Once criticized for being brats, misbehaving and not eating vegetables, children have been making strides to restore their public image.
A recent exhibition in the Southwestern College Student Art Gallery, curated by the Child Development Center, helped enormously.
“Children’s Art: A Culture of Expression” showcased the endless possibilities of pure imagination with the artwork of children age two to five. Replete with abstract, figurative, self-portrait and collaborative paintings, as well as mixed media pieces that included beads and wire, the exhibition radiated a sense of wonder and innocence too cute to deny.
Some self-portraits had comments below them:
“‘This one, I am in Halloween. I am wearing a zombie mask.’ Genaro, age 4.”
“‘I made a ballon of me!’ Olivia, age 3.”
“‘I got bones on my face.’ Zoey, age 4.’”
Patie Bartow, director of the CDC, said she wants children to know that they’re respected and their artwork is valued.
“Art is a way for children to express themselves,” she said. “We try to create an environment in the classroom where the children can be engaged, where their imaginations are just on fire.”
Four-year-old Steven Freeman is one of those children. After hopping around in sporadic bursts, he was cajoled by his parent to sit. Grinning, he said he loves art “because it’s really fun!”
“Coloring art, that’s my favorite,” he said. “I like to draw Minions.”
Freeman said he is going to kindergarten soon, which is exciting “because it’s really, really, really, really fun there!”
Emma Stein, a poised and petite three-year-old, attended the exhibition’s opening night reception with her sister, Elizabeth, 4, and parents. She said she loves drawing, mostly pictures of “mommy.”
Emma’s “mommy,” Molly Stein, a child development adjunct instructor, shared Bartow’s view. Children use art as a form of expression, because they do not have as much language as adults, Stein said.
“They’re actually representing their world, what they see in it,” she said. “Emma’s really into doing faces and Elizabeth does our family all the time, where I’m the central figure. It’s really representative of her life.”
Dozens of artists attended the reception with friends and family, including Sealyn Azeez, a shy artist who turned five in January. Azeez said she loves learning and painting. Her proud mother, Lynn Domingo, said her daughter also loves flowers, family, her teachers and the CDC.
“To see her grow over the past two years here at this Child Development Center at Southwestern College has been amazing,” Domingo said. “It’s definitely helped her a lot because she’s an only child. She’s developed a lot of good friendships, especially some of her best friends here at this school.”
Blanca Villa, a CDC teacher, estimated 70 to 80 artists contributed to the exhibit.
“We like doing this art exhibition to show the value we give to each and every individual child,” she said. “It’s the fifth year we’ve been doing it. This is first time we’ve done it in January.”
SWC’s Child Development Center was founded in 1998. In 2005, it moved from portable classrooms in the barren corner lot to its current location, a building atop the mesa near the southwest edge of campus, beyond the South Bay Botanical Garden.
Bartow and Mary Holmes, a child development professor, estimate the CDC has served more than 1,200 children since it opened. Barton said the center currently serves about 100 children who come throughout the day at different times.
CDC’s mission statement says the center “embraces and supports the individuality of each child in an authentic, emerging learning environment.”
Bartow explained the ethos even simpler.
“We want them to be engaged and we want them to be excited,” she said. “Bottom line, we want them to be excited about learning.”