"If you never did you should. These things are fun and fun is good."
It evokes the senses and electrifies the synapses. It encompasses as many definitions as it does variations. It's beauty, it's prose, it's sound, it's movement, it's sight. It can be explored deliberately and created accidentally. Art is a feeling of discovering something personal—something that's yours when it's available to all. Art can facilitate a community and demonstrate a movement. If your senses are alert, art can be found nearly anywhere.
March is a month of creativity. It's Youth Art, Poetry, Music in our Schools and Dr. Seuss's birthday month. It's also the transition from winter to spring, which for us in the great Pacific Northwest, means Rainy Day month, giving us all a perfect excuse to stay indoors, create and appreciate.
Our neighbor to the south gets much of art's attention, but the Eastside isn't lacking in its expression. With a little help from Dr. Seuss, explore the Eastside and become artistic by association.
"Think and wonder, wonder and think."
It's never too early to expose a child to art. Through expression comes a myriad of benefits.
From drawing, writing, piecing together and creating something from nothing, a child learns. "Across all socioeconomic boundaries, art helps children develop vital skills for success in school and later in life," said Rebecca Stephens, Director of Development, Interim at KidsQuest Children's Museum. "Participation in art activities stimulates imagination and unleashes creativity, helping children develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills and build self-confidence."
At KidsQuest, art is integrated into explorative exhibits along with various opportunities for the kids to become the artists.
"Art is integrated into our permanent exhibits with opportunities for dramatic play, poetry writing, storytelling, community art and more," said Rebecca. Children can build forts, practice mechanical skills and create a picture on a lifesize Lite-Brite.
Inspiration is everywhere. KidsQuest serves 165,000 children and adults annually, which is the most visitors per square foot than any other children's museum in the country.
But it's also about relationship building.
"Art is a vehicle for children and adults to work together, strengthening their relationships," said Rebecca.
The Bellevue Club offers this very chance in the Art with Mom class. Caregivers help 1½-year-olds and older create something new in each class, and all the art supplies are provided.
But it's not the only art class inspired for the kiddos. Choose from a variety of opportunities for the little artist—from Art Camp, which explores many mediums, to LEGO Camp, to Kindermusik. In each class, children have the opportunity to reveal their creative interests.
"Parents are always amazed and ask 'my child did this by themselves?,' when they see artwork from the Art Camp class," said Katie Barth, Recreation Director. "The art produced is beautiful, reflects each individual artist and is absolutely frame-worthy."
For the musician, Kindermusik is especially perfect for discovery. Not only are vocal chords stretched, but language skills, listening and problem solving are all involved in an inviting, creative environment.
And stemming from that, fanciful inventions are born, giving way to more wonder, learning and accomplishments.
PAINTINGS, PRINT AND MODELS
"Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living; it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope."
Perhaps the most celebrated concept of art is that it's purely subjective and found anywhere someone chooses to discover it. Although, it's a bit easier to recognize in a museum—the largest of which on the Eastside is the Bellevue Arts Museum.
Artistically, BAM is a bit different. There's no permanent collection; instead, there's typically three or four rotating exhibits, with a focus on art, craft and design. From the traditional to the experimental, the 3-D displays help put BAM among the minority of national museums.
"Gone are the days when Bellevue was a bedroom community," said Tanja Baumann, BAM Director of Marketing and PR. "It's coming into its own, and just as in every city in the world, the arts play an integral part in creating vibrant, healthy communities."
Over the past few years, public art displays have been popping up over the city of Bellevue, adding personality and a differentiating character to downtown, which offers more than beauty.
"There are benefits that people experience individually by finding inspiration in looking and experiencing art," said Tanja. "It lifts their mood, helps to broaden perspectives and engages the creative part of our brains. People are more creative, more flexible and better at problem-solving."
In the past two years, BAM has experienced an increase of support from businesses and individuals, signaling the growing emphasis on the benefits art provides. "It indicates our community's appreciation for what the museum brings to the region," Tanja said.
"Why fit in when you were born to stand out?"
The Eastside performing arts scene is changing. With the ever-challenging economy, everything is affected—including productions. "It keeps shifting in what people like and what they'll pay for," said Meydenbauer's Theater Manager, Stephen Elliot. "Since 2009, art nonprofits have taken a tremendous hit. It's impacted what artists can do. It's been a real challenging time for arts organizations, but they continue to do what they have a passion for."
With fewer ticket sales and lower ticket prices, production companies have had to be a bit more creative when it comes to creating the wow factor to keep the audience coming back. It becomes about what the budget will allow, but that doesn't mean the shows are any less impressive.
"You're seeing smaller and shorter productions with less extravagant sets, but it's becoming more impactful," said Stephen. Actors, dancers and musicians are being provided with a special opportunity to boost their own performance. Without detailed and over-the-top set décor, the audience focuses more of their attention watching the performers, who strive for the power of art without the set prestige. "The quality of the work is still there," assured Stephen.
Meydenbauer has become the hub of entertainment on the Eastside since its renovation in 2007, totaling 54,000 square feet of event space. From opera and ballet to concerts and children's theater, it stages a variety of productions. "We're pretty much the home of all performing on the Eastside, and it's very reflective in our diversity," said Stephen.
Although each genre of performing arts is entertaining in its own right, it offers added benefits to the community besides a great show. "It's not just kicking back to be entertained," said Stephen. "There's a strong educational component."
During Meydenbauer's Village Theatre shows, the children are encouraged to participate—singing along and interpreting the action. "They are getting a living arts experience. You're educating these young people, who may not get a lot of art experience. They'll become future audience members and even participants," Stephen said. "It's a positive experience, and (parents) see the value of what's happening in the arts as an educational tool."
The influential elements of art and all that it encompasses are a skill that's mastered by simply trying. All it takes is a little imagination and the redefining of normalcy. As Dr. Seuss says, "I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells."
Come 2014, there will be an addition to the Eastside. The Tateuchi Center will boast a 2,000-seat concert hall and a 250-seat cabaret with the intention of attracting both national and international acts. According to its website, it will be "a state-of-the-art urban venue—one of the finest of its kind in the nation—and a regional landmark worthy of the community it serves." It will be located in downtown Bellevue. To learn more, visit tateuchicenter.org.
HERE AT THE CLUB
To take advantage of the many art-inspired classes the Bellevue Club has to offer, please see our full list in the Youth Activities Newsletter, or contact Recreation Director Katie Barth at 425-688-3102 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
DISCOVER THE ART
Bellevue Arts Museum
510 Bellevue Way N.E.
Bellevue Youth Theatre Foundation
1661 Northup Way
International Ballet Theatre
507 Sixth St.
KidsQuest Children's Museum
4091 Factoria Square Mall S.E.
Meydenbauer Convention Center
11100 N.E. Sixth St.