My wish when leaving Miss Lani’s art class at the Island Children’s School was that she’d soon give one for us adults. It was an awe-inspiring experience observing her over the two hours working, seemingly simultaneously, with five children who were very different from one another in terms of interests, artistic experience, and degrees of focus. Yet, amid the tangible enthusiasm she fostered, there was never a moment of chaos or disorder. Miss Lani has a seamless, easy manner with the children, responding to them with respect and listening to what they have to say.
Miss Lani’s class has nothing to do with finger painting for tots. She brings integrity and respect to the work. She used art terms such as “miniatures” when talking about the quite small canvases that the kids were going to be painting. Likewise, I noticed that they were already familiar with very specific color names like vermillion, aqua, and bronze, easily using them in their conversation. Miss Lani referred to examples of master artists they had looked at previously, from Matisse to Wolf Kahn and David Hockney to Picasso, believing that the children should become familiar with great works of art from the very start.
She said she feels passionately that the youth should use professional-level materials — quality brushes for different mediums, charcoal pencils, and acrylic paints. She emphasized, “I think children need to have the feeling of real tools. I want them to have the quality, so they know the difference. Quality is important. I think they get it and appreciate it. I also believe in nontoxic materials. It’s very important to me that we protect them.”
Making a perfect painting isn’t the point, Miss Lani said. “We don’t believe in things being perfect here. Art is about imperfection. Picasso taught us that — ‘the imperfect line.’ If they make a goof — notice we don’t have erasers — we put a little heart alongside the goof and keep going. I believe that this teaches a child to continue. I think creativity is a way of life. We’re not just painting and sketching, but we’re studying the manner in which we can be more creative.”
Miss Lani continued, “I try to teach them that there are three ways they can focus: realistically like a photograph; from memory, which is from their heart; or through their imaginative spirit. Like we’ll paint a blue horse because we want to paint the spirit. They are really keen on that.”
Creativity is nurtured, and even music is a big part of each class. She plays Mozart for children in the background, and incorporates all sorts of songs that the kids sing together, especially in the beginning, to foster a sense of group connection and help the children open their hearts and minds.
Miss Lani was a college professor for 28 years, she said, teaching child development. She said her life’s work has always focused on children. The classes at the Island Children’s School take place in the sunroom, which she’s transformed into a space of and for great creativity.
“It means so much to me to be collaborating with the Island Children’s School, and they offered us this room,” Miss Lani said. “When I’m here I feel like I’m home. It’s a kind of energy and caring that I believe in.”
Miss Lani’s weekly classes at the Island Children’s School: Thursday: 3:15 -5:15 pm through Jan. 10, Grades 2-7; Fridays: 3:15-5:15 pm through Jan. 11, Grade 2; Saturdays: 9:30 am-12 pm through Jan. 12, ages 4-12, siblings welcome. Contact 774-563-3069 for more information and to registration.