To explain the core concept of her latest project, Scarsdale artist Marnie Gelfman uses a quote attributed to Pablo Picasso: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
She added: “Children are really the best artists … Children are not afraid. We have to celebrate that and help them keep that as long as possible.”
To keep kids on track for a rewarding art experience, Gelfman and her son Max recently launched Exploring Colors, a subscription service for curated art supplies shipped in a box and accompanied by weekly online art lessons — all packaged and filmed by the mother-son duo.
Exploring Colors (exploringcolors.com) is meant to give children in grades K-5 the opportunity to expand creatively and express themselves tangibly in a time when so many extracurricular programs are on hold, and kids’ physical social circles are diminished.
A longtime artist and teacher, Gelfman has witnessed and experienced firsthand the positive effects of nurturing creativity through art. In addition to holding both a bachelor’s and master’s of fine arts, she currently serves on various committees at major art museums in New York City, including the MoMA and Whitney. She has also taught art in both Fox Meadow and Greenacres elementary schools, as well as at the Young At Art Workshop in Westchester.
“I saw the benefits in children who were able to create and become independent and expressive,” Gelfman said. “It’s healing … art reduces anxiety and stress and empowers children.
“It’s not that everybody who goes into art or takes art classes is going to become an artist,” she added. “But you will definitely use the skills: the risk-taking skills, the exploring, the curiosity. We want to raise a population of creative thinkers, regardless of career path.”
Her son Max Gelfman, SHS Class of 2015, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2019 with a degree in finance, is one such example.
“As a result of growing up in a creative household, Max regards creativity as an important asset to problem-solving in unusual ways,” the Exploring Colors website states.
After graduating college Max worked at various fin-tech start-ups until the pandemic hit and he began to reevaluate his work. “I was just sort of looking at this time [and asking myself], ‘How do we make the most of it?” he said.
He eventually put his business background to new use by partnering with his mother, who had been contemplating the idea for a boxed art library set for some time. “We asked ourselves ‘How do we offer kids the chance and the opportunity to grow, and come out of this space better and learning more than they would have otherwise?’” he said.
Their solution was to create a curated art supply box, sold separately or by subscription, that encourages children to explore different art mediums, and nurture personal imagination and creativity.
Referring to “one-and-done projects where everyone’s work looks the same,” Marnie said: “Children end up creating [one project] and then they’re done with all the supplies … which are not always quality supplies.”
“[Exploring Colors] is more curated and more holistic in both the supplies that we’re giving children, and in the experience that we’re creating,” Max added.
Through Exploring Colors’ art boxes, the Gelfmans hope to create an “art library” of high quality materials that children can go back to and reuse. Weekly art lessons, in which students are introduced to various artistic concepts using the materials in that month’s box, are filmed by the pair in the family’s basement and uploaded to YouTube.
“We then hope to be able to share some highlights, randomly picking some of the artwork [created by our students] and discussing it, showing that differences in art is a good thing,” Marnie explained.
The pair launched their business Feb. 1, but the project has already received an abundance of support, which the Gelfmans attribute to the value placed on holistic education in the communities they have reached. “We’re trying to target the type of parent who sees the value in promoting and fostering creativity from a young age,” Max explained.
The Gelfmans plan to ship their first set of boxes in March. They also have plans for wider community engagement once the business is off the ground.
“I think there are underserved communities that could really benefit from this,” Marnie said. “We have a request from a program in Connecticut where a lot of the children are on scholarship. There was somebody who offered to supply [the art] boxes for a classroom of these underserved children. I loved that idea.”
The Gelfman duo already has a community service program in the works for their nascent business: for every 10 cumulative subscription referrals, they will send a box to a child in need or a child in a hospital. “We’re hoping that we’ll be successful enough to do more of that,” said Marnie.
Clearly, these two have put their heart into exploring art.