Monday, 26 May 2014 09:06

Modern Art through the Eyes of a Child – Matisse, Picasso, Pollock

There is courage in opening your breadth of experience as a teacher. The courage begins by simply saying, “Yes.”

I said “Yes.” to Nevena Videnova, an Early Year’s teacher, working in Wonder World Kindergarten in Sofia and this story began to unfold. Many more began to say yes, and we began to build our community of ideas, provocations and creativity. Our Principal, Edgar Miranda, had introduced the Global Citizen’s Project within our school and encouraged us to open our teaching to a philosophy that transcends curricular standards. Having an open heart and an open mind was invaluable to that philosophy.  As a school song, written by our counselor, Laura Giosh-Markov says;

It's me that builds community
Together we can change the world
With our hands, our hearts and heads
We put it all together to make it turn

The exhibition was the first collaborative project between Anglo-American School and Wonder World, and involved 59 children aged 4 – 6 years old. Throughout the project, children were invited to share their thoughts and feelings about their understandings of the art and their responses were documented and shared with them. Together, the collaborating teachers decided on artists whose work sought the essential perspective of child-like art; Matisse, Picasso and Pollock.

Creative Process

“Every child is an artist; the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” Picasso

Ruslana, our Elementary Specialist Teacher’s Assistant, and potter, created a pottery in the school’s garage, with the help of our Elementary Art Teacher, Mariangela, bedecking it with provocations of Picasso’s life and work. None of this was their remit, or required, this was inspirational and formative, a community coming together in a desire to create and expand a child’s experience as a member of a wider community.

“What is the artist trying to tell us?” we asked as children studied the late ceramic work of Picasso. Picasso spent a lifetime trying to recapture the innocence and beauty of child-like art. This innocence helped children have a sense of wonder in the creative process that did not harbor judgment or errors. It was art for the joy and wonder of creation.

“Maybe he is trying to remember someone he loved.” they replied.

With the use of mirrors to make observations, children created abstract representations of themselves on clay plates they had molded.

Mariangela has been transitioning from a whole elementary art exhibition to creating ateliers with different grade levels that students and the wider school community could work in throughout the year. One of the classes she had been working with studied Matisse and his use of colour and form in Dance (1), 1909. In studying Matisse, it enabled Grade 3 students to be the experts and teachers in their learning.  Grade 3 is also our reading buddy class. They had created a relationship of trust and respect over the year.  They shared their understanding of the work, scaffolding the Kindergarten learning and their own understanding.

A section of the gallery was magically transformed to create an atelier where children from both Kindergartens worked for three days on adding details to their interpretations of Matisse’ Les Pivoines’, 1907. Jessie and Wonder World teacher Beatrix expanded children’s minds with their inquiry into Matisse’s use of colour contrast and experimenting with texture. In a collaborative atelier, they contributed to a huge squared canvas of flowers which was then left open for the whole community throughout the exhibition.

One of our drives for this collaboration was that children should share their experiences, so we worked on three canvases collectively, inspired by Pollock’s action painting. Our school handed over the canvases we had worked on, and our Wonder World friends contributed their own feelings to the pieces.


The show was held at a downtown location, in a private gallery ‘1908’. The pieces were put up for ‘sale’, and buyers made donations. One private collector bought a clay plate for 325 leva (165 euros)! At the time of writing, I am excited to find out just how much money has been raised. All proceeds are going to provide a local children’s cancer ward with art supplies. We will sponsor artists to create pop up workshops on how the materials can be used, and our hope is to continue that sense of wonder and joy in more lives. It has been such a transformational experience for me as teacher. I am no artist, but opening hearts and minds has helped all of us learn from each other in how to listen, to look, and to learn. Our children are part of a greater community, and have been celebrated as contributing members.

Submitted by AAS-Sofia PreK-K Teams: Ruslana Anastasova, Mariangela Anastassova, Marianne Brooks, Jessie Martin and Katie Sonnefeld