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#WhatIsArt? Project: These Are Our First Creative Memories

Tom Hudson

As Art Basel Miami Beach gets underway, we’re thinking about what it means to be an artist. Though many would deny being an artist, we have all probably experienced a time when we embraced the title: childhood.

We asked our staff, “What’s the first creative thing you can remember doing?” The answers prompted lots of fun conversations about early aspirations to be the next big animator, choreographer or roller coaster designer. Try it with your friends.

And let us know on Twitter @WLRN using #whatisart.

Chris DiMattei, Anchor/reporter: When I was in kindergarten, we were asked to draw something we "liked" and write an inscription for it.  I drew a portrait of my mom and gave her Crayola Crayon periwinkle-blue eyes and burnt-sienna hair.  The inscription was: "I like Mommy/She's so nice/She makes the best soup and rice."  With apologies to Mom, her pasta is better than her soup; I just didn't want to ruin the rhyme scheme. 

Credit Elaine Chen
The show that might have been: producer Julia Duba recalls her first video production, Bespelled, a mash-up of I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched.

Julia Duba, Morning producer: Somebody gave me a webcam and editing software as a gift. I was about 7 years old and absolutely loved "Bewitched" and "I Dream of Jeannie." So I started making short "magic" movies with my friends. We used stop motion to make things appear and disappear, and we each had our own magic move. I was a director, an actress and a producer. I called it "Bespelled" -- but, hey, I was 7 and didn't know it wasn't a word.  

Stefania Ferro, Public Insight Network analyst: I wanted to draw prettier stick figures in elementary school. And during the height of "Space Jams," I started practicing how to draw Lola Bunny from a bookmark in my cereal box. I was satisfied with my capabilities when I spent time in aftercare drawing Lola for my friends to take home.

Marva Hinton, Anchor/reporter: In my childhood home, there is a marble coffee table in the living room. When I was around three or four, I was fascinated with crawling under it. Lying on my back, Michelangelo-style, armed with crayons, I drew what can best be described as an abstract art piece under that table. However, my handiwork went undiscovered until I was in college, and a neighborhood child visited, found my secret art space, and pointed it out to my mom.  

Credit Tom Hudson
Four possible shades of Crayola red used in one of host Tom Hudson's earliest creative work, The Red Planet.

Tom Hudson, Host and vice president of news: For my second grade report on a planet I chose Earth's neighbor, Mars. After writing the report (perhaps my first work of journalism?) I set to the task of illustrating it with some cover art.  We may not have had clip art or JPEG files but I recall at least four shades of red in my crayon box.  I used them all in my two-dimensional cover art of "The Red Planet."    

Gina Jordan, Tallahassee reporter: The first creative act I can recall was starring as Little Bo Peep in my kindergarten graduation. I took pride in knowing I was on stage longer than any of my classmates, and I was good at fake-crying as I wandered around the stage searching for my lost sheep. 

Kenny Malone, Reporter/producer: When I was 8 or 9, I was obsessed with roller coasters. I would take notebook paper and fold it over and over and over until it was rigid enough to hold an L-shape. That was my track. Marbles were my cars. I built giant hills running up and down the couch and the stairs. I think I might have even tried some loops (no memory of whether that worked). Yes, South Florida, I'm nothing more than a frustrated roller-coaster designer.  

This may explain Kenny's musical ode to the Dania Beach Hurricane, the state's largest wooden roller coaster, as played on the wood of the Dania Beach Hurricane. -- Elaine

Rachel Morello, Intern: Growing up as one of five kids, I must have felt like I had to stand out when it came to making requests, so I used to make PowerPoint presentations for things I wanted. I remember plopping down in front of our big, old desktop computer and navigating that crazy new thing called the "Internet" for clip art to show why I deserved my own bedroom. Whether I got a lot of the things I asked for, I can't remember, but I'll never forget how clever I felt to have created something so new and innovative on my own.  

Maria Murriel, Digital editor: I remember my kindergarten, a tiny suburban-Lima building all in primary colors, being progressive. We learned all the body parts by their real names early on, which I found rebellious in conservative, Catholic-Peruvian society. But my first act of art in memory was so tame, in retrospect: After covering a sheet of paper in bright crayon wax and splashing black dye on it, I carved masterpieces on it with a needle and, fantastically, the colors peeked through. I've since learned this is a common kiddy project called "scratch art," and my teachers were not subversives prepping me for vandalism. 

Credit Elaine Chen
Upon request, editor Tim Padgett can still easily draw Frankie Fly, one of his earliest creative works.

Tim Padgett, Americas editor: After watching Fantasia as a little kid, I decided the coolest thing in the world was to be the next Walt Disney. So I created my own Mickey Mouse: Frankie Fly. And a Donald Duck: Peter Parrot. I was fascinated with animation: I learned how to sketch and paint cells and photograph them (24 per second!) with my parents' cheap Super8 camera. The results were abysmal. I became a journalist.    

Sammy Mack, Reporter: The timeline gets a little jumbled when I try to reach that far back -- I grew up surrounded by Play-Doh and crayons -- but I think the first creative act I really remember is frosting a cake at my neighbor's house. I remember her guiding my little hands with the frosting bags. I don't remember what the cake tasted like, but I do remember regarding it with pride. 

Arianna Prothero, Reporter/producer: I think I was 6 years old. I choreographed a dinosaur ballet. I thought both dinosaurs and ballet were pretty cool so surely they would be cooler if they merged. 

Nathaniel Sandler, Contributing arts editor: Somewhat shamefully, my memory of my first creative act is a drawing exercise that was strictly and only creating a shape and then coloring it in while staying within the lines. I chose a green rectangle. I stayed within the lines. I honestly don't wish I hadn't because that's a cliche itself, but perhaps every time I've haven't used boilerplate grammar (like a triple negative) has been a small rejection of that constrictive moment. 

Terence Shepherd, News director: I was about 3 years old. My breakfast cereal prize was a tiddlywinks game. I was not satisfied with the quantity of game pieces, so I improvised and created more pieces using the cereal. My mom wasn't pleased.

Credit Reallyboring / Creative Commons/Flickr
Creative Commons/Flickr
Reporter WIlson Sayre recalls fun times at scrap exchanges run by an art organization called the Scrap Exchange.

Wilson Sayre, Reporting fellow: In North Carolina, where I grew up, this fantastic organization called the Scrap Exchange collected huge amounts of industrial scraps like big thread bobbins, rubber trimmings, and laminate sample chips and brought them to various art fairs and music festivals for kids to make things with. I remember going to town at the scrap exchanges making not-so-workable Rube Goldbergs, foam swords, and anything that I thought could improve my daily life in a functional way.   

Elaine Chen, Engagement producer: My mom worked in IT in the '80s. She would bring home reams of that lined, continuous printer paper. One side had lines of COBOL coding printed on it, and the other side was white and clean. I splattered watercolor on the white side and folded it in half, sort of like a Rorschach blot test, but with more fuchsia and turquoise and less psychoanalysis. I must have made a dozen or so of those paintings and hung them all up on the wall of my bedroom. 

Director Alicia Zuckerman describes her signature style at age 3 as, "Jackson Pollack meets Piet Mondrian": "I still have the rock I picked up in our yard and painted in just same way, as a paperweight for my dad."

Alicia Zuckerman, Editorial director: When I was about 3, I painted a cardboard box for my father for Father's Day. This had to be my idea; he was a lawyer, and I probably saw all the boxes of files he had and figured he could use one with a little more punch. I covered it with splotches of different colors -- red, white, navy, yellow, green. Jackson Pollock meets Piet Mondrian. 

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