TAMPA — Art consultant Katherine Gibson likes to think of children's art as just that — art.
Just because your pint-sized Picasso created those enthusiastic swirls of red, yellow and blue doesn't mean it's not worthy of framing and hanging on the walls alongside the grownup artists.
"Sometimes kids have that special something that even abstract painters have," explains Gibson, whose business, ArtHouse3, helps people find artwork they love and who also helps people hang art in their homes.
"It doesn't have to be labeled 'child art.' It's just art you like. It's nice to mix it in with the rest of your art. No matter what age someone is, they can have talent."
Displaying artwork made by your child — or your niece, nephew or neighbor for that matter — doesn't have to be a visual challenge, experts say.
It should be a fun, creative project, one that can sometimes involve your child in the decisionmaking process — especially if he or she brings home multitudes of beautiful art.
Children's art doesn't have to be relegated to the road less traveled, either: an out-of-the-way wall or the refrigerator door.
If you like it, display it with style.
For starters, Gibson says, consider investing in some good-looking but inexpensive frames. Ikea, West Elm, Pottery Barn and Michael's all have ready-made frames for about $30. Frame the work without spending a lot.
Gibson has also seen her creative friends frame their children's art in such interesting ways that she can't help but pass it along.
One friend, she says, put folk-art birds made by her twins in deep, box-style frames that could stand alone on a table or shelf. Another friend bought 2-foot-by-3-foot shadow box frames that are roomy enough to display several pieces of artwork at one time.
"Remember," Gibson advises, "a frame doesn't have to hang on the wall. It can also stand on its own, even in unexpected places like the kitchen counter or on top of a desk."
Also, she says, consider grouping like things together: Similar-sized pieces work well in the same grouping, as do closely linked themes.
If your kids are studying Renoir or van Gogh in summer art class and bring home a stack of paintings that work well together, by all means hang them together rather than randomly sticking up just one picture, Gibson urges.
And don't hesitate to involve your child in the selection process. Allowing a child to change out a piece or even create their own art show at the end of a school year or summer camp program will make them feel so special, Gibson says, adding that the whole family can join in the art-show selection: parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and neighbors or family friends.
If your child loves to paint and draw and you're inundated with display-worthy projects, the Internet offers plenty of sites loaded with suggestions on cool ways to hang kid art.
The HGTV Web site offers a suggestion for displaying your child's favorite painting in an ultra-hip and ultra-inexpensive way. Create the look of a real frame by using bright plastic clips and attaching your child's artwork to a large piece of black poster board and displaying it on an easel.
You can cluster other art projects made by your mini-Matisse in a vignette around the easel for maximum effect. They also suggest picking up a few flea market frames as a fun way to show off the latest art-class project.
Procter & Gamble's Web site, pgeverydaysolutions.com offers ideas for hanging children's art. If your child has brought home so much artwork and it all turns your heart to mush, you might need more than one outlet for display. The following list of suggestions, featured on the P&G Web site, offers some creative solutions:
Create a bathroom gallery. Why not designate an entire main-floor bathroom to your child's hard work? Hanging art takes up less space while adding color and pizzazz for guests to admire. Use matching frames for a uniform look or just hang in symmetrical rows with removable tape.
Make a scrapbook. This is a simple way to store a lot of artwork in a relatively small space, and it can easily be put on display.
Create a quilt. With a digital camera, it's easy to photograph your child's artwork and save it on your computer. And it's a great way to preserve it. Print his or her artwork on fabric and sew it into a quilt.
Make place mats. For an easy preservation, try laminating your child's artwork for use as an easy-cleanup place mat. Many copy shops offer laminating while you wait.
Create a calendar. Here's a way to use 12 pieces of artwork in one creation. Let one piece of artwork serve as each month of the year. Simply scan your child's artwork and then upload it to an online photo service, such as Snapfish or Shutterfly. You can print your calendar right from there.
Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at [email protected]