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Lake Orion Beat

November 07, 2012 - I stepped into a handmade voting booth yesterday. Unlike precincts I've visited in the past, this time the booth was crafted by some children from my district. Patriotic slogans and colorful renditions of American symbols adorned the walls of my cardboard cubicle. These drawings brought to mind the future I was helping to create with my vote, and I was forced to consider the power invested in these little works of art.

Art? Is that what we call our children's drawings? Or are they just a bunch of scribbles? Often we'll say, in derogatory response to Picasso's cubism or to a Rothko colorscape, "my kid could do that."

But what does that say about our appreciation and understanding of our children's expressions? Those hand drawings in my voting booth were full of color, purpose, and intelligence. Why aren't they to be considered "art"?

What about the seasonal landscaping we've seen this past Halloween? Spider webs, hanging ghosts, tree-lodged witches, scarecrows displaying creased pumpkins for a derriere. Are these expressions "art"?

Here at the Lake Orion Review, we reward children for the colored Jack-o-Lanterns they send in. We wade through reams of entries to pick the best ones (or at least what we judge to be the best.) This year's best artists were Rylee Stanfield, Nick Nuss, Rubylinn Page, Olivia Storts, Liam Kelly, and Delaney Siegmund. (See the winning entries on page 24)

Starting with the same blank template, these entries were bright and each one was unique. Many entrants used crayon, while others used markers. Some of these young artists opted for a collage-like effect and included extra materials like glitter or cotton.

As you might expect, more than one artist strayed beyond the lines. The question is: Is that a good or a bad thing? Some inventive minds included extra characters or scenery to tell more of the story they wanted—does that make for good "art"? Others opted to leave portions uncolored, preferring instead to suggest rather than dictate our reading of their Halloween image. Does inviting the viewer to participate in their creation enhance their artwork?

The answers to these questions will vary from person to person, but never let it be said that these expressions that adorn our refrigerators, yards, and election booths don't matter.

As I deposited my ballot, I walked away reminded of who this election is really for. As I looked over these coloring contest entries, I found myself engaged with each expression and I began a dialogue of what their drawings mean. I couldn't help feel the minds at work in each picture. But are they art?

If the ability to cast a vision of the future and sober a person to the meaning of a national exercise is important to you, then maybe the art I saw at my polling station is worthy of the word. If arresting my eye and ushering me into a late harvest narrative is any indication, these youngsters have tapped into the same creative stream we recognize in the Chavaux cave paintings, or Michaelangelo's Pieta.

What is art? I have no idea, but I do know the expressions of the youngest among us are replete with the same power as those we consider to be masters.

What is art? You tell me.

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