The Co-Creation Project

May 2, 2018

A collaborative art experience

Story Chelsea Chambers  Photos Kimberlee Miller

Julie Clemons is one of the kindest, most inviting artists I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Her incredible artwork and eloquent form of creative expression is both moving and inspirational. I believe that this can be attributed to the way that she views art—in the sense that it is not rigid or rule-binding, but rather, it is meant to be fun and a way to express yourself. “Art is whatever you think it should be,” Clemons says.

And it is that beautiful mentality that brought Clemons to be a part of the Co-Creation Project. Stepping outside of her comfort zone, Clemons spent several afternoons with preschool-age children, teaching them that art is not stiff, that it is, in fact, something to be celebrated and explored. Together, Clemons and the young students created a masterful work of art entitled Something Magical in her most frequently used medium, oil stick paints.

Most of Clemons’ art is in oil stick paints or colored pencils. She prefers the oils sticks because of the vibrant, stackable colors, and the unique texturization that gives each work of art a tactile feel. And like she showed the students, her art is not based in realism, in fact, it is most often bright, colorful, swirling, animated renditions of realism, much like a radiant dream. “People don’t usually remember the details; they remember the feeling.” So, Clemons creates based on what she feels, and the result is astounding.

Like Clemons, many other artists—of various mediums including film, sculpture, and design—are invited to participate in the Co-Creation Project, where they spend several afternoons sharing their art with preschool-age students and allowing them to create something on their own. The project was piloted in 2015 by the Boise Art Museum (BAM) and the Cooperative Preschool. The project is now being spearheaded by BAM and the Idaho Early Childhood Roundtable. The Idaho Early Childhood Roundtable is a grass roots organization comprised solely of Idaho early childhood professionals who gather regularly to support each other, discuss their work with children and families, and advocate for the educational rights of young children. One of their many endeavors now includes the continuation of the Co-Creation Project.

The project plays an integral role in early childhood development, as it shows children the importance of the creative process, fostering their ability to cooperate as a team, learn from a role model, and to dive into art beyond what many of us were taught.

Personally, I was only taught the rules of art, the rigidity of which was incredibly intimidating, leaving me to feel that my clunky left-handedness would forever be a hindrance to my artistic abilities. And while I am just now learning that this is not the case, that art is much more than just the principles of shading and linework, these children are given the opportunity early on to explore their own creative interests, under the guidance of amazing artists, the Boise Art Museum, and the Idaho Early Childhood Roundtable—people who genuinely care for and believe in the power of art and creative expression.

The Co-Creation artwork can be found in the Boise Art Museum’s ARTexperience Gallery.