ALTHOUGH all children's art schools agree that art instruction should be a positive experience, individual instructors vary widely in their philosophies about art. Some view art primarily as a medium for self-expression; others emphasize the hand-eye coordination skills that art practice develops. Still others use art as a means of sharpening the mind, stressing learning to see rather than learning to draw.
The Westside Arts Center and Armory Center for the Arts prefer a laissez-faire approach, showing children how to use the materials, then letting each child create his or her own masterpiece. At Monart Schools, children are supportively led through a step-by-step guided drawing experience. Felt-tip markers are used; at Monart there are no erasers because there is no such thing as a mistake.
Not that children have to draw well to enjoy art. Often the most popular courses are the least traditional. Children gravitate toward classes such as T-shirt art at McGroarty Arts Center, mask making at William Grant Still Art Center and fantasy jewelry making at Junior Arts Center. At Riverside Art Museum, children can create their own works of art in the style of major periods of art history. Many programs feature a mixed-media approach, combining painting or sculpture with another activity such as dance or group games. All art schools and workshops vary their offerings throughout the year, and children can enroll as early as age 3.