First of all, I find it nearly tragic that I even have to write this.
However, as we all know, our society’s values have become all screwed up and most of us are caught up in the rat race and trapped on the ever-spinning hamster wheel that keeps turning and turning while taking us to nowhere even though we keep thinking, hoping and praying that we’ll see a glimpse of hope or at least a hint of enlightenment on this seemingly narrowing pathway into the abyss.
Don’t you just love run on sentences? I love ‘em. You have to know the rules before you can break the rules. But I digress.
What I’ve just said sounds hopeless. The good news is that it’s not and I’m very hopeful. Here’s why…
Over the past few decades, we’ve seen ever-declining attention and monetary resources paid to arts education in schools. Our society is paying a heavy price for it. In this mobile, digital age, people are more hurried, more scattered and more frustrated with their anger boiling into hot rage. Consequently, they’re acting out and lashing out and they’re engaging in ever-increasing acts of fear, desperation and inexplicable violence.
Okay, I’ll admit it. That’s the bad news.
When school systems worldwide cut arts education, they considered “the arts” non-essential. They essentially said that art has no real value when it comes to propping up the economy, securing employment and keeping everyone with just enough money to pay their bills, if nothing else. If you’ve only got enough money to pay your bills, that’s better than nothing, but we all know you’re not really living. No?
The good news is that I think people are s…l…o…w…l…y waking up.
They’re seeing that all of the sacrifices they’ve been making in the name of making just enough money to keep themselves afloat aren’t enough. They want more. Yes, they want more money, but what they really want more of is … happiness … purpose … creativity … self-determination … and not feeling like they’re these automatons who just get up every day, go to work and merely go through the motions of life in the gray area.
What does this have to do with teaching art? Thanks for asking.
I strongly believe that art … particularly contemporary art … remains a strong and wide pathway that leads us to greater self-awareness and even universal awareness. If we let it, art opens our minds and our hearts to possibilities we had no way of seeing without it.
I remember taking art classes as a kid at P.S. 135 in Brooklyn many years ago. I loved it. I also remember going on field trips to MOMA and the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and falling in love with the Picassos and the Mondrians and the Rembrandts and all of the other masterpieces that made this kid who grew up in public housing feel that I was as wealthy as Michael Bloomberg is today.
Thank God that those educators had the good sense and awareness to supplement what we were doing in art classes with field trips into the actual world of art. As a kid, art saved the hell out of me. I was a latchkey kid from a broken home, but somehow it was art that kept me going and hoping and believing that possibilities were out there for ME.
Teaching art is important because creativity is fluid. Creativity is energy that cannot be created or destroyed. Creativity is insight. Creativity is osmosis. Creativity is power. Creativity is joy. Creativity is movement. Creativity is an ever-flowing, non-ending, happiness-inducing, drop-dead joyride.
Creativity rocks. Why teach art? Because when you teach art, you give people the tools they need to reach deep down inside of themselves and create formidable cores that will serve them well when they need to kick ass and take names as adults. Kick ass and take names? I mean that in a good way.
Teaching art – and the humanities- helps us all to understand that we live in a WORLD community that isn’t only about ME or YOU. It’s about US … all of US. Teaching art gives us a world view.
Teaching art reminds us that life ebbs and flows and that everything is evolving. As time marches on, history grows. Teaching art and the humanities proves to us that the best success in the world is the success that we define for ourselves and not as the world defines it.
Teaching art gives us our own minds and gives us the courage to go our own way when need be and not just blindly follow the crowd for the sake of mere acceptance. Teaching art gives us the tools for self-acceptance and higher achievement.
Teaching art teaches us how to be alone in a vast gallery space and command the power of creativity that pours out of us in other areas like writing and speaking and singing and dancing and simply expressing who we are in the moment.
Teaching art gives us life … and reminds us that life is one big classroom of non-ending learning. No one has all of the answers. We’re learning every day.
Should I go on? I think you catch my drill. Ugh. I have a headache right now. You got me all worked up. I just don’t understand how our society lost its way. But don’t fret.
The good news is that people are s…l…o…w…l…y waking up.
We can’t go on like this. I feel a new “Age of Enlightenment” coming on. We’ll start teaching art again … in a real way. It’s at hand. It’s coming… Ahh … I think I see it.
Look to the light! Look to the light!