Youth Art Month Made Simple

Pragmatic projects designed to integrate Youth Art Month with your curriculum.

By Ann Whittemore

Paint brushes and paint

“Art is how I understand the world, it’s how I tell people who I am and what I feel.” - Molly, age 10.

Why Should Schools Participate?

Youth Art Month is a movement to keep arts education alive in schools. Arts education is a vital part of engaging learners in active critical thinking, problem solving, creative expression, and collaboration. We need to work hard to keep art a prominent aspect of daily school curriculum; not just art class, but integrated arts education in every class. Way back in 1961, the Art & Creative Materials Institute, in collaboration with the National Art Education Association, founded what was then called Children’s Art Month. The mission was simple; to make art education accessible to every child. In 1969, the institute's name changed from Children’s Art Month to Youth Art Month so that higher grades could be included in the project. For over 50 years, Youth Art Month has been a vehicle to bring art education to public consciousness.

How Can My Class Get Involved?

There are several ways you can get your class involved in Youth Art Month. Each year, a nationwide competition is held where students design and create an original flag that exemplifies the theme selected by the chairperson of the event. A winner is selected from each state. Winners and their families go to Washington DC to participate in a parade where all the winners fly their art-inspired flags. Each winning flag is also displayed throughout the city for the entire month of March.

Observance of Youth Art Month differs from state to state and typically results in statewide competitions or art displays at local museums and libraries. Here is a list of ideas to get teachers thinking about how they can participate in Youth Art Month. The list can be found on the National Arts Education Association home page. Many of these ideas were developed to incorporate art into the regular school curriculum. This list is a way to get started and will give you an idea about how various states participate. It will also help you develop an art awareness so that you can think of ideas that would work well for your school.

What Projects Work Well with Youth Art Month?

  • Chalk Festival: Kids use chalk to decorate open spaces at school with their versions of famous paintings.
  • Coloring Contest: Have a contest, but be creative. For instance, Indiana held a coloring contest, where kids used crayons made from soybeans. This was intended to celebrate the state’s major crop as well as art month.
  • Paint the Greats: Have kids paint the great monuments of the world on their classroom windows. Hold a public walk-through to display kids' art and build community awareness.
  • Have an international or multi-cultural arts night where students perform, showcase, and experience art forms from around the world.
  • Hold an art exchange with your cities sister city. Children from here to there can create, send, and share their art based on a single theme. This is a great idea because kids can use children in their sister city as pen pals to learn about writing letters and diversity.
  • Vermont had a wonderful idea; children created Temenos Books. Based on the ancient Greek Temenos circle, which is a magic, sacred, protected space where special rules apply and extraordinary events occur. Children created Tenemos books with images for global healing, peace, and gratitude.

Additional Suggestions:

  • Statewide postcard exchanges and/or art exchanges with foreign countries.
  • Living Art: Students (or teachers) pose as famous pieces of artwork.
  • Edible Art: A food item resembles a period of art, an artist, or a specific work of art.
  • Student-designed coloring books.
  • Quilt Projects: You can donate the finished quilts to a worthy cause, or auction it off to raise funds.
  • Student-designed placemats that can be showcased or used by local restaurants.
  • T-shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags, note pads, refrigerator magnets, computer mouse pads, or calendars.

As you can see, most of these ideas are cross-curricular or include other social awareness concepts. Youth Art Month isn’t just a way to bring art education to the schools, it can also be a vital tool in helping our pupils become socially aware. By engaging in Youth Art Month, you can help develop thoughtful, creative, and actively engaged members of our community.

More Resources:

YAM Contest

Kids write creative narratives about life in the Wild West. They use their own drawings as illustrations for a collaborative Wild West contest. 

Student Teachers

The class becomes the teacher for the day, during Youth Art Month. This is a fun lesson that's easy to implement. 

Youth Art Month Lessons and Activities

On this home page, you'll find a series of wonderful projects, art lessons, and ideas for celebrating Youth Art Month. And, because this is also the official site of the Chickasaw Nation, most lessons are founded in Native American art and mythology. Amazing!