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Touchstone Center for Children 

April Newsletter


It’s that time of the year again, when the first gestures of spring begin to make themselves known. When children seem to write on to the warmer air, sounds of their exuberance—as if, after a long winter, the first exclamations of their playing—might somehow inhabit all that is starting to grow around them.

This gesturing to denote, to mark and signify, something of ourselves to the world around us, seems a universal human trait—a ceremony of aliveness that is perhaps at the very beginning of our human evolution. As writer and scholar Ellen Dissanayake suggests, such markings, such acts of play, might be our first desire towards meaning, towards what she calls artification, acts and objects of expressiveness, which we now speak of, and know, as the arts.

Perhaps, in our hurried concern for children to learn, we too easily overlook and eliminate a child’s profound instinct to play, to create and to express through their playing, those earliest of our human desires—to make a sound, to draw a line, to speak with stones and twigs—each, in their own way, rituals and artifacts of a child—at the beginning of their search for meaning and knowledge.

As spring moves, day by day, into its yearly summer abundance, let us not forget these first and early attempts to signify, to gradually shape the vocabulary and language of our inner worlds, and this decisive and awakening experience of our being, both alive—and being here.

Richard Lewis
Touchstone Center for Children

Photograph of “Geometric Configuration” from “Early Rock Art of the American West: The Geometric Enigma” by Ekkehart Malotki and Ellen Dissanayake. For further writings by Ellen Dissanayake on the biological and evolutionary origins of art, please go to: Additional photographs from the Touchstone Center Archives.
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