January 5, 2017

Created to create

Written by  Ryan Sommers
Ryan with Lucero, a fourth-grade student who especially loves art. Ryan with Lucero, a fourth-grade student who especially loves art. Photos provided by Ryan Sommers.

This article appears in the January/February 2017 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.

“I can’t draw that!” my second-grader exclaimed as she slammed down her pencil on the desk. “How do you know?” I responded as I peered down at her blank piece of paper. “Because I’m not an artist,” she said quietly, looking at the ground.

I stooped down to her level to get eye-to-eye. “Who told you that?” I asked. She retorted, “My brothers.” “Look at me,” I said. “That is a lie. Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can and cannot be. If you want to be an artist, you be an artist. Besides, don’t you want to prove your brothers wrong?” She laughed and nodded her head.

A gift for all

I’ve heard the phrase “I’m just not the creative type” from so many people. It puzzles me every time I hear it. I had wondered if this was a North American concept, but after teaching art at a school in Peru for almost a year now, I have heard it just as much here. When my students become discouraged or don’t want to attempt an assignment, I remind them that creativity is not a gift handed only to a select few of us. If we are created in the image of God, and God is the most creative being in the universe, then why would we all not consider ourselves to be creative? God has given us two hands and an abundance of materials to work, mold, sculpt, and create with. Why would we not use them? To create is not only a large part of what makes us human beings, it is absolutely crucial to our souls.

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
Almost all children are creative and have vivid imaginations. Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” There are many theories as to why our creativity seems to die, but I believe that it is still alive in all of us. It is either buried deep down or it has manifested itself in ways we do not even recognize. 

Bringing hope

Many of my students face daily struggles such as abuse, poverty, broken homes, or the effects of alcoholism. Children should not have to deal with such things, but art has the uncanny ability to bring hope to even the most hopeless situations. It reminds us that there is a world outside of our daily circumstances by expressing that which cannot be expressed in words alone.

At the end of class I returned to the table where the previously disgruntled second-grader was drawing. She seemed like an entirely different person as she held up her artwork with a proud smile. I couldn’t help but smile back. Hardship, pain, and struggle can be turned into something beautiful and God-honoring, because we were created to create.

Ryan Sommers and his wife Kristie served as GO! participants, teaching art and English at PROMESA, a bilingual Christian school in Cusco, Peru.

This article appears in the January/February 2017 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.