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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Little Collector and the Future of Arts Education

Posted by Matt Stangel on Tue, Mar 22, 2011 at 5:11 PM

Timothy Karpinskis Family Tree, available at LittleCollector.com
  • LittleCollector.com
  • Timothy Karpinski's "Family Tree," available at LittleCollector.com

Recently, a website called Little Collector launched, offering "contemporary art for kids." The central engine of the site is a storefront selling limited-edition prints by household names like Shepard Fairey, as well as a few local favorites, like Seth Neefus and Timothy Karpinski (both of the Together Gallery family). Prints are sold in three sizes, framed or unframed, ranging from $40-$350. Included in the Little Collector site is a learning section that features a glossary of art terms, a time-line of modern art movements, and a handful of artist bios (Picasso, Warhol, Hirst, etc.). By no means are these exhaustive resources, but they're enough to catalyze a more comprehensive Wikipedia session.

While I feel that exposure to art (and creativity in general) at an early age is important, I'm generally wary of anything commercial that's targeted at kids. After all, children don't really need limited-edition prints— if they like an image they can probably find it online and print it out for their bedroom wall, cultural/educational value unscathed.

That said, I don't want to be too quick to chalk this up as another attempt to guilt parents into needlessly spending money on their kids: In a political climate where National Endowment for the Arts and other important sources of arts funding (the kind that support art classes for school kids) are facing budget cuts, it might be time for parents to start thinking about taking matters into their own hands. I hate to say "prepare for the worst," but, well, ya know...

Moreover, in preparing for the worst, I believe we need to look to our own experiences to discover the best ways to address the potential art-education deficit. How were you first exposed to art? What alternative models of education could replicate those formative experiences? Do you think resources like Little Collector are enough? Or would a weekly family craft night be a better, low-budget solution?

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