Art and Loss

Julius, a bright, enthusiastic student who joins us for Wednesday ceramics, expressed to me that his dog Gracie was most likely going to die soon. Unprompted, he continued to explain that Gracie was lethargic and wasn’t getting better. Julius had made a ceramic piece a few weeks back inspired by his dog. Sarah and I encouraged our students to make animals from the pinch pot process, and Julius chose to make an animal he was familiar with, Gracie. He had decorated his dog with pancakes on his back, a food that Julius is very clearly fond of.

As artists, we create from sadness, confusion, anger, loss, bliss, and embarrassment. Even in our early stages of creation, we are processing life as we perceive it. There isn’t one true way to deal with the things that we lose, but using our creative energy can inspire us to make something permanent and tangible from our unique life experiences. And we may never know what that may feel like until we truly discover it ourselves. Grief may have shown Julius that though he was making something that represented life as he knew it, it would ultimately introduce a way to cope with that loss. Having a tangible memory of Gracie now might help him to remember and look back on the joy they shared together, years after the loss.
I resonate so much with this moment Julius experienced, because I remember the day I lost my first pet; I was scared, and spent most of my day in my guidance counselors office searching for answers. Julius shows emotional resilience and helped recognize the importance of art making, even at a very young age. Because even if it isn’t a lost pet, it could be a broken toy, or the feelings of your best friend betraying you on the playground. Emotional discovery through play and art making will strengthen our students abilities to cope in and outside of the classroom, with whatever may come their way in the next decade.

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