What's in an Ellis Student's Art Kit?

Last spring, many visual arts teachers were sorting out the safest and best way to approach learning in hands-on, art studio classes in the midst of the pandemic. No one knew what to expect, how long schools might be closed, or if we’d be mandated by the state to teach remotely in the fall. When it came time to order supplies for this school year, teachers prepared for a variety of scenarios.  
At Ellis, students across divisions were given different art kits to use at home, along with a tangible list of supplies to bring to each class if they were learning on campus. And while the kits proved to be handy (and easily sanitized), I noticed that it was the intangible items in their toolkit that made the biggest difference this year. It wasn’t paint, pencils, paper—it was our students’ positive attitudes, their quick-to-collaborate mindsets, and their ability to problem-solve creatively that made an impact and allowed them to strengthen their skills as artists.

So while this might not be a traditional list of art supplies, I believe these are the essential “tools” student-artists need in their art kits, pandemic or not.  

An Ability to Embrace the Unknown
The beauty of art is it teaches us to look at things from multiple perspectives, which is especially essential right now. Whether we are the ones creating the work, looking at a peer’s work, or visiting a museum, there are some steadfast rules, like you need yellow and blue to create green, but mostly there is a multitude of “correct answers” when it comes to art.  Art teaches girls the value of looking, learning about, and understanding differences. We ask our students, “Is that what you see or what you think you see?” Knowing an artist’s intention can bring a greater depth of meaning to any work of art. 

As a student artist, a multiplicity of choices can be intimidating—where does one begin? In the studio, students learn to put trust in their own creative process and to analyze, seek to understand, and constructively critique the work of others. Sometimes creative problem-solving does not involve solving problems at all but teaches us to embrace ambiguity and collaboration. 

An Appreciation for Iteration
Making art can at times feel like sky-diving. Students take creative risks by putting faith in the process of practice. Trusting the parachute will open if you will. Rather than saying “I can’t,” at Ellis, students learn to put faith in asking, “How can I?”  

Ellis artists of all ages are challenged to trust the creative process and break things down.  Simple steps. Practice. By recognizing the value in taking risks to test their limits, our students grow in ways they didn’t think possible, whether in the art room, science lab, or on the field. Ellis students are risk-takers for whom practice is part of their daily learning process. The art studio is an incredible place to witness mistakes turn into masterpieces.

The Confidence to Suspend Judgement 
Ellis girls love exploring and experimenting with new ideas and materials.  When a student comes to a cross-road or is afraid of “messing up,” the visual arts teachers at Ellis gently remind them to let go and to take action as they develop confidence and faith in their creative process. In doing so, Ellis student artists come to know the power of believing in themselves, and the power of supporting one another in a community.  With confidence and problem-solving skills, Ellis artists’ are risk-takers, makers, and agents of change. They are the leaders of our future.