Art Education

The other day I was Marie Kondo-ing my closet because it had become a black hole of doom.  I had thrown months of stuff into it with reckless abandon.  Post-co-op work, Christmas crafts, clothes that didn’t fit anymore, brochures and paperwork collected by me or the kids or both from random field trips…  All piled up on shelves, in tubs, and on the floor.  My closet had become a safety hazard.

As I was organizing everything, I came across piles and piles of my kids’ artwork.  I have 4 aspiring artists and mounds of artwork to prove it.  I don’t think I’m alone.  I think a lot of parents have stacks of papers our kids produce over the course of 18 or more years.  Some of the stuff we look back at and wonder why we ever saved it in the first place, while some of the stuff we look back on proudly positive that our child is the next Picasso.  Either way, each piece is a reminder of our child’s creative genius (or lack of).

So, what do we do with all of that artwork?

Here are some of the solutions I have implemented.  Maybe they would work for you.

Throw It Away

Yes.  You read that right.  If you have an artist (or 2 or 3 or 4…)  you’re going to have to be discerning.  Some of that artwork is going to have to be thrown away.  I’m not going to suggest you hold each piece and talk to it and see if it brings you joy.  I mean, you can if you want to.  Or you could also just look at it and ask the following questions:

  1.  Is this solid artwork or did my artist just see how many colors he/she could get on one piece of paper?
  2. Do I know which kid made this piece?
  3. Do I know when?
  4. Is there any emotional connection to this piece (a happy memory)?
  5. Will I or my child look back on this piece with humor?  Awe?

If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then maybe you should keep it.  If you can answer yes to all of them then you should keep it.  If you have even 1 no, then you may need to consider this isn’t the piece to keep.

I don’t keep any artwork that I don’t know who made it.  No matter how amazing it is, if I don’t know which kid made it, it’s not worth keeping.  I try to always write the name and date on each piece, but the truth is, I don’t always get it done.

I also don’t keep any artwork that just looks like blobs of color unless I know that was the intention of the piece.  All 4 of my kids went through phases of mixing every color on a piece of paper until there is just a gross brown blob that looks like someone vomited on it.  Yeah.  No thank you.

After these two hard no’s for me, I try to be discerning and keep pieces that I think are meaningful pieces for the kids.  Keepsakes worth keeping.

Digitize It

In this day and age, we could literally keep every single piece our child(ren) make throughout their entire lives by digitizing.  Take a photo or scan it in and post it to Facebook or save it to a special hard drive.  Or something I like to do is make those cool memory books through Shutterfly.  It’s like making a scrapbook without all of the work.  Plus, if you’re organized you could do 1 book per year or every couple of years and have a whole collection of your child’s artwork to flip through.  And if you’re really, really organized you could add comments and information about each piece like:

  • when your child made it
  • what was the inspiration
  • where was the piece made
  • how did the child explain it to you

You can have a separate book for each child or one book for all of your children.  And in the end, you can pass the book or collection of books on to your child so his/her children and grandchildren can enjoy it.

Memory Boxes

There are some great memory boxes you can get these days- some are pretty to keep as a bookshelf decoration and some are more utilitarian and will keep the artwork safe from the elements.  You can be as organized as you want with memory boxes.  I have a friend that keeps one box for each kid and another friend that keeps one box per age/grade level per kid.  Either way, you can “file” your child(ren)’s artwork in the box to save for them later.  I’ve seen some people that use the box as a type of file system separating work by age.  I just throw artwork in willy-nilly for each child.  I guess if they were going through it, they could assume that the pieces on top are the most recent.

Spread the Wealth

I love my kids’ artwork, but so do their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.  Why not give their artwork away to other people that can appreciate it as much as you do?  You could also make it into cards, tiles, refrigerator magnets, blankets, coffee cups… These days, the options are really endless.  Most of your photo companies like Shutterfly have a whole section on their site of gifts that photographs can be made into.  And honestly, you could even take a child’s favorite piece and make it into a gift for them.  Wouldn’t your child LOVE cuddling under a blanket printed with their favorite drawing of a monster alien dinosaur?

Frame It

When we moved into our house we had a lot of free wall space.  I set out to take some of my kids’ best pieces or the ones that reminded me of how awesome my kids are and frame them.  I have one entire gallery wall and I will be adding to it in the next few months as my little ones are finding their way as artists.

I hear all of the time people say they don’t have wall space, but guess what?  They have cheap mass-produced artwork or family photos or those wall decals or plates or any number of other things hanging on their walls, so why not add in some original artwork?  And believe me, when I say, nothing brings me more joy than looking up and seeing the artwork that my kids created.  It’s a wonderful conversation starter to have your kids’ original artwork on the wall.  And honestly, it’s a truly personal touch to your home when your home is decorated with the creativity of your children.

In the end, your children’s artwork doesn’t have to take over your life.  You can choose some special pieces that you want to keep and distribute the rest.  Your child’s inner-Picasso will appreciate looking back on his/her own talent someday.  And you will too.

I’d love to hear some other ideas if you have any.  Feel free to leave me some ideas in the comments that maybe I can implement into my art storage situation.