Skip to main content

Art as literacy

A local (Hong Kong) young painter-artist who also teaches drawing to children with and without disability labels told me recently that he would like to exhibit and share his students’ works on his facebook. He would write a small profile, with names withheld or by using nicknames, on the the paths they came across in picking the skills of drawing: their disabilities/ difficulties, the struggles, the way how they overcame the hurdles and at the end came to master some drawing skills and produced very good works.

This young artist is a lovely, well-meaning young gentleman. He has a good heart.  He is not an art therapist, but he somehow believes in the power of art/ drawing in improving and facilitating the proper functioning of children with different physical, behavioural or psychological difficulites.  That's why he has been keen to offer courses to teach children with disability labels (autism, ADHD, etc.) in the hope of helping them to better express and control themselves.

I admire him greatly for the work he has done to maximize the learning opportunities for special needs children so that they can also benefit from and enjoy art. However, I did suggest to him that he need not add any skill or ability profiles about the little artists to the albums or works he was about to post on his facebook pages or blog.   There are always reasons for putting up such profiles but I think we are doing art but not therapy here.  No matter how good and noble the intention is, it appears to me as somewhat unnecessary.  Only the artists' names are good enough for recognition.  The wonder of art is that we can say a language other than words and through this language we feel, express and share, no lesser than what speeches and words can serve.  But in the world of art we can be set free from the presumptions and biases (good and bad ones) caused by the language of words, labels or stigmas.  Our communication as equals, despite our varying skills, is made possible.  Art can communicate.  It is but a kind of literacy in itself.

I am happy that he takes my point.