LAUSD “restores” art education (?) or “something vs. nothing”

Here is a pretty picture to start things off (every blog post needs one)-

nigella in bloom

nigella in bloom

Here, go read the article for yourself and see what you think.  I’d love to hear it.

In the poll section of the article it states “Some kids need more creative approaches to learning.”  Very true.

But I doubt this is the answer.  It is another stopgap measure aimed at doing “something” rather than nothing.

Even Steven McCarthy, the district’s K-12 Arts Coordinator, said “one reason arts integration is at the core of the plan is to safeguard arts education from future cutbacks”.  So there you have it.  It’s not really an effort to “restore” arts education.  It’s an effort to shield it from future cuts in order to salvage  and maintain SOMETHING.  Otherwise, parents that care are going to get pretty rowdy.

“We want to have the same quality offered in every school”, says the LAUSD.  So with that goal in mind, they have hatched this plan.  Images of starving children come to mind.  Better to give them all 30 grains of rice per day than to give some kids 60 grains of rice and others, none (or eat less ourselves and make sure that ALL the children get at least 60 grains of rice). At least most of them won’t die. Of art starvation.  Or will they?

At least the LAUSD can say they did something.  Even if that something was half-baked.

Remember, Penny and I were giving weekly art classes all year long in a 4th grade room at a public elementary school for free and were told there was no longer time for us to come in as they would be devoting our “art time” to preparing for standardized testing. It still pisses me off when I think about it.  I just try not to.

An interesting study regarding soccer titled “Action bias among elite soccer goalkeepers: The case of penalty kicks” explores the emotional reactions to action vs. inaction.

Tanabata was yesterday.  I wished for more and better art in public schools.

I almost deleted this blog…but for some reason I haven’t. So far…

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let me count the ways…that i love this

if you don’t know of Ruth Asawa, you should.

and her son, Paul.


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it’s been a while…

Yes, it has.

I really felt the need to report that today I spent the afternoon with two little girls that go to Cerritos Elementary School.  It is the last day of their spring break and it was a rainy windy day here.  They have spent most of their vacation at the babysitters watching TV and really needed a break.  I couldn’t work in the studio since it was too wet and windy so invited them over for the afternoon.  We had cocoa and read stories, lit the fire for a bit.  Then we decided to paint for a while.  I put out the three primary colors plus black and white on a palette and we learned how to mix green and orange and purple.  We also learned how to darken or shade a color with black.  And how to tint a color with white.

Even I learned something- they told me that black and white mixed together make a color called “jail”.

I think we can all learn something from this.

We need arts education put back into the schools.  And how.  Now.

Meanwhile, the Arts Council of Long Beach is busy planning rock parties, giving awards, and celebrating.


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a good read

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a long hiatus

It’s been a long time hasn’t it? Don’t imagine that my thoughts regarding children and art have ceased to exist. There just doesn’t seem to be many places for them to go these days.
I have found small ways and work at them as I can.

Something told me I needed to put a post here today. I was reminded of something that got me started working in my kids classrooms teaching art way back when they were in elementary school. One of my sons teachers was very autocratic when it came to art making in the classroom. It wasn’t her fault really, she didn’t have any art training and was completely uncomfortable doing it. When I realized that at the end of the day the students couldn’t tell which project was their own, it was then I knew I needed to do something about it. ( at the time I was in the classroom as a general parent volunteer)

The question that I asked myself was, when is it art? The answer was and still is- when there is enough individuality expressed that each student could pick their own project out of the crowd. And that is what I strove for.

As for the teacher, she was relieved when I offered to come into the classroom and do a weekly art lesson.

I just thought it might be important to share that question and answer. That’s all. For now.

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Sadly, this is the end.

Recently, I’ve been taking stock. Refocusing my lens. Since the move to the library I’ve asked myself why I am doing this. If it still meets my criteria. I’ve discovered that it no longer does. It really has no chance of meeting it, so it has to end-at least for me. Penny may continue on-she hasn’t decided. She is going through the docent training at the LB Museum and will make an excellent docent there.

I hate admitting failure (of sorts) but then again I can’t change the world or save it for that matter. If kids are going to get an arts education it really needs to happen in the public schools-IMHO. For lots of reasons aforementioned in this blog -which I won’t bore you with the details now.

It’s not going to happen in Long Beach. Not for a very long time if ever again in my lifetime anyway. That’s OK. I accept it. I move on.

I recently was invited to and attended a meeting of a focus group called Create Long Beach!. We were asked “What do you think is the most pressing issue for arts and culture in Long Beach? What are our assets?”. My thoughts went as follows:

You want to talk about assets? How about the kids in LB? ALL the kids.

The bottom line for me is that kids are going to need creative skills to get by in the future and they are simply not getting it. And by kids I don’t mean just the kids whose parents find it important or can afford to buy them access. ALL kids. That’s why it has to be done in the public schools.
I don’t think any of us will be served by living in a world where people have lost their ability to create solutions because from what I can see, we’re gonna need LOTS of solutions in our future!

I’m not interested in teaching art for the accolades, or to babysit someone’s kids on a Saturday morning. I am interested in building skills over time- teaching problem solving through art. Because that’s what art is (at least to me) – a method of creating by solving problems step by step.

How can we engage the average person on the street and connect them to the “arts community” when they have no experience of it in the first place-nothing on which to base an understanding of it?

It needs to start there. On the streets and in the schools.

Enough of flashy websites, granted artists, neato slogans and taglines. Teach problem solving through the arts and connect it to everyday life. Teach artists how to make a living. Let artists teach art.

Art in Long Beach=

So in closing, I will leave you with what the City of Long Beach so generously installed up in my neck of the city-

a $104,000 Orange Twist

I don’t fault the artist herself. The city just had it’s priorities screwed up in my opinion. Just because you slam a sculpture into a median strip doesn’t mean you care about art. Just what IS the message here?

I will focus on my own work. Honing my skills and connecting with others who are like-minded. Keeping sane…more or less. Thanks to all of you who have so kindly posted here, made donations, and inspired us over the past several years. We thank you.


Filed under art education, artists teaching art, elementary art education, LBUSD, Long Beach art, shibori girl, teaching kids art

Elementary Art at the Dana Branch Library

Our first workshop will be on Saturday January 24 at 10 AM at the Long Beach Dana Branch Library.
Please visit their website for full details.

The library is located at:
3680 Atlantic Ave.
Long Beach, CA 90807
(562) 570-1042



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Making a case for “made in America”

-or just about anywhere really. When it comes to making things, there’s apparently more to it than meets they eye. Paul Sedan recently wrote an article published in the Christian Science Monitor making a case for the value of working with your hands. I hungrily read the article hoping he had included some references to scientific studies I’ve been reading about that make a further case for “making” and it’s effects on brain chemistry and the role it has in lifting depression, among other benefits.
The book I’m speaking of is “Lifting Depression“, by Kelly Lambert, PhD. Subtitled, A Neuroscientist’s Hands-On approach to Activating Your Brain’s Healing Powers, she points out her idea that activities culminating in efforts based rewards can often be a great alternative to much of the psychopharmacology offered up to treat depression as well as other mood disorders. In my life, there hasn’t been much room for depression and now maybe I understand a little better why that has been true.
Further researching this subject, I simultaneously began reading Dan Pink’s book “A Whole New Mind”. This book has so many ideas it’s hard to offer up just one. Suffice it to say that it offers up lots of positive ideas for creative thinking that can be sorted through and applied to good use in our everyday and business worlds.
Which led me to a marvelous study into Ellen Dissanayake’s book “What is Art For?“. In it she lays out a case delivering a biological justification for the existence of art and beauty in humankind. This book is a powerhouse. I think it must be a college text for art theory classes because reading it I feel as I am really being schooled.
I have to read it in smaller sections (as compared to the other two books) and let it sit and digest a bit. Still working on this one.

Of course all of this is fueling my fire as far as why I am so concerned about the lack of creativity (I’m not even going to call it “art” anymore!) in our public school education -especially here in the LBUSD.
Of course, this mostly falls on deaf ears, gets lip service and leaves me preaching to the choir while tilting towards windmills… so to speak. In the coming months while parents and children suffer the stresses of our credit weary, eco-abusive, politically compromised society, we will need to find ways to combat these stresses on our own and work our way through the morass we have created moving toward the light of a better tomorrow.

In the meantime, Penny and I visited Trash for Teaching the other day and hauled away some fabulous stuff for our soon to be announced free public workshop at the local Dana Branch Library. We purchased a membership ($50 each-$100) and as members we can weigh out as many pounds of their materials as we can use in a year! Hooray!
Lauri from Trash for Teaching tells me if you have a school that you would like to purchase a membership for, it is completely tax deductible and makes a great holiday gift. Even if you aren’t connected to a school, any donation you give them will be put to great use, both for education and for the environment. I have been there- it is a bare bones operation with a small passionate staff.
Also, our donate page has been reactivated and updated. (sorry we don’t have 501C3 status and aren’t tax deductible:-))

We have met with the librarian, Jennifer, settled on the basic format, and agreed to a “take it as it comes” approach and will make adjustments as needed. Our first workshop is on January 24, 2009 and the press release will go something like this:

Elementary Art is coming to the Dana Branch Library!

Looking for more arts education opportunities for your kids? Hosted by the Dana Branch Library and run by Elementary Art education advocates Penny Voelker and Glennis Dolce, free monthly Saturday art workshops (10Am-12 Noon) will be offered for families with children 9 years old and up.

Each month’s’s program includes an introductory discussion of art, a demonstration of techniques to be used in the workshop, and open studio work time. Held on the fourth Saturday of each month through June, the program begins at 10 AM sharp. Late-comers will be welcomed to join in during the last half hour of the session. Space is limited to 25.

For more information, ask the Dana Branch Librarian or visit our blog:

Elementary Art – Join us Saturday January 24, 2009 at 10 Am – 12 Noon!

Come and explore collage with texture as we utilize materials diverted from local manufacturers and made available for educational purposes! This lesson focuses on creating an artwork based on a still life and learning techniques for adding texture to your collage work. Inexpensive (free) and fun for all ages 9 and up.

Dana Branch Library
3680 Atlantic Ave
Long Beach, CA 90807
(562) 570-1042

All this has taken up far more time than I had allotted and I must get back to Shibori Girl and make a dime or two today. Many thanks to those of you who follow both blogs and especially those of you who are purchasing my work as holiday gifts and what not. It IS what pays the bills around here! Your patronage is warmly appreciated.


Filed under art education, artists teaching art, elementary art education, LBUSD, Long Beach art, shibori girl, teaching kids art

art, art, art, i want you

-trippin’ around Youtube, i found this little video that i think you might like…


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Trash for Teachers

The librarian at the local branch library suggested we check out this link as a source for cast off materials from manufacturers that can be used for art projects. You won’t want to miss this if you are in the LA area.
Maybe your area has something similar.

Here’s one I found in Ft. Lauderdale FL-

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