Sarah West: Childhood Civility

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Paper is rolled out over school lunch room tables. Easels, sketchbooks, still life drawing props and various other studio necessities are arranged before the school bell rings. The beginning and end of my week is marked this way. After the bell, excitement fills the halls, and there is a rush as students descend into the lunchroom eager to engage in the creative process. They bring with them stories of their day.

Some tell of exciting events, and express their anticipation of the upcoming holiday. While others harbor somber sentiments regarding disheartening experiences that might’ve befallen them. Just last week, I greeted my class and presented the question, “please tell me something interesting that you have experienced this week.” The prevalent topic was, of course, Halloween, fall festivals and candy. Amid the joyful chatter, another approached me and explained, “Ms. Sarah, someone said that my artwork wasn’t good…” After consoling this student with compassion, and thoughtful advice, I encouraged everyone to gather around for a group conversation. The conversation began as I asked each student a series of questions, “how do you define art, and what does art mean to you?”

I encouraged each young artist to think before answering. I also impressed upon them the importance of civility and how we might encourage it by practicing civility through conversation spoken mindfully. Each student reverently waited their turn to answer and contribute to this discussion. I grew aware that our talk continued well into our brush painting exercise. No one seemed to mind.

At the end of our class, students had not only achieved drawing and beautifully painted studies; they had grown to understand their fellow classmates better. Through art they practiced civility, and mindfully considered diverse reactions to art and ways that they might react compassionately to others too, even when art might be misunderstood.

Art is life expressed – Sarah West, Owner of The Sarah West Gallery of Fine Art