Just be the animal on top.
The project was to complete a food chain, creating at least three layers by cutting and pasting construction paper. It's my fourth year teaching this and I never tire of the results.
On this particular day we were coming to the end of my second class of the day and the room was in motion as we were all in clean up mode. A student, Amelia, brought her finished art piece to me, the glue still goopy as she tapped me on the arm and said, "This is really about fear."
Catching me off guard amongst the classroom chaos, I turned to her and asked her to repeat herself.
"This is really about fear," she said again, a little louder this time, leaning towards me so as to emphasize her thought.
"Explain that to me, please," I said.
"Well, you said it was a food chain, but really it is about this animal being afraid of this animal being afraid of this animal. So it IS a food chain, but it's really about fear."
"How very right you are," I said, slightly stunned and yet overjoyed by the depth of her thought. "You are thinking like an artist." She smiled and then darted off.
In a split second, even in a chaotic fourth grade classroom environment, I was able to internalize what her art meant personally to me. It was instantly so clear.
The artist can create the art and even give me a clear idea on what direction I am to point, but I have to be the one to decide if this particular piece of art is really going to matter to me and how.
For me the piece of art you see above said, "Start creatively expressing yourself externally again." I've done this before, but time away from it makes the task feel daunting to begin again. There are a hundred reasons not to.
For me the piece of art you see above said, "Just be the animal on top. It is the only one that isn't afraid."