It would be wonderful if we could keep every tiny scrap to document every step of their growing-up years. But after a few kids and a few years of school, faced with a growing mound of papers - artwork, homework, stories, projects, worksheets, reports, paintings, drawings, collages, sculptures - at some point it becomes obvious it's all a bit too much.
I've developed a system. I throw everything they make into one of those plastic drawer towers, one drawer per kid - drawings from home, paintings from art class, everything they bring home from school, it all gets tossed into the drawer. Once a year, somewhere around their birthdays, I pull everything out and go through it.
It's much easier when faced with such quantity to develop a little bit of perspective and say, yes it's sweet that he's spelled his name out properly in great big letters across a piece of construction paper, but do I need forty similar pages to remember this stage? I don't have a very scientific method - I go through each piece item by item; if there's any heartstring-tugging whatsoever, I keep it. If not, it gets tossed. If I feel any guilt, it gets put back in the keep pile. I usually end up keeping about half.
But why just keep their art in a box in the basement where it will never be seen? Now, there's nothing wrong with the magnet-on-the-fridge method of children's art display. That's where we keep the most recent homemade cards and the like. But I prefer a more permanent display, so before I pack away the keep pile for each age I pick out a couple of our favouritest favourites to be hung, gallery-style, in a collage on the wall of the family room. A couple of choice pieces - the best of the best favourites - are framed and hung in the main living area of our home.
Art is meant to be looked at and loved. Art should evoke a feeling when you look at it; it should give you pleasure to have it near you. Art is personal - there is no such thing as "good" taste in art, just your own taste. What you put on your walls should be what makes you happy, what makes your house feel like a home. It puts a smile on my face every day when I see my kids' masterpieces hung proudly on the wall, and no amount of money in the world could buy that same feeling, even if our walls were plastered with Picassos and Monets.
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