KART has really Done it!

SUELLEN Stubbs describes herself as a reluctant academic but her program, KART (Kids Are Raw Talent), for teaching art to young children, is making many in early childhood development pay attention.

And if all goes well, the fruits of her labours may next year be seen hanging in the 2009 Archibald Prize, and that would really get tongues wagging.

In 2003 Mrs Stubbs, painter, sculptor and semi-retired preschool teacher, was contemplating the problems of having bored kids in classes with other teachers at an early childhood convention in Coffs Harbour.

“We were talking about children and art and it occurred to me how odd it was that we never taught children the concepts of art,” Mrs Stubbs said.

“We've always been told to give them a paintbrush and let them go.

“I thought, how ridiculous! We teach kids to write, ride bikes and play the piano - why not art?”

Not long after what she describes as her 'epiphany', she took her ideas into the classroom at the tiny Eungai Preschool and was amazed at what she saw.

“As soon as I started I noticed every area of the children's' development improved - concentration, language, self-confidence.

“I work with the kids one-on-one so you can really gauge their progress - I saw kids blossom.”

What Mrs Stubbs was teaching were simple basics of art - drawing lines, mixing colours and understanding perspective.

“The younger children are fearless and after a short time they were doing work no-one thought they were capable of. The program opens them up to their creativity because they can understand what they are doing.”

And to prove her point she has set her sights on having a portrait of Ken Done painted by a group of her pre and primary school children hung in the 2009 Archibald Prize.

“I wanted to use someone the kids could relate to,” Mrs Stubbs said.

“Ken Done's work really stands out to kids - he uses colours and strong shapes. And when I approached his agent, he said yes!”

Now she's busy planning the project.

“The pre-school kids will paint the background on the canvas and I'm taking a small group of older children from Tallowood School to Sydney for a sitting on October 25.

“At the moment we've been working on mixing skin colours and we've gridded the canvas using a photo of Ken.”

Although Mrs Stubbs admits a work done by a group of artists has never been hung in the past, she is hoping the novelty value of the endeavour might get them over the line.

“The Archibald is always controversial - I'm hoping this could generate some excitement and interest.”

Winning however is not her ultimate goal.

“I would like to see this program in every pre-school in the country and in homes that don't have access to the schools - it's not difficult and it helps improve every area of the child's development.”

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