You Don’t Have To Wait To Grow Up To Be An Artist

Last month, Coco Allred, a teaching artist in Philadelphia had a post on Americans for the Arts about President Biden’s visit to one of the classes she teaches.  She started out with the best part right at the beginning:

On March 11, 2022, President Joseph R. Biden asked Maria, a second-grade student at Luis Muñoz Marín Elementary School in North Philadelphia, “What kind of art do you like?” Maria said, “Painting.” President Biden replied, “Do you think you’ll be a painter when you grow up?” Maria said with confidence, “I already am one.”

As Maria’s teacher, I felt proud of how she identified herself as an artist and added, “That’s the great thing about being an artist—you don’t have to wait to grow up to become one.”

Back in 2014 I made a post about a talk Jamie Bennett, then Executive Director of Art Place America, gave where he observed that people have an easier time seeing themselves on the continuum with athletes than with artists, even if they are fairly invested in a creative practice. So the fact that child views herself as an artist is greatly encouraging to me. Hopefully more kids are growing up with this perspective.

If you watch the video included in Allred’s post where the kids are interacting with President Biden, (around 20:30 mark) a student makes an comment drawing parallels between learning/teaching basketball and artistic skills. Her observation was clearly more sophisticated than the president, (or I for that matter), expected from the student.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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