Arts a la Carte, a new children’s arts discussion series at the Featherstone Center for the Arts, will kick off this Thursday with a bang: a Molly Bang, that is.
With ever so much apology for the all too obvious pun, it is important to know that this namesake is an indicative one. For Molly Bang has been nothing less than explosive in the world of children’s books. So celebrated an author is Ms. Bang that Arts a la Carte organizer Lani Carney insisted she be the first guest speaker for the series, even if it meant pushing back the program’s start date an entire year.
For Ms. Carney, Molly Bang’s work seemed to embody the mission of the Arts a la Carte program. She said she hopes that by inviting celebrated children’s artists to assist in the program, it can bring “mothers and fathers together in a nourishing way to look at children’s arts.” Ms. Carney, a child educator herself, seems to have hit the mark in selecting Ms. Bang for such a program.
Molly Bang — who has written over 30 books for kids, some of which are science books and some of which are story books — seems to be Ms. Carney’s kindred spirit in two separate but related realms of the world of progressive education. Ms. Bang sees both her children’s science and story books as critical links in the development of a child’s education and character. “Nourishing, not clinical,” is the motto Ms. Carney sought to imbue in the program’s planning.
Ms. Bang is a celebrated leader in children’s progressive education. But via a less clinical description, she seems to be a child’s storytelling ally and advocate. Her mission is to disseminate scientific truth and usher early childhood development of crucial qualities such as empathy and understanding and self-knowledge through means of exploring narrative:
“We see our lives as stories. We understand the world in terms of story. When we start reading stories as kids, we start using those patterns as ways to see. Stories are a way of making sense of the world, and that’s the value of stories for kids. Stories give us windows into the behavior of others and ourselves,” Ms. Bang said, “but also interpret why we do things ourselves. What we do when you’re reading a story book is you identify with the characters in it ... it broadens your ability to understand other worlds.”
Ms. Bang’s experience in writing books for and teaching art to children is immense. Her books include the Caldecott Honor books Ten, Nine, Eight and The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher; the Giverney prizewinner for best children’s science book Common Ground; Massachusetts Book Award winner My Light; as well as The Paper Crane and When Sophie Gets Angry — Very, Very Angry. She has illustrated for UNICEF, worked for public health project in Mali and has written a book explaining the principles of picture books called Picture This. Her ability to communicate this experience should be helpful to parents who attend Thursday’s program.
“After kids have had art in schools, after kids have worked on making pictures, they have calmed down, and are able to flow into other lessons with a much greater sense of attention,” she said. “It sets them up for focusing on the next project.”
But the value is not merely behavioral. Art education builds analytical skills, the author who resides in Falmouth and San Francisco, Calif., said. “If you’re going to draw things or if you’re going to paint them it requires that you pay attention to them in a way you wouldn’t otherwise,” she said. “It helps you see the world with more care and attention.”
Art education also builds an appreciation in the miracle of nature. As Ms. Bang put it: “You realize how miraculous something is when you’re drawing it. You really can become in love with it or in awe of it when you’re trying to draw it.”
Such benefits are what the Arts a la Carte gathering will explore Thursday.
Ms. Bang describes Ms. Carney as a magical teacher, and lauds her ability to excite children about art: “She has children extraordinarily enthusiastic about making art and she encourages them in whatever they’ve done.”
Ms. Carney’s aim with this program is to focus on parents’ interaction with their children’s creative development.
With such a promising start, Ms. Carney might consider a surname change to “Dynamite.”
Molly Bang will present her talk, Picture This, at the Point Way Inn in Edgartown on at 2 p.m. on Thursday in a luncheon program that begins at 1 p.m. Questions and conversation may continue until 4:30 p.m. Preregister by calling 508-696-7671.