Local Arts

Why kids need art/outdoors now: Brain ‘exercise,’ says painter - and she has a plan

Elementary school groups that visited Bradford’s exhibit at the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum in late October were treated to a visit with Bradford herself. She took the students into the woods near the museum to teach them about observation and drawing images in nature. “A wonderful skill to have, whether you ever make art or not, is observation,” Bradford says. “To just quiet your mind and allow yourself to see what there is or hear what there is.”
Elementary school groups that visited Bradford’s exhibit at the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum in late October were treated to a visit with Bradford herself. She took the students into the woods near the museum to teach them about observation and drawing images in nature. “A wonderful skill to have, whether you ever make art or not, is observation,” Bradford says. “To just quiet your mind and allow yourself to see what there is or hear what there is.” Leila Weinstein

Bradford is passionate about the magic that happens when children unlock the right side of the brain, which comes alive when art is made but is so often silenced in the classroom.

“School so much is about the left brain, all day every day from the age of 5,” Bradford says. “People come out of it saying ‘I can only draw stick figures. I don’t know how to draw, I don’t know anything about art,’ because they’ve had zero exposure and none of that has been exercised. That part of their brain hasn’t been exercised.

“Math and language occupy a totally different part of the brain than art-making does. I can literally be talking on the phone to someone and simultaneously making decisions about what to do on a painting,” she says. “It’s like there’s no overlap, there’s no conflict … because they’re in two different hemispheres and it’s easy.”

Children (and even adults) who become interested in art often want to jump right into painting, Bradford says, but she cautions that learning to keenly observe and then draw is a better place to start.

“With children, (drawing) is a skill that’s fun to have and it’s empowering,” she says.

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