current status of elementary art

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about art and kids. Really. Several times a day if you have to know the truth.

I don’t even have kids in school any longer. Both my boys are now in college pursuing their interests in
music, performance, and recording arts and sciences. I have always advocated for them to do what they love. Obviously not for the money- that will come in time- but for the enjoyment and love of life itself. Working a job you hate just for the money is no way to go about living life. But I digress.

The current state of affairs in the fourth grade classroom this year is that they simply are not interested.
Not interested in having two people who are passionate about art and kids come into a classroom once a week and give an hour long lesson for free. Supplies included for the most part. Generally we spend a minimum of 10 hours a week between the two of us in discussions, preparation, online research, and gathering of materials. This is public school. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

We have decided we are not going to pursue it any longer. We’ve sent emails, had our phone # given to the teacher and had no response whatsoever. We are looking for a new classroom. One that wants us there. We will be taking applications this time. We have requirements. If you think you know someone who is interested in applying, let us know. This is not about the individual teacher-she has said she wanted us to return. But I think that we have a system in our public schools that just really ties the hands of the teachers and forces them to do so much testing and crazy nonsense that they are really not free to teach anymore. Yes, I know we could probably go to a private school but I really believe in educating everyone equally and public school is it. At least for now. Even after school programs don’t interest me as much.
Or perhaps we will find somewhere else to spend this energy that benefits kids. We will reconvene after I return from the Houston show. We are thinking about what we are doing wrong. And right.

I also just returned from a visit to the LA County Fair which just ended this past weekend. I always like going there and seeing the student art displays. This year was no exception. It gives me hope. That there still are some public schools out there teaching art. I saw some marvelous student work.

I visited the Millard Sheets Gallery and saw some fabulous work in the current exhibition “Footprints” directed by Tony Sheets, Millard’s son. Many of Millard Sheets paintings and works are displayed courtesy of the Sheets family. Millard Sheets believed and acted on his commitment to “Bring Art to the People” by designing and overseeing the building of the arts building at the Los Angeles County Fair site in Pomona and filling it each year with a show of paintings and art. Never before had art of this caliber been available at a county fair.

the following is from Millard Sheets obit in the NYT from 1989:

“Millard Sheets, a prolific painter, a designer of more than 100 buildings and for 26 years an art professor at Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., died at his home in Gualala, Calif., on Saturday. He was 81 years old.
Mr. Sheets was born in Pomona, Calif., and graduated in 1929 from the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. In 1943 and 1944 he served as war artist for Life magazine, stationed in India and Burma. During the early 1960’s he founded Millard Sheets Design Inc., an architectural firm in Claremont that designed banks, schools, malls and private homes mostly in California and Texas. He served as the chairman of the art department at Scripps, the art director at Claremont Graduate School for 16 years, and as director of the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles from 1950 to 1956. ”

I was introduced to Millard Sheets and his work by my friend “Woody” (AKA Melvin Wood) many years ago (say 30) as Woody used to work in Millard’s studio during the Home Savings and Loan days when Millard designed, built and installed the many fabulous public art pieces that were commissioned by the bank and are still there today. We used to go on jaunts with Woody around the southland on weekends and in between visiting our favorite cactus or orchid nurseries we would drive by many of these sites and admire the craftsmanship and design. Woody was famous for his stories about working with Millard and the many artists from Claremont and Pomona Colleges that abounded in that era. His relationship with Millard Sheets brought him into contact with the many great artists of that time including Sam Maloof (furniture maker), Harrison McIntosh (ceramist), & Rupert Deese to name a few. He put us in touch with the concrete men who did much of the casting for these sculptures and these guys came out of retirement and cast our piece for USC back in the late 70’s. Another interesting fact about Woody was that he was one of the original artists on the “Gumby” television show, doing the claymation work that allowed the figures to move. Pre- Nickolodean! Many good stories about those times as well. Woody was a great artist in his own right and I have a number of his pieces that I hold dear. Millard and Woody shared a common interest in teaching at the college level and Woody retired from teaching art at Cerritos College before moving to his moutaintop in Mendicino where he passed away more than a decade ago now. I often think of all of them and imagine their combined creative energies whenever I encounter their work in my world.

If you are interested in seeing a great exhibit of Millard Sheets’ work, you can visit the exhibit Damngorgeous: Millard Sheets and his California Legacy
September 13 – Jan 4
at the Oceanside Museum Of Art

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “current status of elementary art

  1. oh, what a damn shame. It’s heartbreaking that “the schools” are excluding art and that they could actually reject a free and FABULOUS program. Sooo very sad. I truly hope that ‘someone’ sees the light and contacts you to come to their school. Think about getting an article in the newspaper to get the word out.
    I’m sorry. Sorry for you, but mostly sorry for what all those kids are going to miss…

  2. thanks jane- this is just a fork in the road in my opinion. we’ll see where it leads.
    i miss the kids already though……..

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