My wife and I were strolling through Union Station in Kansas City three years ago and happened upon a collection of paintings in the styles of famous artists – Picasso, Van Gogh, Warhol, and others. All of them were done by Montessori students under the tutelage of Matt Barr. The paintings were on display as a pre-cursor to being auctioned to raise money for the school.

Having always loved Andy Warhol’s work, this seemed the closest I’d ever get to owning one. On the night that bidding was closing, a number of people were trying to outbid each other via email with Matt. All of a sudden, the bidding exploded on the Warhol picture, probably from parents of the students whose images made up the picture. At the last minute, my wife said she really wanted “The Starry Night.” On just two bids, we bought the Van Gogh painting for about $400. Pretty cheap by Sotheby’s standards!

The highlight was when Matt delivered the picture accompanied by his daughter, who had contributed to “The Starry Night.” Matt explained that he sketched out the paintings, setting the kids up to be successful in reproducing the works. They did the lion’s share of the painting, and he touched them up at the end.
We’ve not been in contact with Matt since then (although if you Google him you’ll find an interesting Snakes on a Plane for kids project), but what an incredible teacher! To figure out a way to allow the students to learn and actively contribute to reproducing a wonderful work of art is such a cool gift to them. It had to open up so many possibilities for those kids. And for us, it means we can always claim to have an original Van Gogh!

The challenge for all of us is to figure out what we can do in a similar vein to share our creative passions with kids and adults. Take the steps to introduce people you know to your creative pursuits. Give the gift of some basic structure and then encourage their creative energy to take over. I know I haven’t done enough creative instigation lately. How about you?  - Mike Brown


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