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:
http://www.elementaryart.wordpress.com

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.

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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

services2b
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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changes in the making for elementary art

I have been busy in the studio and at shows recently and just letting myself settle with the idea of not being in a classroom this year.

Still wanting to bring art to elementary age kids,but how?

Still wanting to be true to my beliefs about why I like to do it in a public school classroom.

I like the public school setting in that it allows for a more equitable distribution of the subject matter (as opposed to kids who get art classes outside of school for a price). Not everyone can afford to attend those kind of classes. I also like to see art offered alongside the core classes of math, reading, and social studies as opposed to seeing it always offered as an “extra”. It means something different.

But alas, one cannot always have what one wants. So rather than force the issue, I decided to let it rest and see what came to me.

Here’s what has been offered- regular workshop space at the local library’s community room on Saturday mornings at the Dana Branch Library, Long Beach. We provide the lessons, gather materials, & donate our time. The library provides the space, a teeny weeny budget (for filling their display cases with art), and hopefully some storage space for materials.

So now Penny & I have spent some time thinking about how to structure it. We are not interested in a babysitting/drop off/drop in situation. We want there to be a complete lesson offered each time followed by hands on working/studio time. We want to limit the minimum age to 9 years old. Here’s what we are thinking:

-two Saturday morning workshops a month (starting this December and probably only one this first month) Each month we will explore one theme or genre.
-the class starts at 10 AM sharp. no late comers. 30 minute oral/visual presentation followed by an hour of hands on art making.
-at 11:30 (until 12:30) we will open the doors to drop ins who can take advantage of the set-up and materials to explore the topic on hand.
-any students who were there for the formal class will be invited to continue working and teach/ share
alongside the newcomers thereby further enhancing their experience and that of the drop ins.
-this will be free but donations for materials will be greatly appreciated.
-we will plan the year in advance as we did for the classroom and due to my travel/teaching/show schedule we may invite some other working guest artists to come and visit/teach with us.

Well, that’s the idea so far. Any thoughts and suggestions are welcome. We are filling out the paperwork required by the city and will hand it over to the librarian this week. She will approve it for co-sponsorship so as to bypass any fees etc.. Hope to get started after the Thanksgiving break.

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intermission…..

still ruminating over the possibilities here but in the meantime you might take a look at this:

Until I have a little more time to write up part two on the Houston show post, i thought i’d share this link to a trailer for the film “Who Does She Think She Is?” now circulating to limited screenings. I would like to see this film in my area. You can visit their blog here. Ask to have a screening in your area.

Now I assume that many of the readers here CAN name 5 female artists. But did you know that 80% of the students at the School of Visual Arts but that 70-80% of artists represented in museums are male?

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prize money-woohoo! but still no art

Long Beach Unified to receive $250,000 in scholarship money from Broad Prize

The article states:

“The $2 million Broad (rhymes with “road”) Prize is an annual award that honors large urban school districts that demonstrate the strongest student achievement and improvement in America while narrowing achievement gaps between income and ethnic groups. The money goes directly to graduating high school seniors for college scholarships: $1 million to students in the winning district and $250,000 to students in each finalist district. The winner was selected by a jury of 10 prominent American leaders
from government, education, business and civic sectors, including two former U.S. secretaries of education from both parties. ”

Now don’t get me wrong, I like money as much as the next guy and agree that it is a fine thing to improve education across all ethnic and socio-economic groups. I guess that I continue to stubbornly believe that testing the daylights out of the kids and teaching to these tests in order to get “good grades” to submit to win these prizes isn’t worth eliminating art in order to win.
That’s just me, though.

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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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