With the return to school, we’ll take up arms once again. We’ll stand firm in our decision not to purchase that $100 pair of sneakers that ‘other loving and rational parents’ have graciously bought their child. So it shall be with the newest iPhone. We’ll brace ourselves for the lunch discourse that ensues daily upon unpacking the box’s nearly untouched meal. We’ll clear our calendar for back-to-school nights and sports team meetings. We’ll put the shredder on alert. For, despite this digital age, we are still mired in paperwork – announcements, notices, exams, reports, daily homework. Recycle the better part of that, but hold onto that which has sentimental merit.
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Instead of piling these select pieces in the dead-letter drawer like I’ve been known to do, hang them up. Display your child’s achievements. According to the Heritage Foundation, taking part in their schooling (whether that be meeting with teachers, helping with homework, or acknowledging their achievement) helps promote greater success. Tack the homework, test, or report, to the bulletin board and the diorama to the mantle. They will be thrilled that you’ve chosen to showcase their work. If I’m wrong, they’ll remove it – that simple.
Where to find all this unutilized space? Like everything in our home that we tire of, rotate it out. Children’s achievements need only be on display for a short while before they are replaced by the next great masterpiece. Find a space in your home in which you’re comfortable donating a parcel of wall or mantle space to said prodigy. In my own house, I can’t attest to having one space. I play with artwork as it arrives (or at least within the same grade year) to find it a suitable home. Sometimes, it’s interspersed with other art treasures, sometimes it gets its own spotlight, and sometimes, we manage a gallery wall of various accolades.
Though much of what you might see here is artwork, I see no reason why some of the same methods can’t be applied to showcasing math tests and book reports. If you have a large space to devote to this endeavor, hang curtain rods and the art from clips. This is fast and easy to change out as new material becomes available, tomorrow and the next day.
Wire Rod System
Along the same lines as the rods, strung wire and clips are an option for hanging artwork or any variety of schoolwork. In this case, the finished planks act as the framing backdrop for the work. This wire curtain rod system can be adhered to any board, door or wall that will accept these screw hooks. It’s a versatile and easy option. I will note here that when my son was still a toddler I hung this same wire across his room, from wall to shining wall, and clipped in his expansive portfolio. I returned to find the pieces scattered all over the floor, not once or twice, but every time I was foolish enough to venture it. He saw the hanging pieces as targets in a bizarre nerf combat he devised. You could say, his creativity devoured itself.
Acrylic Floating Frames
Seen below is another large gallery wall devoted to showcasing artwork in clear acrylic frames. The acrylic frame has been reinvented, propelling it forth from its lowly rank among frame options. These frames are borderless; the artwork appears to float between panes. They are a great option when you want the focus to be on the artwork itself and to not be distracted by busy borders. Nine large frames like this might risk being overwhelming, were it not for the unifying color scheme of the framed pieces. Together, they make a statement. “We’re rocking this wall.”
Acrylic Shadow Boxes
Acrylic shadow boxes, which jut out an inch to five inches from the wall, add greater dimension to artwork. It doesn’t just fade into the background; it becomes a three dimensional feature of the room. This is great for pieces that have some elevation or texture and even for canvases you might like to highlight with the reflective surface. They come in different sizes and depths, though an oversized frame like that pictured below would need be customized. Some boxes will even allow you to showcase that galaxy diorama you were up all night perfecting.
A gallery wall of a different sort showcases a multitude of images, some small and some large. The artwork for the showcase varies in color, and size, and even in medium in some cases. It works well, however, because like the aforementioned acrylics, these frames are all the same variety. Though they may differ in size and shape, they exhibit the same white border and matte. Frames like these can be purchased often as a set.
Monochromatic Frame Set on Same Color Wall
I love this artist-parent’s stacking of the work. Another example of monochromatic frames, this time on an also white wall, allows you to zero in on the art. These bright and bold renderings provide the punch in an all-white corridor. Because the ceiling is so high, the designer decided to stack the images nearly to the ceiling, to draw the attention upward. I love it and wish I could commission this child to reproduce each piece. Many of our once prized pieces ended up tattered after Nerf declared war on the exhibit.
Wooden Poster Kit
We wouldn’t be framing our child’s artwork if it looked this; we’d be selling it. These are professional prints displayed in wooden poster frames. Imagine your child’s sketches or watercolors stretched below. These frame kits are gaining in popularity as of late. You have to buy the kit and assemble the artwork but it does make it stand out more than the customary 4×4 border frame. It doesn’t have any sort of protective cover so if you hope to preserve this masterpiece for all-time, you’d best consider another frame.
Ledge shelves are another fad favorite in kids’ rooms. They can be used to display books or pieces of art as illustrated here. Paper by itself however is too thin, too light. It will blow off every time someone walks by and will fall over on itself. Better use of these ledges is for framed pieces or art backed with foam core.
These are simple cork squares, hung side by side, acting as a frame backdrop for each art showpiece. Another piece of paper inset in the cork replicates a matte. Simple, easy to change out, and yet very visually pleasing.
Instead of framing out each piece, hang a long cork strip or cork tiles together to create a walled bulletin board. You can decorate as you like and change out the pieces as often as you have time for.
If there’s a piece you’re particularly partial to, you might want to invest in transferring it to a canvas. There are a few companies that will do this for a fee: Canvas Champ, MyPix2Canvas, and Canvas on Demand (with which I’ve had good experience). Let’s face it; artwork can be hard to preserve, especially when it travels home in the backpack. Having a canvas replica helps ensure it will be around for a long while. Like frames, a canvas lends an art piece legitimacy. It asks: is this a child’s depiction of the sun or a modernists’ interpretation of global warming. Who can say for sure?
There are more options; I’ve only touched on a few. Depending on both the schoolwork you plan to feature and the look you’re going for, there are a number of creative ways to accomplish this. If you’re looking for quick and easy and constantly changing, you might opt for bulletin boards, clipboards or simply matted works. If, on the other hand, you’d like your child’s artwork to be a conversation piece or to be interspersed with the other invaluable art specimens you have displayed, you should consider something more tailored – frames of any variety or a canvas, or even a collage illustrating a number of your child’s best pieces printed on one poster.
My kids are still young and yet when I look back only a few years at some of the memorable pieces we’ve saved: various pieces of artwork, reports and book illustrations, I am beyond grateful I had the wherewithal to stash them then. I only hope my kids’ distinguished works will be recognized as such within their lifetimes.
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