Sunday, October 18, 2015

Its just not fun anymore.

An early JK, I am the one in pink on the left, facing away from all the others.
I love it when a title just drops in my lap!  At the Mask Affair opening last night, Chris T., his wife and I had a wonderful back and forth about the status of today’s classroom. His words were that educational reforms have “just sucked the fun out of everything!” which could be applied to just about everything nowadays thanks to regulations, expectations, and the PC-ation of our nation.  However, for the sake of not requiring you to wade through a rant equivalent to War and Peace, I shall limit myself to “what if I were back in the classroom…..?”

25 years and counting on maternity leave so no chance of my getting my old job back, but nor would I want it. The school switched over to block scheduling 20 some year ago and I did not understand it then, nor do I now.

Substituting worked for a while until I dropped off of that list too. When it became my job to track down a job and not their job to fill the job, I decided the early morning auto calls were not worth the potential back wrenching to get the phone. Choosing between options (without knowing what was being offered to teach) seemed counterproductive to the process.  Back in the day (oh stop groaning), the “caller” called the night before and offered the job by subject and grade….6th grade math anybody?  Sure! A buck was a buck and if a lesson plan (or movie) was left for me, I could teach anything.

Fast forward 20 years or more. The substitute teacher (me) now checks in at the desk…after breaching security, getting a badge, registering my car and posing for a mug shot.  The exasperated secretary hands me a folder (binder size) for my use that day. I merrily make my way down the hall (with the use of a GPS in today’s mega schools) to my assigned room and settle in to look over the lesson plan……

But first, one must read through the security lock down or crisis in the classroom procedures. Check. Then it was the fire drill, tornado drill, bee in the hallway drill etc for evacuation or shelter in place procedures. Check. On to the custody and information sharing status for students who had this unfortunate situation regarding which parent could know what about whom and when and who could pick up or sign out who and when and when I was to not notify anybody about anything. Check. Okay, good now I can read my les………………nope, nada, first have to read the medical status and procedures for kids with allergies, medications, special requirements and when during the day such needs need to be met (and who I could tell, when and why and heaven forbid there is a bee in the hallway!!) Check. Now I can………………….sorry, first one has to go thru the do’s and don’ts of the particular class room such as restroom breaks, number of tissues per student per day, looking out the window violations, and so on…..  Check.   OMG a student has arrived!

Hi, what’s your name?  Troy.  Oh, hmmmm you are not on my list.  Its under Joseph R Smith, but my cousin is named that so I use the abbreviated version of my middle name but I have three middle names because of a hyphened name someplace along the line after the divorce, but then “she” got a dog and named it my other middle name so I had to go to plan B and now I spell it with a silent “e” so I am not confused with Troy E who is a girl.  Have a seat.

Found the lesson plan after skipping a bunch of stuff that would probably not make any difference because class would be over before I got thru it all.  Seems we are going to be drawing today  (everybody should spend math class drawing when the lesson plan is written in a language I no longer speak and requires a computer).  Hey, one has to be flexible in these trying times of modern interaction with the future leaders of the world.  Kids, take out a pencil and paper.   Pencil…it is the long skinny often yellow stick like thing with a pointy end and a pink rubbery thing on the other.  I know, some are plastic and click to dispense the lead, try and work with me okay? Thank goodness we aren’t in the Snarky studio room where my personal pencil sharpener is mounted upside down and backwards…much to the delight of dyslexics everywhere. 

Everybody draw a circle.  Chaos.  How big? Where on the page? How many? Right now? With what?.... Smarty pants in the front has to inform me that they are now required to justify their work and the process of how it was done, why and how they feel about it.  Um…it is an f-ing circle kiddo.  But I am game so let us proceed with this required element of our educational development so as not to hurt anybody’s self-esteem.  (Seriously, could we please just have a tornado drill about now?)  The simple circle….Troy(e), how do you feel about your work and why did you do this particular shape?  I know I told you too but that is not good enough…. Oh, your result is making you feel sad because it is not a big as girl Troy’s circle?  Is this a problem for either of you? Does anybody care about how “I” feel about this?  No I will not tell your aunt’s sister who is on today’s list as your legal guardian until 4pm when it becomes……..what? You need to use the restroom?  Nope, can’t allow that, could be a bee in the hallway.  I don’t care how that makes you feel, I have to go write down my justification for the answer and how I came to that conclusion and its effect on the rest of the class although only the janitor is going to be inconvenienced by this situation. 

Suddenly cries ring out…..Mrs. K do you hear that? What? Quick what is our crisis code procedure for whatever is going on? Panic!! It is a car alarm in the parking lot, page 6, second paragraph, grab your work and proceed in an orderly manner to the hallway outside of the main gym unless the alarm is on the west side of the lot then turn right and trot at a reasonable rate of speed to the cafeteria….unless it is lunchtime then go….oh forget it.  Hey kids, inside that circle you made, put two dots and a curved line. We call that a smiley face…, it is not an emoticon. It is art. Have a nice day.

I love teaching as do so many artists I meet. The front of the classroom warriors who claim the title of “art teacher” however are a special breed doing a job I could no longer stand to perform if everything a student did had to be justified, verified, validated, rated, recorded and dissected in minutia for its’ process, purpose and product. The powers that be have truly “sucked the fun out of everything.” Even art, which I would justify as a crime against humanity and it makes me feel sad.  Kudos to Chris and his fellow art teachers that face this crisis in our classroom on a daily basis and still make it work. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

100 years from now.....

A little late on this First Friday update, but I lost the answer list in my personal dumpster (aka the van). However, since excavated and deciphered, below are the responses to our Question of the Month.

100 years from now, I hope we have……

Peace -  no violence -  tolerance - no wars
Every zig for great justice ( huh?)  - justice – better world – more wisdom
Everything organic
Jet packs – space ships – hover hats – teleporter – flying cars
Clean oceans – cleaner air and water – a happy earth
Love for all – universal unconditional love – self love – alien lovers – respect for human life – end of abortion – love – each other
Heath – happiness and harmony - kindness
All Christians – a world accepting of Jesus and showing love – faith – equality – a place where everyone is accepted
Plant life – trees – flowers – water – eternal summers – a planet
Vanilla crush – no hunger – steak – infinite pizza – more bacon
People – still alive – nicer people - kids
Live in outer space
150th Superbowl
No mental illness – hope – free health care – free education
No kings
4 Cookie Divas cookies – ice cream city
America – quiet downtown Canton
Zebras -  dogs – giant turtles – fewer homeless animals – unicorns – flying pigs – talking pigs
Freedom of choice

Our community project was very well received and resulted in the best final product so far! Not sure I can part with it so for now, it will be hanging in the Journey Two Boutique. Which, if you have not done so already, one must visit! Sales have been great and will only get better for one of kind, handmade clothing and textile related items. All made in America so come support your local art and artists!

November will be the last Community Project until March.  December conflicts with a family function.  We are closed for the January FF as that is on New Year’s Day (Journey, J2 and Snarky Art will all be closed).  February will be nuts so stay tuned for that! March will return with the Great Square Inches of Art, a favorite project from this past year.

As always, thanks for playing!!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Where do we go from here? A few observations and comments about the Akron Arts Prize.

Winners were announced last night at the Akron Art Museum. Many of those who came to hear the list did so during the last half hour or less before the official 9:30 podium time (maybe the really loud band had something to do with it?) 

Only four of us for sure were Canton entrants and perhaps a couple more were as well but the majority of the 200 pieces were from Akron area students and artists. Being “outsiders” we stand no chance of winning but it is fun to see what is chosen by the general public. (The awards are by popular vote via an app while in the footprint of the venues.) That being said, it is possible to game the system by taking ones friends to lunch within that footprint or having them drive by and vote, with no need to see the work. A total lack of media coverage probably did not help either. Not one mention in the ABJ this year that I could find. The Rep did a better job with a color article about one of the local entrants.

This is a short posting so let’s get to the interesting observations.  Keep in mind that the general public votes, only once for a piece and only 5 (or six if one fills out a survey) votes total.  The participating artists voted for one of their own to be the favorite and the winner was April Couch for her Mandela Table, a truly wonderful piece of drawing and construction. She was the only female in a field of older men who swept the remaining 6 awards. (Yes Bill L, you are gett’n up there like the rest of us).

Animals ruled this year. Bill Lynn’s dragon piece (sorry all, too lazy to scroll thru the app and find official titles), Tom Baldwin’s rhino head carving, Brian Parson’s circular snake and grand prize winner Fredrick Shortridge’s carved walking stick, which had some animals on it, are all 3-D pieces as well. 

Michael Marras’ salvaged materials man (3-D) and the aforementioned snake were both made from metals and repurposed materials.  Only J David Norton had a “2-D” piece but not a traditionally flat one like canvas or paper, it was glass depicting a sunset….and gorgeous as usual, a repeat winner.  So you notice, no paintings or drawings, no ceramics or printmaking, nothing truly contemporary in an abstract or interpretive sort of way, nothing that required a deep thought process to appreciate.  The pieces are all well-constructed and/or extremely detailed and time consuming, and in most cases truly gorgeous, but nothing that requires much “thinking” to understand or appreciate.

So these results lead us to many questions for consideration:

Does the general public want art that is easy to digest, easy to understand and can be instantly recognizable for what it is?  There were many wonderful entries in the show but they had to be contemplated to be appreciated.

Should work that is “deep” or requires a bit of processing and contemplation be avoided? Viewers don’t want to spend much time when they are going place to place and free drinks are waiting.

Are the worlds of social media and shallow entertainment television dumbing down our audience and filing them with a need for instant art soundbites? Some people want to know what something is right away because understanding context takes time.

Is paining dead?  Note for next year, please include the media on the labels, not just artist name and title.

What is the appeal for objects in the round as opposed to objects on the wall? That could be a real study in the psychology of personal space and the transient lifestyles of contemporary culture.

Are pieces with animals less threatening than those with figures? As a culture that is losing its ability to interact with live people, are animals more relatable? (After all they are pretty cool creatures in the fantasy genre, movies and TV)

As a culture that is now focused on repurposing and recycling, does choice of materials play into likes and dislikes? There was a definite Don D influence.

Wonder why it was an all-male line up for the top 6? Is there something innate in their work which appeals more to people?

Congrats to all the winners and kudos to the team that put together this 4th year of the event.