When I was an Art Therapist working in the school system, I wanted to give the children I worked with a chance to be seen differently by their teachers and peers. They had been labeled as ‘bad, disruptive, lazy, mean, hyper.’ I knew a different side to these children. They were smart, creative, inventive and energetic. I created a program called Acts of Art, which saw each child take on the role of knower and expert. They taught their classes art lessons. This put each of the children in a position with their peers, and their teacher, that they had not experienced or perceived prior to this. “Imagination is fed by perception and perception by sensibility and sensibility by artistic cultivation. With refined sensibility, the scope of perception is enlarged. With enlarged perception, the resources that feed our imaginative life are increased” (Eisner, 1991). Each of the children were able to play at, and imagine themselves in a role other than the one they had been playing in their day-to-day experience. In turn their classroom peers reciprocated in their new perception of them as expert, as teacher, and as artist. Through the process of art the child changed her/his story; the child engaged in the transformation of self-identity; I am an artist. Of all human capabilities “imagination is the one that permits us to give credence to alternative realities. It allows us to break with the taken for granted, to set aside familiar distinctions and definitions” (Greene, 1995).
Of all the children who participated in Acts of Art all but one demonstrated improved positive self-perception. Teachers’ reported, based on informal class observations and anecdotal records, that the child’s behaviours and interactions with classmates, and classmates interactions with the child, showed continued improvement from after the Acts of Art to the end of the school year.