The artist sees what others only catch a glimpse of, Leonardo Da Vinci once said.
Throughout my life, I’ve been moved by art. And somehow—despite my own lack of ability— I’ve been surrounded by artists. My grandfather, my brother, my husband. Cousins, friends, students. I’m inspired by their creations. My breath catches when I see what they can accomplish. But as Da Vinci understood, I only catch glimpses. What they see—and how they see the world—is something I can never truly understand.
When we decided to hold a youth art contest in conjunction with this year’s Kids Count in Michigan Data Book, I made no secret of my enthusiasm. As a former teacher, I’ve always loved seeing the art my students created. They’d bring in cast-offs from art class that I’d proudly hang in my classroom. I’ve got boxes and files of beautiful work from kids over the years.
When we set up the contest, we asked what we thought was a simple question: “What’s it like to be a kid in Michigan?” What we received were dozens of unique and vibrant responses.
Kids from around the state submitted paintings and drawings that showed us what they see when they think of their life in Michigan. We received outdoor scenes featuring skiing, kayaking, snowmen, and wildflowers. Holland’s tulips, Santa at Frankenmuth and antique cars at Greenfield Village came in the form of paintings. Drawings of schoolyards, classrooms and hallways filled with children began to brighten our office at the League.
What we began to discover as we looked through the art was that Michigan’s kids are filled with optimism. They believe in inclusion and acceptance and the beauty of our natural world. They believe in our state’s history and its future. These young artists see what many of us can only glimpse through jaded eyes.
It is our job, friends, to keep their optimism alive. To make sure Michigan has in place programs and policies that remove barriers and help our kids thrive regardless of their race or their family’s income. The Kids Count in Michigan Data Book is built to do just that. The data has been compiled not to exist on a page, but to create action for the sake of our children. And it is past time to act.
Please take a moment to read the recommendations in this year’s data book and the actions we hope to take in our Owner’s Manual for Michigan. This is the work we all need to do for kids in our state.
Because even if we are not gifted artists—even if we are only able to have a glimpse—we can do our best to make Michigan the place they see through their young eyes.
Now, in the immortal words of Bob Ross (no relation), “Let’s get a little crazy here with a happy little cloud.”