3.16.2011

I'd be lost without the arts.....

A few days ago I mentioned to a friend that I would be lost without the arts and ever since then I've really been stuck on this idea - not only do I have no idea what I would be doing, but I'm pretty sure I'd be very unhappy.  This idea led me to the thought of what is it about the arts that has me so captured?  I struggle with words to explain feelings that are so complex that they can't fit into categories like 'happy' or 'joy' or 'vocation'.  The arts for me are all these things, but yet it doesn't seem to even come close to explaining the arts. Maybe I should clarify when I say 'the arts' I mean all arts - performing arts like band, choir, theatre and more traditional arts like drawing and painting.  I feel that all art is important and we would be lost as a society without it - art is such an integrated part of our everyday lives that we often miss it's beauty and power.  Is that what makes are so appealing and has captured me so?  Art has the ability to be so softly powerful? - perhaps, but again it does not feel like enough.

Picture from Luther College Photo Bureau
I had the most amazing teacher in high school.  He taught early bird humanities and even though he never wrote a single thing on the board and I never took a single note - I remember so many things from his class.  I didn't realize it at the time but he was building me a foundation for everything art - word, picture, sound.  Over the years that foundation has been used to build monuments to painters, weavers, poets, architects, musicians, sculptors, designers....  He somehow guided me past understanding each word in a poem and each arc of color on a painting to the feeling or the concept the writer and painter was communicating -- and when I got to that moment I really began to see.....

I think the arts have captured my life not only due to their soft power, but  their ability to communicate not only through centuries, but cultures and ages, and that all humans can and do participate.

When I was a student in school - school sucked. It was hard and I spent much of my time feeling stupid.  The more classes I took in art the more I felt I was breathing fresh air.  As an art teacher in an elementary school I can tell you that my classroom is probably one of the few places that learning disabilities have no hold.  In my room it does not matter if you can read, if you understand math, if your letters and numbers move around when you try and read them.  In my room you get to be you and nothing is in the way.  Art is a breath of fresh air.

I think perhaps for me - arts have captured my life not only because the unique communication if provides - but it gave me a home.  I made all A's and B's (okay a couple of C's) in school, but it wasn't without tears of anger and frustration -- but the arts make sense to me.  It was the first time I understood without having to climb through mental swamps and mountains.

I enjoy the unique beauty of art though I may not like the subject or how it's presented - but appreciating is different than liking.  For example, most rap songs I don't enjoy - but I respect how and where they came from and there are a few that have a beat that pulls me in.  I do not like all abstract art, but there are pieces I could stand and stare at all day.

I walk into my classroom filled with bright colors, piles of projects and paper, the smell of paint and know that there will be students that come to my room and this is the only place they will feel success - the only place they will feel confident - the only place they will raise their hand - the only place they will take chances - something unique to art.  I hope to have a fraction of the passion my high school humanities teacher showed to me - and pass that onto the students in my room.

The arts are needed.  They are needed in every child and adult life.  The problem solving, critical thinking - being apart of a community where thinking is encouraged and new ideas are grown.

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