Art Outside the Box

As children in elementary through middle school, we had weekly (sometimes twice-weekly) trips to a staffed and dedicated art room. It always had that almost-sweet smell of dried paint, and everything was covered in a thin layer of clay dust. An eclectic array of construction paper, canvas, and watercolor creations lined the walls, with subject matter ranging from chunky Picasso-like self-portraits to vividly lush landscapes made with thick brush strokes and paint globs. Today, many schools don’t dedicate as much time to art, citing budget and time constraints.

One alternative is parent-led art docent programs. Typically, each classroom has one or two parent volunteers, or docents, who are responsible for teaching the class about art — this can include art history, techniques, form, color, etc.

Newcastle resident and artist Beth Herrild was saddened to learn about the absence of art in her children’s classrooms. So she volunteered as an art docent, teaching students as often as the children’s teachers could allow. But as often as that was, Herrild wanted to help more children experience art on a regular basis.

She soon found herself helping out in other classrooms within the district, and began volunteering at nearby Echo Glen Children’s Center in Snoqualmie, a state-run medium- to maximum-security juvenile detention facility.

But her thirst for inspiring youth through art could not be quenched. She wanted to reach even more.

“I just quit my job and went all in,” Herrild said of her Cratejoy subscription box service, Outside the Box Creations, which she began last year. Inside each box, parents and caregivers will find a children’s book that encapsulates the monthly theme — such as positive and negative space or texture — as well as all the artist-grade tools, supplies, and detailed instructions they’ll need to make the monthly project.

Subscribers may choose from a box for two or four people. They can choose an automatic monthly box, or a one-time purchase.


If you’re looking for additional ways to foster your art-starved kiddos, we compiled a few more ideas on how to inspire them to create.

Learn from the masters
Take your child on a trip to a local gallery or museum, such as the Bellevue Arts Museum. They’ll see art isn’t just paint on a canvas, but also can take many forms, like sculpture, fiber, wood, or even light. If they’re particularly inspired by what they see there, take them to the kids room to create their own masterpiece.

Take a class
Every parent knows the last thing a kid wants to do after school or on the weekends is take a class. Despite this, consider looking at some local art classes. 
Places like KidsQuest Children’s Museum in Bellevue have a variety of classes like their regular clay workshop. Do some research and find these and other art classes in the area, once they get their hands working, they’ll thank you.

Lead by example
Let your children see you being creative. Sketch them when they are reading or playing a video game, and let them see the possibilities of what can be created with just a pencil and paper. Buy a large canvas, create something abstract, and hang it in a prominent place in your house. Inspire them, and they’ll want to make something, too.

Book some time at the library
King County Library System has a lot of instructional drawing books. Get step-by-step instructions on how to draw a favorite character, from anime to Minecraft.

Go back to nature
Sometimes fostering creativity is as easy as getting your child away from the television. Go on a hike, bring a sketchpad and snacks, and take a break to sketch in a cozy spot.

is the managing editor of 425 magazine. Email her.
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