Child prodigies

Our Facebook news feeds tend to tailor – loosely – to our interests, as interpreted by the site itself. We see the most relevant posts our friends make, and have advertisements scattered around, aiming to seek our attention. Amongst these posts and advertisements, we often see trending topics, reposted posts, shared items that a handful of people are swooning over at some point in time. Each of our newsfeeds reflects some unique cultural, societal attribute that is apposite to right then.

One day I was on Facebook and I saw three individual posts that claimed to be features on child prodigies of various sorts. There was a 7-year-old artist, Aelita Anfre, whose work has been hailed by various artists, art critics as well as people who know next to nothing about art. There was a young singer, with a voice that could have been that of a 30-year-old woman who had had voice training for half her life. And there was a post that exhibited a few youth scientists, who, in this post, geared their inventions towards innovative, sustainable environmental-economic practices. These children were highlighted because they are innovative, naturally talented or produce work that feels free from or resistant to social oppression on expression.

Why are people so interested in child prodigies? “Aelita Andre’s painting are … magical … culturally significant, free from oppressive Western tradition,” commented professor of art & art critic Robert Nelson. This “cultural significance” is a component of all relevant art pieces. Whether the work is relevant to now, or was relevant 200 years ago, cultural significance still plays its role in the piece’s success. The freedom from oppressive Western tradition is a bit more of a rarity. But, what is driving these children? This is where it gets interesting. Some children grow to be fantastic (but perhaps robotic) musicians, as result of their tedious practices and unchanging schedules. Some children are born to very supportive parents that have the means to fund their child’s projects or experiments.

These prodigies all seem to share one thing in common: their proclaimed overwhelming interest in their art of choice developed at a very young age. While the artistic prodigies or prodigious inventors are still young, I commonly see their parents or mentors advocating for them, both in describing their raw, unfazed passions as well as their incredible skill. It makes me wonder how many of us, if born into the right social-economic situation, could have been the “child prodigies” that inspire us.

Their enthusiasm, their will, their limitless expression… Does it grow or diminish with age? Must a “child prodigy” retain their passion for their art form for life? And if they don’t, was their prodigious nature really just something advertised by those who support them?

In the end, whether or not a successful artist or inventor was deemed a “child prodigy” doesn’t make a difference in whether or not their works can introduce new ideas to the rest of us. But whether or not a “child prodigy” is advertised successfully through mass media will make a difference in their personal success story.