whose opinions on the works reminded me of the power of arts education.

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Moffet student Stephanie working on her sunflower using spice “paint”

Following introductions between myself and guests, we began analyzing the art works. Through our conversations I realized that my critiques focused more on the complexity of composition and clarity of depiction. The guests, however, saw the pieces from a wholly different perspective. While I gravitated towards more “neat” paintings, others preferred the more raw, emotive works. For them, the virtue of this art was its lack of refinement—as one guest put it, most adult artists are actually trying to return to a child-like honesty when making art.

In particular, everyone was fascinated by a very dark dreamscape painting because, although the painting itself was murky, the emotions it intimated were crystal clear. After further discussion I remembered that the artist of this painting had previously hinted at some sadness in her life during a choir assignment. Instead of verbally discussing this emotions with us, this child decided to process the emotions in her art class.

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High Tide co-owners and me posing after hanging the students artwork

Being the site-manager handling day-to-day operations of the after-school program tends to detract me from appreciating how wonderful the arts are for our kids. When you consider the diversity of our students, their life experiences, and the art they produce, it is simply beautiful what we get to do on a daily basis. While it was a pleasure to see the students’ work on display once again, the engagement of guests and their observations reminded me that we are not just teaching technical skills and classroom behavior, but we are also offering tools for these youth to express themselves without judgment.

Many thanks to High Tide Gallery for hosting the show!  With their help, and the help of many other people and organizations supporting the Moffet community, we can continue to grow both the literal and metaphorical Moffet Garden.

– Max Dugan, Al-Bustan Program Coordinator

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