“It was about valuing the kids, putting them in this role that normally adults would be in and treating it like it was a normal thing,” says
, an artist, founder of the MFA program in Art & Social Practice at Portland State University, and co-director of the King School Museum of Contemporary Art (KSMoCA)
. “The hope is that these little moments will be significant to them.”
Hosted by arts nonprofit Converge45
, the fair was organized by KSMoCA
, a kid-run museum that was realized in collaboration with Portland State’s Art & Social Practice students. Since 2014, KSMoCA’s official home has been at MLK Jr. School, a public school with students from kindergarten through eighth grade. PSU students work with students there to curate exhibitions and create new works, often in a single hallway between the cafeteria and gym.
KSMoCA puts a particular emphasis on introducing students to
and living artists. Arts education is woefully behind the times, Fletcher notes, when
is the last contemporary artist most people can name. If the kids are going to grow up to be artists, they’re going to be contemporary ones, he posits. So rather than gluing googly eyes or tracing their hands to make turkeys, kids of KSMoCA are exploring, from a young age, the endless possibilities of artmaking. They’re trained to push boundaries, even when it comes to what art can be.
“Contemporary art rejects notions of how art has always been seen, and who gets to call things art,” says PSU art professor Lisa Jarrett, who is co-director of KSMoCA. “So who gets to identify art is really up to you. That’s what we’d like―to get the kids to feel more and more empowered in that way.”
At KSMoCA, as kids are empowered to be the co-creators of an art space they walk through everyday―a museum of sorts where they aren’t told to be quiet or keep their hands to themselves―art stops being a weird or inaccessible thing. It opens the doors to a life of expression, or better yet, a career in the arts.
While the program certainly serves to expose kids to contemporary art and art institutions, it also demystifies how the art world works. “All we’re really doing is opening up these different roles in the art world to the kids,” says Jarrett. “We’re not just telling them about the art world. They’re in it. That’s what makes it accessible.”