My Little Picasso: Helping My Child Fall In Love with Art

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There are a few, precious moments when one feels like, “Yes, I’m actually doing this parenting thing right! My efforts are paying off! My kid is listening, and learning and growing!” I’m a firm believer in celebrating those little wins. So now I’d like to tell you about my latest win in the ‘culture’ category.

Name that Work of Art

Yesterday my son and I played a new game, one that was made up entirely from his imagination and his memory. It all started when he leaned over my shoulder as I flipped through a digital edition of the latest issue of Vogue magazine on my iPad. An article was accompanied by a photo of ‘The Weeping Woman’, a relatively obscure but distinctively styled painting by one of the most famous painters in the world. “Hey, I know that!” Quinn squealed with delight. I paused and let him enjoy the piece and he said, “Picasso, Picasso, PICASSO!” in his affected Spanish accent which he puts on whenever he gets a chance to show off his expertise in that language.

Quinn’s creative interpretation of his name.

Quinn’s classes are taught primarily in Spanish and most of his teachers are native speakers from around the globe. “Today we talked about the art of the lady with the mustache and the connected eyebrows.” I smiled and began to say her name, “Frida…” He corrected me, rolling his r’s and enunciating the vowels in her last name as if he was from her homeland of Mexico. I searched her name online and quickly located the painting he’d seen that day.

Once he realized that he could describe something and then challenge me to find it, we went through several more rounds of works that he could recall. The descriptions got progressively harder until I got stuck. For the last piece he not only described the shapes and colors but the textures and moods of the work. He started with “it has yellow and white circles” but after I failed multiple times he eventually told me it was “dark and swirly with yellow and white circles that look like they were drawn with crayon.” My kid knows Vincent van Gogh. I’ll take that as a win.

How Did We Get Here?

I have always been a creative person who enjoys the arts but I never felt particularly talented at creating art on my own. Instead I would collect reproductions of art that I find stimulating. 

Aunt Sis, aka Gertrude Baker.
Aunt Sis said this portrait was designed to capture her energy.

My Aunt Sis, an incredibly eccentric and colorful woman, introduced me to the glory of original and local art when I was a teenager. She commissioned several of her artist friends to create works of her likeness when she was living in an artists community in San Antonio. I thought this was wildly self-indulgent at the time but when she passed away a decade later I inherited two of her most beautiful and lifelike pieces. My son never got to meet his great aunt, but he sees her everyday and her influence on me impacts the decisions I make about how our family exposes him to art in mundane and special ways.

Quinn’s art progression has grown organically to include several books, many featuring art that reflect his world.

Keeping the Love Alive

Eddie the 4th holding Eddie the 5th, aka Quinn.

Now that he’s a ‘big boy’ we take him on adventures to various museums, including the St. Louis Art Museum. He also now owns two large portraits of himself (one with his dad and one with me) by local artist Cbabi Bayoc. This summer he attended an art camp, where every week he used a different medium to create works of different themes highlighted by field trips to relevant venues around town. That experience allowed him to explore and create in ways that were empowering and exciting, while also fostering his growth and development.

Up until yesterday, I was confident that he was enjoying himself and that his art exposure was good for him, but I wasn’t really sure if any of it was sticking in meaningful ways. I’m glad to know that he genuinely enjoys art and now I am even more firmly assured that we are taking the right steps to encourage him to explore his creativity. Now I’m even more excited to take him back to the art museum for their latest exhibit, featuring the works of Kehinde Wiley.

Buddies hanging out in front of a favorite Monet at Saint Louis Art Museum.
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Aliah Holman
Aliah was born and raised in St. Louis. She comes from a family of community leaders, activists, educators and volunteers. After her experiences in both public and private education in St. Louis, Aliah attended New York University, where she studied Mass Communications and Journalism. She worked in the New York ad industry for several years before returning home to start a family and continue her communications career. Her experiences in both cities gave her a unique perspective on the ways that social, economic and cultural issues impact the growth and development of our citizens and our cities. In addition to her current work as a crisis management communications specialist, Aliah has served as founding board member of St. Louis Language Immersion School, as a St. Louis City Commissioner for BiState Development, and as a board member for We Stories. Her 6-year-old Quinn enjoys reading aloud from books in English and Spanish from their extensive personal library.