|"Diffuse winter" by flickr user Malik_Braun. Note: it looks nothing like this in my home of New York City right now.|
Hello, Art Advocado readers! I have to confess: January is not my favorite time of year. It's cold (though not as cold as it could be at the moment), the holiday fun is over, it's dark before I leave the office, spring seems forever away, and work has been absolutely bonkers. In need of a pep-up to get me through the month, I turned to my trusty google alerts and news aggregators to find out about some terrific things happening in art classes across our fair nation. Following is a roundup that will lift your spirits no matter how deep you are in the January Doldrums! Read on to find out about do-gooder art classes, Martin Luther King Day celebrations, and much more!
- A very lucky find: while searching for found objects for art projects with one of her students, Cleveland high school art teacher Jayne Sylvester uncovered an extremely rare recording of Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at her school just a year before his death. The reel-to-reel recording was dangerously close to being lost forever as it was hiding in a box of discarded items set to be tossed. "It's like a lost treasure. It will be absolutely wonderful for the kids to hear," said Glenville High School principal Doris Redic. In the speech King tells students that they must seize upon opportunities presented to them, no matter how humble, if they are to overcome racial prejudice. "If it falls your lot to be a streetsweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry, sweep streets like Beethoven wrote music." You can listen to clips and the the whole twenty-one minute speech at the Plain Dealer website.
- In commemoration of MLK day, Vermonter Stephanie Greene recalls the inspiring art teacher from her middle school who happened to be African American- an anomaly in 1960s Vermont, which was the whitest state in the union until very recently. Greene calls Hugh Corbin "a one man Happening" who used new and different materials in his classes and included art history in his teachings to inspire and motivate even the surliest middle-schoolers. "I carried his lessons forward," says Greene, recounting how she even ran into him in (appropriately) an art museum many years later. As many of you know, it's no small feat to have such great impact on a thirteen year old!
Aw, shucks! Art teachers and their students doing good in their community
- Art teacher Carolyn Mullinax is not only teaching a great skill but also helping her community...through knitting? Yes, you heard that right! Mullinax's knitting club has morphed into a project called Looms of Love, in which third- through fifth-graders knit hats for women and children to a local nonprofit that supports victims of domestic violence. "I wanted the kids to have a connection back to their environment, but I wanted a charity that does not get as much recognition as some of the others," Mullinax told The Post and Courier. The club has already donated fifty hats and another fifty are on their way. Looms of Love was funded by a grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission - what a great example of the far reach of public funding for the arts! (This one's for you, Mom.)
- In Clarksville, Indiana, one high school's art club is also using their extracurricular time to pull the one-two punch of art-making and community service. With the support of art teacher Donna Burden, the club designed and created ceramic bowls for their annual Empty Bowls Soup Dinner. Attendees purchase the handcrafted bowls and then enjoy a simple soup repast from their chosen piece; all proceeds go to feed the hungry. The club made over 150 ceramic bowls for the dinner; they are hoping their efforts will help them surpass last year's $2,400 fundraising total. (Empty Bowls is an international charity based around fundraisers like this one; you could even hold one at your own school!)
- Some Peoria, Arizona third- and fourth- grade art students helped brighten the holidays for over one hundred local veterans and troops in Afghanistan by sending them handmade, personalized holiday cards. (One very sweet example: "Merry Christmas where you are, but get back here as soon as you can…from your new pal, Mikey.") The initiative came about through a partnership between the art department at Apache Elementary and a local Elks Lodge.
- Don't forget our animal friends! Through the month of December, art students from Fleming Island High school (along with a few alumni and teachers) spent their free hours beautifying their local Clay County, Florida animal shelter. Artistically rendered dogs and cats now adorn the walls of the shelter. “It makes it less dreary to walk in for those people trying to adopt and the people who are working here,” tenth grader Trevor Johnson says. Added bonus: the paint was donated by local businesses!
Art Teacher Positivity Potpourri
- Hamilton, Ohio art teacher Abe Harris overcomes an incredible physical challenge to do his job: he was born without arms. He was inspired to become an art teacher by an instructor he had at Miami University who noted that Harris's experiences could be an asset to a career in education. "He said I had unique perspective on how art was created and was able to help people solve problems in new ways." Fifth-grader Natalie Taveras says her remarkable art teacher "shows us how not to feel bad about yourself and to believe in yourself." Extraordinary and inspiring.
- Rockford, Illinois art teacher Crystal Swanson also has a unique perspective on teaching art: she didn't start until she was in her fifties. Swanson's passion for art education belies her late start in art education. "Art is where students are encouraged to be creative," she told the Rockford Register Star. "Sometimes a kid will come to art and it’s the only thing that will keep him in school. You don’t ever want to shut a child down.” Swanson also attributes her school's high test scores to the strong art ed program. Sounds like someone the art teachers - and arts advocates - should be glad we have on our side!