Deirdre Moore | August 2013

Rubbing Elbows with Artists: Arts Immersion To Do List Week 7

So we are getting down to the wire, only 4 weeks left of my “Arts Immersion To Do List”.  Two of the remaining tasks involve visual art so I decided to go easy on myself and start with “Experience art”.  I am so glad that I did.  The San Diego Museum of Art had a free program organized by two local artists to feature other local artists which they entitled 15 Minutes of Fame.  In a “set” inspired by Roland Petersen’s Shaded Figure (1968), every 15 minutes a new artist became that “shaded figure” by placing a piece of her/his work on an easel and standing beside it ready to answer all of the curious visitors’ questions.  It was a brilliant idea and an inspiring experience for me.

There are a number of important takeaways for me from that 2 hours I spent with the various artists.

1. There is no right way to make art.

This may seem like a “duh” statement but having a chance to speak with the artists drove home that point for me.  From what inspires their work to the physical approach they take to how differently each artist can use the same medium reminded me that I don’t have to be like anyone else and there really is no one way to make art or use any particular medium.  In fact, art is about innovation, not imitation.

2. Becoming an artist is a very individual journey. 

Again, “duh”.  But to hear one artist say she felt inspired by her artist uncle and knew she wanted to be an artist from the age of 8 ultimately pursuing degrees in Fine Art and then to hear another self-taught artist explain she was drawn to art later in life after her diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis made me realize it is never too late and there is no right way to become an artist.

3. Students need to work with practicing artists.

Perhaps the biggest “duh” of all.  Students need to meet people who are out there doing the work.  Getting to pick the brains of professionals is an incredibly rich and eye-opening experience.  As one artist told me, she had never met an artist until she was an adult and had never considered being an artist until she was drawn into the field slowly by other artists who appreciated her work.

I believe in the power of Arts Integration and believe that classroom teachers can use the arts to enrich the lives and learning of themselves and their students.  However, there is no substitute for having practicing artists work with classroom teachers and students to expand their understanding.  Even if your school has an amazing visual arts teacher who serves as an invaluable resource (and every school should!), we limit ourselves because of our own unique perspective and art is all about different perspectives.

This experience strengthens my resolve to advocate that schools resist trying to trim their budgets by eliminating art teachers and teaching artists but still claim they give an arts education because the classroom teachers are integrating arts in their classrooms.  Ain’t nothin’ like the real thing, baby. Aint’ nothing like the real thing.

About the Author

Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.