What Is Open-Ended Art Anyway?

This post will eventually become a seperate page on this blog.

Although I am sure many of you have ideas about what open-ended art is, I am thinking some may stumble upon this blog without any information.

The basic idea of open-ended art is that the end product is…..open, hence the term “open-ended.” The purpose of an open-ended experience is to allow your children to use their imagination, as well help them gain skills which will allow them to express their ideas visually and orally with confidence.

A purist would say the only art experiences that are open-ended would be those that do not define the end product for the child, or the materials that should be used, or the processes that should be explored. For example, a purist may have an art bin in their house that contains a variety of materials that thier children can explore freely to create whatever they want.

I tend to be a little more grey in my thinking, and feel open-ended experiences fall on a spectrum of, well, of openess.

I just had a discussion with someone about foam craft kits, normally I cringe when someone puts those three words together. They make me think of 25 identical penguins staring at me from a pre-school wall. However, this person explained that one can purchase a foam craft kit, for example, “bugs.” To make the project more open, instead of giving one child the parts for the lady-bug, and one child the parts for the bumble bee, you would simply put all parts on a table and let the children create their own imaginary bugs. In this case you have defined the process, the materials, and even in someways the product,a bug. I would still say this is..open..there is some choice for the child, and their work won’t be corrected.

I tend to focus on defining the process I want the child to use, and maybe providing some inspiration for creating, for example showing my children pictures of flowers before begining a water color picture. Or perhaps showing them a series of pictures from Picassos blue period before having them collage with blue papers or painting with blue paints.

What do you think open-ended means?

Do you have any sites you like to go to for ideas for open-ended art experiences?

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2 Responses to “What Is Open-Ended Art Anyway?”

  1. JillSF Says:

    Thanks for this explanation about open-endedness. I have often given kids (I am not a teacher – do run playgroups and grandchildren though) materials for a specific craft which is proscribed. Today I gave them a coloured large sheet of paper, a cutout of a barn and lots of stickers and markers. They all looked different though on our theme of the farm. Does that count as open-ended?

    • Anonymous Says:

      I think it is. Each child can then tell you about their picture (if they are verbal) or you can tell them things you notice about theirs. When they all look the same……there really isn’t any information for them to share.

      Also, prescribed activities do have their place, I don’t want you to think you shoud never do prescribed activities or that doing prescribed activities is wrong.

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