Building Superheroes Out of Blobs of Paint
Desiree DiGerolamo Photo One

I Am An Art Superhero a book by Desirée DiGerolamo is a book for young children. It is also a book for adults and older children. It is a book for teachers. Most importantly it is a book that teaches a valuable lesson in building self-esteem in our most precious treasure, our children. The fifty-six page book is wonderfully illustrated by Richa Kinra and in a manner that is fun. Oh and do not let the fifty-six pages scare you off, as about half of the pages consist of only an illustration.

Desirée DiGerolamo a former actress, who you may remember from the ‘80s television series Rocky Road (she played Jessica Stuart and was credited as Desirée Boschetti) is now both an art teacher and a drama teacher in an elementary school and she says, “I wrote the book, because it was an actual incident that happened in my art classroom during the first or second year that I was teaching art. The young child dropped a blob of paint on the paper and he started to cry, because he thought he had made a mistake. I thought wait a minute now, how do I deal with this? If I give the child new paper everybody is going to want new paper every time they don’t like something that they do. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about experimentation and trying things. I think as adults what we try to do is to make everything better for the child, whether it is your own child, or you are a teacher with a student. We try to solve the problem for them instead of empowering them to figure out what to do on their own. I think that is such an important part of growing up. At an early age empower them and let them have ownership of the behavior and deal with the consequences, so I wrote the book.

I took the story that happened in the classroom and then I would tell the story to friends over dinner or at parties and everybody fell in love with the story and the idea of how I dealt with it. One morning I woke up at 5 am and the story that I had been telling was in a full book in my head. I could see it and I had the beginning and the end, so I just pulled it together. It is a simple, sweet little story.”

Desiree DiGerolamo Photo TwoThe book begins with this boy who remains nameless throughout the book, which more easily facilitates sliding your child’s name into the story, he is waking up and his parents are in various states of being awake. We follow the little boy to school, as he eagerly anticipates his art class with his teacher Mrs. D.  

Desirée DiGerolamo continues, “That is how the book came to life. I started a Kickstarter project to self-publish the book. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into, which is how I do a lot of things. I get these ideas and then I just run with them and that’s how it happened.”

What Desiree DiGerolamo allows us to do in her book I Am An Art Superhero is to see the art classroom and to see life in general through the eyes of a young child. It is capturing that innocence and those bigger than life challenges that seemingly face children that enable the author to deliver her message with clarity.

She says, “I think that art and drama are so underrated in the educational process, because learning is a journey and children aren’t just glasses that we want to fill with information. What art and drama do for them is to open up their world and it helps them to express themselves.

Everybody is different. We are all different. That is what makes the world an incredible place. If we are all the same, as I tell my students, how boring would it be? We are all different and we have to embrace that. Those of us who learn differently and who behave differently or who have different IQs these kids can come together in an artistic environment. It levels the field and it gives them an opportunity to try things without negative consequences. The fear is that I won’t get a good grade or that I’m going to make a mistake and if I don’t do well I will get in trouble.

I have had kindergarten students come into my classroom and say to me I can’t draw, so I am not going to draw. Who said you can’t draw? Some adult (said that). I have had parents say to me that their younger child is a much better artist than their older child. You can’t label kids. They need that place where they can go and try things and just be. It is not about mistakes. It’s about trying and experimenting. It gives them a place to express themselves. Kids can have whatever issues and some of them have difficulting expressing themselves and drama is perfect for that. It is the perfect environment for kids who have those sorts of personalities, because again they can let it out and they can experiment. There are no negative consequences, be silly and be loud and do whatever, as long as it is within the confines of the lesson the teacher is doing. I feel it is so important to give them a lot of freedom. Those are the kids who benefit most from the art classes and from the drama classes. Those are the creative kids.

I don’t expect them all to be artists and I don’t expect them all to be actors. It is about feeding their imaginations and it is about expressing themselves. It is about taking chances and giving them a personal choice. You don’t want to use that color and you don’t want to do this. Tell me why. Great go try it. Go ahead and go for it! They discover things about themselves and that’s why it is important.”

A friend of Desiree DiGerolamo volunteers her time to work with special needs children in Portland and she reads the book to them. The book is also read by other teachers at Ms. DiGerolamo’s own school and she reads it to her new students each year. It is the opinion of Riveting Riveting Magazine that the book I Am An Art Superhero is a book that should be ordered by school boards across the country. In fact, there are a lot of groups that could benefit from making sure this book is read to children and read by adults.

Ms. DiGerolamo talks about why she feels it is important to read her book to new students each year, “Now if something happens to somebody in art class and someone spills something, they will say its okay, because there are no mistakes. You can turn that into something else. Take a look. Its funny how they (repeat) what I have been teaching them. They know and they have experienced it.

The message is important to get out there to kids, because I see these little ones who come in and they are already feeling defeated. We are talking about five, six and seven year olds who are afraid to try, because they think they can’t do it when in fact it couldn’t be any further from the truth. I learn from them.

Being an art teacher is a little bit different, because I have the freedom to do that whereas you have other teachers who are confined to a particular curiculumn that they must do and the kids have testing they have to do. I have a different environment that I have created in my classrooms and I feel fortunate that I have had the freedom to do that and to feel this way. It opens them up and there is no fear of failure. Think about it, what would you try if you knew you wouldn’t fail at it? I have taken so many chances in my life and if I thought about failing then I would never have done any of them. Just like with the book when I wrote it, I suddenly said to my son I am going to do a Kickstarter project and he said mom do you have any idea of what that involves? I didn’t know anything about it, but I said I was going to do a Kickstarter project to see if I could raise money. I am going to write this book, because I think this book will help other kids. It just happened. That is how I do things. If it doesn’t work at least I tried. I have turned over all of the stones.”

What kind of feedback has the book received?

“Everybody that I have spoken to or who has contacted me about the book they really appreciate what the book offers. Most of the time if a child is having a meltdown, because something is happening that they don’t want to happen the parents want to rush in and solve the problem for that child. I think the best thing to do is to let it be and to see what the child does. You have to help to facilitate it like in the book when the teacher went over and looked at it and said you know what the paint is there, so what can you do with it? They need that guidance, but then walk away. Let the child think.

So much technology is thrown at them from such an early age now and everything is instantaneous for them. If they don’t get what they want immediately they have a meltdown.  They don’t want to think how can I do this myself? They want it done for them.

What has been really interesting is parents and even grandparents have contacted me and said you know what this is not just a children’s book. This is a message for everybody. It is for adults too, because everybody is afraid of making mistakes. Mistakes are the building blocks to learning. You get on a bike for the first time and you fall and you get up until you have that balance going on. If you don’t fall and you don’t experience that, you don’t really appreciate the ride. The feedback has been good and it has been a positive experience for me,” she says.

The experience will be good for as well, so go out there, buy a book or books for your child or children, buy one for your child’s art or drama teacher and make sure you read the book as well. We all need positive experiences and we all need to know that sometimes things do not turn out exactly as we planned, but there can still be pleasant surprises.  

The book I Am An Art Superhero can be ordered online through Amazon or Barnes & Noble’s website.     Return to Our Front Page

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This interview by Joe Montague  published November 25th, 2017 is protected by copyright © and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine All Rights Reserved.  All photos and artwork are the the property of  Desiree DiGerolamo unless otherwise noted and all  are protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved. This interview may not be reproduced in print or on the internet or through any other means without the written permission of Riveting Riffs Magazine, All Rights Reserved