For nine decades, Our State has made its way into homes across North Carolina, the United States, and the world. To celebrate, every month this year, we’re paying tribute to
For nine decades, Our State has made its way into homes across North Carolina, the United States, and the world. To celebrate, every month this year, we’re paying tribute to the readers who inspire us, offering a taste of our earliest recipes, and revisiting old stories with new insights. Follow along to find out how our past has shaped our present.
Kindergartners everywhere owe a colorful, sticky-fingered salute to Ruth Faison Shaw, the mother of modern-day finger painting.
Shaw, a Kenansville native, developed the kid-friendly art form in the late 1920s, while teaching at a school in Rome. When she caught one of her young students using his fingers to “paint” a bathroom door with iodine, she was inspired to turn his messy mischief into a mission — a smear campaign, if you will. She developed a line of nontoxic paints that were patented in 1935, and then introduced her new art form to the world.
“All the children liked to smear,” she later wrote, “so I went about the task of compounding a suitable medium with which they could smear to their heart’s content without damaging results.”
The State featured Shaw in its December 30, 1933, issue, describing finger painting as “a masterpiece of psychological education for children.” Not only did Shaw’s artistic medium open up a fun new avenue of learning and self-expression for kids, but it also became a valuable therapeutic exercise for psychiatric patients, war veterans, the physically disabled, the blind, and the elderly.
More than half a century after her death, Shaw continues to be recognized as an innovative pioneer in art and education, thanks to her brushless brush with fame.
Paintings courtesy of Ruth Faison Shaw Papers, Wilson Library, UNC Chapel Hillprint it