NEW QUESTIONS ABOUT CHILD PRODIGY --
"60 MINUTES WEDNESDAY" ON CBS
Four-year-old Marla Olmstead has already made hundreds of thousands of dollars selling her artwork. While other preschoolers are finger painting, Marla has become an accomplished painter of large canvases in the abstract expressionist style. Her creations are selling for as much as $24,000 each. Marla's fans praise her work, calling her a prodigy. Some of her critics question whether she's actually doing the paintings by herself, however. Her father, an amateur artist, tells correspondent Charlie Rose that his daughter does all of her painting herself and allows 60 MINUTES WEDNESDAY to set up a concealed camera in her home to videotape her as she works. Rose's report will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES WEDNESDAY (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) Feb. 23 on the CBS Television Network.
Marla's parents say that their daughter paints about three times a week for up to three hours at a time. They also say that Marla finishes a piece every few sittings, but 60 MINUTES WEDNESDAY cameras captured her working on one painting for a month. Ellen Winner, a psychologist who studies gifted children, watched the footage of Marla at work. "I saw no evidence that she was a child prodigy in painting," says Winner. "I saw a normal, charming, adorable child painting the way preschool children paint, except that she had a coach that kept her going." Winner suspects that Marla would not have the focus or desire to stay with one painting as long as she did on the tapes if it weren't for her father urging her along. "I think she's being urged to continue," says Winner. "Many times she says, 'I'm done,' and there would be silence and she would continue to paint."
Rose asks Marla's father if he's been helping her with her paintings and he responds, "�I'm flattered and I wish I could do that and no, there's no help," Mark Olmstead tells Rose. "It's really a matter of letting Marla go."
Marla's parents claim that the hidden camera captured their daughter while she was suffering from a creative block. Still, they say, during the month or so she worked on the painting, Marla was able to finish four or five other paintings, off camera, with no problems at all.
Jeff Fager is the executive producer of 60 MINUTES WEDNESDAY and Reid Collins, Jr. and Amiel Weisfogel are the producers of this report.