call to arms

No I am not asking for us all to take up guns. I am not that kind of girl. But tonight I watched one of the episodes of a show on HBO by Dave Groul of the Foo Fighters. He’s going around the country and filming about the music scene in that city. He then writes and records a song inspired by the history that he learns and the people that he meets.

What came out of it for me, beyond the joy of hearing and seeing all the music I have grown up with and being introduced to music outside my expertise, was that the old-fashioned (urrgh that word bothers me) camaraderie of music making is quickly disappearing. The teachers are still out there but, due to the computer world, the students are more and more in their own spaces making music with their personal computers and learning from YouTube.

There is a death happening, and I hate to watch it. It is infiltrating our schools, it is walking down the streets of our towns and it is taking away a sense of communication and personal rapport. And I find it sad.

I have been bothered for several years about the disappearance of the arts in schools. I think it was ten years ago that I heard someone actually say. “Why are the arts so important in schools…shouldn’t they be an extra-curricular thing?” I really didn’t have a good answer at that point. Now what I would say is this:

If we don’t have arts in schools then we lose the ability to teach the basics to an enormous amount of kids who would otherwise have no access to it. These are kids that can’t afford the extra-curricular thing, who don’t live in an area where it is easily accessible, or don’t have parents (like the person who asked the question) who would think it was important. I have no earthly idea why the arts are important to this country, I just know that I would blow up into little bits if I couldn’t create and that would be tragic (speaking from a personal perspective of course). And if I hadn’t had the basis in grade school (Thank you Mr, Kosciousko…even if I can’t spell your name) and high school (Thank you Mrs. Adams), I might not have had the idea to take some classes in college and then later, after a master’s in something else, gone on to become an artist. And I grew up in an artistic family. I can’t imagine how much more important it would have been if I had been in a family of scientists or accountants.

Another point about the arts in school. If we don’t expose kids to the arts at an early age, who is going to buy the art, read the book, listen to the music, go to the ballet or symphony? Say a kid goes through school without any arts and no way of being exposed to it outside of the classroom. This kid grows up and becomes a successful bank manager, a dockworker, a teacher, an anesthesiologist. What will they surround themselves with? Bare walls? No music? No poetry? Where will they learn new ways of looking at the world? Where will they go to take their minds of their daily stressors? We get so many visual cues these days but they come from a flat screen that shines brightly 24 hours a day but which stops us from actually smelling the painting or seeing how big it really is. Or being able to walk around a sculpture and feel what it is like to relate to it purely on a physiological level. Or to listen to music in an arena with 5,000 other screaming fans. Really? We want an artless world??? Or, rather, a virtually artful world? And I haven’t even started talking about the connection between artists and non-verbal communication/problem-solving/architecture/rocket building/marketing/biology/sports medicine/psychotherapy/yadda yadda yadda…

So here’s the deal. I think that it is time for the arts world to figure out which way the wind is blowing (the answer is there, it really is) and figure out how to both work with it and work against it. The internet is a powerful tool. But it is only a tool. It is not reality. Of course, here I sit, reaching out to people that are halfway around the world in seconds and it is truly wonderful. I read what they have to say to what I have posted so quickly as to make it seem like a dialogue. And I love that. But what I miss is the non-verbal, the touch, the smell and sounds of being with people. And I miss the building of a conversation, the ebb and flow of ideas that comes from being in the same room with time to spare and brains a-whirring. The internet is great at monologues but conversation?  Not so much.

I think it’s time for a call to arms to my generation of artists…the ones with graying hair, the ones with lines and sags and bags. The ones who are finding it harder and harder to hear but who still have the ability to communicate without words. I don’t know if we can stop the computer and corporate-generated arts world but perhaps we can reach out and teach those who are not going to get this knowledge in any other way. We are dinosaurs, yes. But do you remember a life lesson you learned from your grandfather or grandmother? Let’s be the active, PRESENT grandparents to the generation who REALLY needs it. (Can you tell that Jacques d’Amboise is my hero???) People who are creative are going to create no matter what. But wouldn’t it be great to continue to be a part of that…to take the knowledge and use it to open up someone else’s world?

The arts community is adept at scrimping and saving, begging and bowing in order to draw attention to ourselves. Perhaps it’s time to start teaching our children that a world without art is a very sad place and it is their role to MAKE it important. And to do this in a non-corporate, individual way. To be beholden to nobody but the person teaching the lesson. It is time to make sure that the next generation of lobbyists and politicians understand that when you cut the arts, you are cutting a necessary piece of education and LIFE.

So in case I’m the last one to the party and everyone else is doing this already, I will tell you how I am going to take up the call to arms. My personal solution is to open the sculpture garden on my property. I am hoping that eventually I can become a place for students who have no arts in school to come and walk around the sculptures, see them in them in situ and talk to them about the process. It’s a small thing (actually, for me it’s huge) but I really feel strongly that there may be a kid, twenty years down the road who might look back and say…”That was the moment I decided to become an artist.” I would also be thrilled if someday one of those kids said “That was the moment that I wanted to OWN one of those sculptures.” How cool would THAT be???

And just because I am a visual artist, I will leave you with the reality of my work day…this is what the kangaroo look like on Sunday…

four hours worth of work
four hours worth of work


BTW, I would love a dialogue of this as well as WP can manage it…got any ideas or comments???



9 thoughts on “call to arms

  1. Eloquently put – you’re clearly passionate about this issue. I too worry about the undervaluing of the arts in our everyday life and the social disconnect that seems to be happening through over reliance on social media instead of personal interaction…not sure where this is all taking us but I applaud your commitment to this issue and look forward to the opening of your sculpture garden.

  2. Ah my sweets…my hubby is a musician…we raised four children around the arts..much to the annoyance of their high school teachers whose only focus was on acadeamia or sports..our eldest son plays bass,one son plays guitar and his twin brother the daughter does street art and also teaches kids who are going through rehab a way to express themselves through art..i bake,sew,knit,crochet,draw,and grow veggies…you see the world needs artists..and it makes us a sad and monochromatic existence without it 🙂 hugs Bev …oh and a late bloomer photographer which is my latest form of art 🙂 xxx

      1. Many an argument with them..had one say in front of one of the boys to me “he seems a bit aloof” to which I replied” he has his mind in songs he is working on’..the teacher said “well you can’t make money out if music” to which I replied “and your wage is great? ” jerks…always made my blood boil…

          1. Indeed..a complete putz…I ignored them all.. we encouraged our kids to do what they were passionate about..we have talented compassionate hard working loving kids so pfffft to Mr whoever and his moment of glory 🙂

  3. I think that’s a wonderful idea to open up your sculpture garden, yet a difficult one as well…as it would take time away from creating. Sharing with the next generation is critical though so I hope you can make it happen.

    1. Thanks for the confidence…I expect that the garden won’t be open a whole lot throughout the year, just a couple of weekends to the public and privately for classes and such. I still have lots to work out but there is absolutely no pressure as I am in charge of ALL deadlines!!!

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