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Reflections on the Fall Festival and the Art Crawl
October 27th. The Fall Festival, Downtown Anaheim
With the most glorious late October weather some 10,000 or so people thronged the area, many of them children adorably dressed in costume becoming of the Halloween theme. The food booths and the new cafés in Center Street Promenade did brisk trade. The City’s show stage carried a full program ranging from the Breakthough Kids Blues Band to the Anaheim Ballet, a dog costume parade and the kids’ costume parade.
And ranged along both sides of the street dozens of booths providing art activities for kids, arts and crafts, and fun of every kind. The organizers have this event so well down that it not only sports an excellent website but the managements of the booths and communications with the vendors would have been the envy of any commercial business.
The evening parade, another Anaheim tradition, kept many thousands out in the balmy evening enjoying the spectacle.
We should mention that the primary school arts contest organized by the Anaheim Arts Council was extremely successful. Yes – it was partly a deliberate ploy to have classroom based arts projects. Many of the competition entries showed wonderful imagination and promise.
November 10th, the Art Crawl Experience, Downtown Anaheim
By this time the weather was turning and canopies ballooned as the late afternoon wind threatened to whisk them away. It was time for an extra layer of insulation to ward off the evening chill. Where the show stage had filled the intersection of Lemon and Center Street Promenade for the above Festival, a smaller stage was sufficient for the various bands that took their turn; though the whirling, flaming brands of one set of entertainers was too large to take the stage and had the crowds closely gathered round as they performed.
The booths and artists were all arranged down one side of the street giving easy access to the many new shops on the north side of the street.
A Common Theme
The Arts Council set up a booth at both events, each time offering painting activity to anyone who wanted to try their hand at acrylic art on canvas boards. With patient supervision from volunteers like Mary Daniels from the Anaheim Arts Association, and the wonderful Key Clubbers, dozens of children, teens and adults warmed to the opportunity and clustered round to see who might become the next Joshua Reynolds or Pablo Picasso.
The painting was extraordinarily popular! While some painted others watched. Let me try and describe the intensity of the event. First, it was evident most of our instant artists has either never painted before, or had not done so for many years. And they LOVED it! Now colored pencils are one thing, or crayons, pastels or marker pens – but real paint that feels and flows like oil paint, over a canvas surface is quite another. You are blown away by the texture, the feel of the brush, the amazing blending of color on the canvas and the effects you can achieve. And perhaps most remarkable was the reaction of the children.
So here is little Susie, painting. She’s never done this before. And she get almost immediately totally in the zone, almost mesmerized by the experience. She carefully picks her colors, mixes them a little and with minimal assistance begins to develop a design. As you watch you do not know what is going on inside Susie’s head. But she knows. She is creating, on the spot, something she never knew was possible. Her imagination is way ahead of spectating parents and slowly she builds her picture so that we can finally see what she had in mind. You watch her select her colors, rinse her brush, turn the brush round corners with a twist of the wrist she has just discovered. And you talk to her proud parents. (See the heart, left.)
“Does Susie get to do this at school?” – a question I asked many times. Turns out, the home schooled kids got to paint; the public school kids might do a small amount of art or crafts – if they were lucky. But many of them never got remotely near the art activity they were doing here, in our booth, on the street.
It was then you knew how these kids are deprived when art goes AWOL from the primary school curriculum. And many of the parents never even realized that. To these I had one oft repeated suggestion – “You know what to get them for Christmas? – a box of paints. Way cheaper than most other toys, and far more satisfying.”
Quite a number of parents asked, “Are there any after school art classes to which I can take my child?” And at the time, I did not know. I know that Community Services runs an amazing raft of art and craft activities but I didn’t have the details to hand. I think we have identified a need!
Get the arts back in our schools
These two street-based art events have reinforced in my mind how important it is that elementary schools kids get good art programs. This is not a luxury; this is a necessity. The research is in; neglect the arts at your peril. Deprive the kids of the opportunities to explore color, line, shape, design, texture and you deprive them of the bright, creative spark that will permeate all the other subjects they do at school. Deny them the opportunity to dance and sing and they never experience the uninhibited thrill of using their natural creativity, or discovering how all the rest of their school work gets elevated.
Budget or no budget, school administrators and teachers must do all they can get the arts back in the classroom.
The Los Angeles Unified School District has finally woken up to this. It is time for our Anaheim school districts to engage parents, arts organizations and local businesses in a dialogue that will lead to action in the year 2103.
As the Anaheim Arts Council we are not only advocating for the reinstatement of the arts in our schools but would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with local school leadership, businesses, The California Arts Project and the Anaheim Alliance for Arts Education.