Imagination + Play = Creativity

Today we welcome guest blogger, Ann Marie Newman to the We Art Family blog. Ann Marie is our go-to gal for creativity, storytelling, and generally making the world a brighter, more fun place. She regularly performs at our First Tuesday, Late Night, and Family Celebration events, weaving storytelling and art together in the most creative ways. She also teaches several of our summer art camps and is a favorite among our summer campers. To find out more about Ann Marie, visit her blog here. You can see her performance in person this Friday, March 19th, telling Bedtime Stories with Arturo, at our Late Night event.

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Children, like animals, use all their senses to discover the world. Then Artists come along and discover it the same way, all over again.”  Eudora Welty

When I was six years old I made a very intentional proclamation that I have continued to affirm, over and over, throughout my life. I had been huddled underneath the kitchen table, drawing with crayons and listening to my grandmother and her friends discuss boring, boring, boring stuff like money (blahhh…), who was in the hospital (Eeewww…), and who was not getting along with who (Who cares!). Was this what it was like to be a grown-up? Did they consider this having fun?

Didn’t grown-ups know how to play anymore?

Finally I could not take their dull, unimaginative chatter anymore, I stood up and proclaimed loudly, “I will never, ever, EVER forget how to play and use my imagination!”

The adults stopped talking. They looked at me in puzzlement. When I didn’t offer further comment, they turned back to each other and resumed the conversation. Clearly they did not understand that I had just made a most momentous, life altering decision for myself.

Today as a professional storyteller/artist, my imagination and ability to play is vital to my success in working with children and adults.  My imagination allows me to enter into a story or visualize a new piece of art. Play enables me to be creative when using non-traditional materials in art, or non-traditional methods in relating a story here at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Living sculptures with high drama!

Children are natural, innovative thinkers whose vibrant imaginations thrive when learning new ways of doing things through active play. Every child is an artistic genius in some way. I’m certain of this. It is my goal to help them celebrate and cherish this in themselves by engaging their imaginations. This is done through sensory rich storytelling programs, and by introducing unusual materials into art projects inspired by the gallery art.  It is important to encourage a playful, experimental approach to art making. The primary focus is on the process of creating, not the final result. This relieves a great deal of stress over getting something “right”, plus it helps give birth to ingenuity and happy accidents.

Sing it to the mop! (a found object sculpture Ann Marie created in response to a work of art here at the museum)

“Play builds the kind of free-and-easy, try-it-out, do-it-yourself character that our future needs. We must become more self-conscious and more explicit in our praise and reinforcement as children use unstructured play materials: “That’s good. You use your own ideas….” “That’s good. You did it your way….” “That’s good. You thought it all out yourself.” James L. Hymes, Jr.

Summer art campers turn Jackson Pollock's work into a 3-D sculpture

What can you do at home?

  • Read stories aloud to your child, even if they already know how to read.
  • Discuss what you’ve read and ask them to create a drawing or sculptural artwork inspired by the story. Let children work as independently as age allows.  
  • Make it even more fun and create an artwork yourself!
  • Introduce unusual materials into the art projects. Don’t worry about whether it will hold up tomorrow. Take a photo of it to keep as a memento instead.
  • Celebrate the art that is created. No matter how it turns out. Note any discoveries good or bad that were made. Remember, some of the best lessons come from mistakes.

Now enough of this grown-up talk.

It’s time to go imagine, play and create! Oh Happy Day!!!


Posted by: Ann Marie Newman, Storyteller/Artist


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