Saturday morning mother-son date: hot chocolate, tea, and collaborative art on a cafe patio. His favorite highlighters, Jenny Doh’s Creative Lettering, and a little Vengekeep Prophecies read-aloud.
My eight-year-old son was inspired to leave some art on the patio for others to enjoy. He knew the pictures might be taken down fairly quickly, but we had a good time imagining these bits of creativity going on an adventure, going home with someone we’ve never met.
Wherever you live, I hope you and your kids will leave some temporary public art for others to come across. It can be hard for some kids to let go of a drawing, and that’s okay. Don’t try to force it. Offer to make copies of their art if they’re interested but hesitant to let it go. And if you start creating public art, they might join you.
A few ways to inspire public art appreciation and creation as a family:
* Sticky Notes: Draw on post-it notes and leave for others on railings, public mail boxes, meters, etc. (Just don’t overdo it or it becomes litter.)
* Walk a Stapler: Take a walk with some sketches and a stapler. Spruce up a few telephone poles. It’ll make them so happy.
* Lost Posters: Make some imaginary creature posters. I saw this one in Philly a few years back. Lost Unicorn, friendly disposition! (click to enlarge)
* Yarn Bombing: If you knit or crochet… If you’re the only knitter in the house, have the kids help design and attach the finished product. This one was in Philly, wrapped around a meter post, and made me so happy as I passed by. Thank you to whoever made it 🙂
* Chalk Art: Take after Bert from Mary Poppins, and make some art on your driveway, sidewalk, or a park path. Also, check out Julian Beever’s sidewalk art.
* Nature’s Art:
- Cairns: I love coming across stones stacked up by train stations, in empty lots, and even in a clearing just off the Appalachian Trail. (click to enlarge)
Appalachian Trail (Delaware Water Gap)
Appalachian Trail (Delaware Water Gap)
- Leaning Sticks: I love when branches are leaned against a tree, sometimes creating a sculpture big enough for a child to fit inside of. It seems that many people have contributed a stick as they passed by, until the tower is massive. My kids love adding their own, to be part of something so mysterious. (This probably began as a way to simply clear the trail, but became art!)
- Wildflower Street Art: Gather wild flowers, interesting grasses and weeds, then hold them against a telephone pole, while someone else wraps a string around the plants and pole a few times to keep the bouquet in place. They will dry beautifully. Whoever did this outside my house, thank you!
- Mandalas: Anywhere you go a mandala can appear: parks, parking lots, trails. You can use sticks, rocks, grass, shells, flowers, feathers, sea glass… This is a lovely beach mandala from the good people at Sparkle Stories. Also, find some photos of traditional mandalas for your kids to see so they know where this is coming from.
* Paths: Check out the painted stone path captured on One Crafty Mama! As a child, I knew an artist who had a path to his studio laid with embedded, oversized marbles, sticking halfway up out of the dirt like tiny crystal balls. I was mesmerized by this, wondering how they ended up there. I bet a lot of kids would have a blast digging small holes into a path and planting marbles. I wonder how long such a planting would last in a public park…
* Little Free Library: These are amazing. I recently saw a Little Free Library nearby, created from a repurposed newspaper vending machine. This seems like the perfect container: water tight and now full of free books to borrow, they painted the box beautifully.
* Isaiah Zagar: Philadelphians, take your kids to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens in South Philly, and then enjoy spotting more of Zagar’s amazing mosaic art around the city. Try it at home with dishes you’ve accidentally broken (or on purpose!).
* First Friday: Go out as a family on First Friday to see art shows in galleries, and consider organizing a children’s FF Art Show in a library community room. We need more non-competitive art-centered events for and by children, and libraries often have a very small donation fee for use of their meeting rooms.
* Events: Look up public art events in your town. Here’s the Association for Public Art in Philly.
* Graffiti: Enjoy it whenever you can, because graffiti can be beautiful, colorful, exciting, and meaningful. Not suggesting you encourage your kids in graffiti arts, ahem… But in some areas it’s impossible to avoid and can be an avenue for discussion. Check out Happy Graffiti: Street Art With Heart, Written on the City: Graffiti Messages Worldwide (probably best for the over-14 age group), and the Popular History of Graffiti (from cave art to the present). Take time to talk about graffiti with social meaning, and why illegal art can propel a deep message.
Turtle graffiti at Hickory Run State Park’s Boulder Field
Upper Darby, PA
* Mural Arts:
- Watch out Dallas Clayton’s video where he paints his first mural and talks about taking chances on new opportunities.
- Visit murals in your city, bring a camera, and put together a homemade book of photos. If you live in Philly, you’re in luck.
- Consider painting a family mural in your home (I know, it’s not public, but it’s a start), an outside wall of your house, a door, or designs on your yard fence. These are three spots inside our house where young kids painted and drew:
If your kids enjoy this, you can look into opportunities where older kids and adults can volunteer on a public mural. Or get a group together and propose painting a mural on a blank wall at your community center, school, library, or wherever seems to be calling out for it. This is a great guide for indoor murals, and here’s a brief overview for outdoor painting.
Art is everywhere. Take time to notice the modern geometric designs on crosswalks, mural-arts garbage trucks, artistically decorated solar trash cans, cafe and restaurant signage. Before long, your observant kids will be pointing out art that you’ve missed, and asking you to slow down to check it out.
Creating public art makes a place more personal, a town more creative, and offers the chance to leave a positive message for the people around us. My son’s artwork is not at the cafe now, a week later. For whatever time it was hung up, it likely made a few people smile. And hopefully inspired them to leave a creative treasure somewhere, too.