Much of my adult life has been spent working as an advocate for the arts in education. I believe that all children should be exposed to visual art, the performing arts and literary art. They should be allowed time and thoughtful consideration for whatever project they are working on and, above all else, they should not be “graded” for their work or feel that art is in any way a competitive activity. While it may be important to develop aesthetic discernment as one becomes an adult, I believe that this has no place in the artistic life of a child. It negatively affects a child when his/her creativity is placed on a scale. Not only can this turn a child away from the arts, but it can also affect his/her self-esteem. Children don’t understand that whoever is evaluating their work is basing his/her judgment on a subjective set of standards. A critical word can crush a child’s sense of him/herself. This is absolutely the opposite of what I feel the arts should do for children.
I taught theatre in New York City schools, developed cross-discipline arts programs in Los Angeles and worked for many years at the All Children’s Theatre in Providence, Rhode Island, where I developed multi-age musical theatre curriculum. The All Children’s Theatre is a nonprofit committed to bringing out the best in each individual child. When I started my own children’s theatre workshops in Vermont, I took what I’d learned at ACT and applied it to my own work. I’m also a trained Rudolph Steiner teacher and taught in the Waldorf educational system for many years. The emphasis in Steiner schools is on the imaginative and artistic life of the child and the curriculum works to integrate these aspects into the intellectual development of each young person.
Though I am not currently working on a project in the realm of children’s theatre, I maintain the role of advocate for children in the arts and look forward to future collaborative projects with and for children.