Saturday, December 27, 2008

"Mom, I have the best gift for you...ever!"

All I Want for Christmas is You from Hugh Bickley on Vimeo.

A week before Christmas my 16 year old, Brian, began dropping hints.

"You're gonna love your present from me this year."

"What? No last minute shopping?", was my sarcastic response.

"It's not a material gift."

'Then it would be a spiritual gift?" I said, with just a slight smirk.

"You'll see."

Christmas morning, Brian asked me to bring down my laptop.

"This", he announced "is from me and the rest of my friends who have no jobs."

He was right. I really DID love it

(BTW - Brian, AKA Young B, is the kid in the grey hooded jacket)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Another Soldier Story

My students call it the "ghetto security system" although I prefer the term "old school" to "ghetto". Regardless of the moniker, the cowbells wired to the top of my classroom door are pretty effective at alerting us whenever anyone enters or leaves the art room. A hand on the door knob is enough to set them clanging.

"You've got a visitor! Should I get the door?"

I looked up from the paintbrushes I was cleaning and dropped them into the sink. Nearly tripping over a chair, I raced to the front of the room where a young soldier had just stepped inside.

"Oh my god! You're back! Look at you!"

"Is that your daughter?" a tenth grade boy asked as I stepped back from the warm hug.

"Some things never change." I laughed "This is Tabitha, and she has been my daughter since she was a freshman at Max Hayes. She adopted me."

For four years Tabitha was a fixture in the art studio. Her blond hair drew attention in an urban school where the majority of her classmates had darker complexions, and students often assumed, because of my 'currently blond' hair, that we were certainly related. Growing tired of their questions, Tabitha began calling me "Mom".

Eyeing the beige and green fatigues, I asked, "I heard you were going to join the Marines. What happened ? Was I misinformed?"

"The Marines promised money for college, but it seems they have no idea how much college costs these days. The Army had a better education program. I'll be starting nursing school soon."

"I'm so proud of you. You look so much better than the last time I saw you at your sister's commencement."

"I am better."

After graduating in 2006, Tabitha followed the same path as many of her classmates, as she tried to figure out what to do with her life. Unable to afford college, she had spent the last couple of years working, first at a pizza shop and then at a used car lot. When I saw her in the auditorium at her younger sister Samantha's graduation, she looked tired and miserable, and left immediately after the ceremony with hardly more than a wave in my direction. A very different young woman in front of me now. She was animated, confident, and happy.

"I've been in the Army for seven months. I love it. I completed my training as a petroleum specialist, but I decided what I really wanted to do was nursing. Right now I'm stationed in Virginia. They let me come home for Christmas because in February I'm being deployed."

"Deployed?" With that single word, my heart sank.

"I'll be going to Iraq for one month, and then on to Afghanistan for twelve months." Accurately reading my furrowed brow, she added "Don't worry. I'll be fine. Actually I'm excited about going, it will be an adventure."

I cannot keep track of how many of my students are now fighting overseas. Like Tabitha, many will come by to visit with me before they go to war, but very few ever come back to talk about it when they return. As often as they promise to write or call, I've never received a letter or even an email, but admittedly I did not take the initiative to write either. I think about these young men and women all the time, wondering where their lives have taken them. About eight years ago one of my boys, who had joined the Marines, came back to see me after returning from a violent episode he experienced while on a stint in Lebanon. He recounted his tour of duty for more than an hour in my office, with tears running down his face. It was quite heart wrenching.

I've often said that one of the best things about teaching high school are the relationships you build with your students. When those relationships become friendships that sustain into adulthood, a teacher feels truly blessed. I am grateful to have made some very dear friends over the course of my career.

Tabitha and I met for lunch at Stone Mad a couple of days before Christmas. We talked about everything from families to boyfriends, gossiped about classmates and faculty, and even discussed philosophy and religion. We lingered, laughing and chatting until the dinning room was empty, and the wait staff were anxious. Before we parted we exchanged e-mails, phone numbers and addresses. This time I will make certain I write the first letter...After all she is my daughter.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Max Hayes Art Club, and a Case for Experiential Learning

I have always believed the axiom "Experience is the best teacher" which, I suppose, is one of the reasons why, even as a student, I was drawn to the classes where you worked with your hands. I always enjoyed my science labs immensely (yes, I used to teach science years ago) and the art studio just felt like home. Field trips also made quite an impact. New sights, different faces, and the possibility of adventure brought a sense of excitement to a week day that typically plodded along to the drone of lectures accented by school bells.

When I first became a teacher in the Cleveland schools, a district constantly strapped for cash, we were subtly discouraged from taking students out of the classroom on field trips. The cost of transportation coupled with the cost of having a substitute cover the remaining classes made any excursion prohibitive. Scheduling a field trip was also very tricky, since there are so many mandatory tests given throughout the year, some of them lasting as long as a week. Faced with these constraints, many Cleveland teachers, including myself, put field trips on the back burner, except perhaps for a visit to the Art Museum once every couple of years.

The award of a four-year Young Audiences ICARE grant 0f approximately $120,000 in 2002, allowed me to break free of the status quo mind set of "it can't be done."

Oh my! How quickly I discovered, money certainly can change things.

When the grant period concluded in 2006, I wanted to continue offering my students some of the same quality arts experiences, but once again, funds and scheduling remained obstacles.
The solution?
After school programing solved the scheduling problems. The Max Hayes Art Club meets Thursdays after school from 2:30 until 4:00. It is run as a drop-in studio with a Zen approach to membership, meaning: Whoever shows up is who is supposed to be there.
On studio days, the kids are given materials to work with that I don't typically use in class, due to cost and/or limited quantities. So far this year we have finger painted, worked with oil pastels, charcoal, and painted Christmas ornaments.
Funding for art supplies remains a constant issue. This year we were given a $50 donation from money raised by the kind efforts of Convivium 33 Gallery owner, Alenka Banco. I look for discount and sale items whenever I'm shopping, and am happy to pick up the tab for a few items here and there that I know the students will enjoy using.
The best part of the Art Club experience though has been the field trips.

Field trips are scheduled on random days, as the opportunities become available. This semester we have trekked to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Spaces Art Gallery (several times) Convivium 33 Gallery, Streets of Manhattan Glass Studio, and the W 69th Street studio of sculptor Melissa Daubert. The only cost to the district is the price of a bus ticket on the RTA.

In January we will be heading out to The Glass Studio to learn glass blowing with Mike Zelenka, a glass artist who also works at Max Hayes as a tennis coach and substitute teacher. I'll be sure to post those photos next month.

On a more philisophical note:

If a young person's art's education is limited to whatever the teacher can offer in the confines of a classroom, that education is sorely inadequate. I feel so strongly about the value these kinds of experiences have to offer, I volunteer my time and money to make them possible for the kids at Max Hayes.

Unfortunately, the attitude of too many folks in Cleveland seems to be that arts education is a frill. It gets a lot of lip-service but very little funding. Administrators are loathe to fund subject areas that are not a part of state mandated testing.

Field trips are also treated as non-essential activities. Rather than being regarded as important learning experiences, they are given "reward" status, offered only to the "good" students.

Occasionally I'm asked what type of school I would like to see if I could design one from scratch. I haven't thought about most of of details, but I do know I would start with experiential learning as the core. It's missing from most of today's public educational programs, and well, you can see what kind of shape they are in.

I guess you might say I would take the "Magic School Bus" approach to learning. In the words of Miss Frizzle, we need to "Go out, take chances, make mistakes, and get dirty!”

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Summer Project: 1965 Volkswagen Beetle - Part 10

Finally! After nearly 3 months in limbo, the Barney the Blue Beetle is back on the blog.

Tempted as I am to smugly scoff as The Optimist's ambitious September completion date became distant memory, I find that I must rise to his defense instead. It seems the little Bug fell victim to the national economic crisis. Here's the story:

New fenders were ordered from an after market dealer in California way back in August. The dealer paid a trucking company to ship the parts, and then right before the truck was ready to hit the road, the shipping company went out of business. Weeks became months, lawyers and accountants worked out the details, and eventually when the snow began to fly, the fenders found their way to Cleveland.

Tom popped the engine into the Beetle and drove it to a friend's body shop to have it painted. When I stopped by to check out the shiny new coat of Sea Blue, I was surprised to see the fenders were still not on the car, they were sitting behind the driver's seat.

I followed along behind as Tom drove the fender-less little car down St. Claire Avenue back to his shop in Euclid. Thank goodness we didn't cross paths with any of the city's finest, as it seems we'd forgotten the license plates on the dinning room table back at home.

No job is ever simple. Well at least that's my experience - it could have something to do with the blond hair. It took me two trips to Home Depot to get the right size washers to fit the bolts.

Fenders at last!

Next task - Bumpers!
To be continued...
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Preparing for the Day of the Dead

The invitation in the mail read" Mambo Muerto!

"According to legend ... when the best benefit party of the year collides with
November 1, Day of the Dead, El Dia de los Muertos, the undying spirit of art
will rise to join the fun, and a spicy Latino celebration of the soul will ensue

... it's ¡Mambo Muerto! Shake the skeletons out of your closet and join us for SPACES' Annual Benefit & Silent Auction!"

SPACES gallery has been a supportive partner of the visual arts program at Max Hayes High School for several years, inviting our students to special viewings of gallery exhibitions and providing opportunities for the kids to meet and occasionally work with resident artists.

When I received an e-mail request for volunteers to help create decorations for their annual benefit, I immediately extended the invitation to the Art Club.

(click here for a Wikipedia link to "Day of the Dead")

I have never had such an enthusiastic group of artists in all of my years of teaching in the Cleveland schools. For many of these kids, late afternoons at home can be very boring, and so they relish the chance to socialize with their friends just as much as they enjoy the opportunity to create. The adventure of visiting a new place, combined with the promise of earning community service hours, provided plenty of incentive for six of the members to brave the rain, and walk the twenty blocks that separate the gallery from the school.

Danny and Jeff were the first to arrive, much to the delight of the SPACES staff. They were quickly put to work tracing a giant skeleton onto foam core board, and carefully cutting out the bones with Exacto knives.

Danny, a native of Mexico, entertained the group with stories of his own family's traditions as they celebrate the Day of the Dead. Later on he confided how cool it was that everyone seemed so interested in his ancestral customs. Usually he gets teased about his Mexican heritage.

Sarah, Cora, Deseraee, and Gabriel sloshed into the gallery about ten minutes after the first two boys. They were given several choices of tasks from "glitterizing" cardboard skulls, painting borders on table cloths, or hollowing out sugar skulls, to creating tissue paper carnations. They began with the flowers, then moved on to the glitter and paint. Before we knew it, the time had come to hurry back out to the bus stop. They were all invited to come back Wednesday and help build the traditional Dias del Muerto Fiesta altar.

"Can we?" Eager faces looked at me hopefully.

"Of course" I'd never dream of spoiling this kind of fun.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature is not such a good sport as I am. When we walked out the door the rain had turned to sleet.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reflection among the Graves

I remember exploring an old country church cemetery in Hiram Township near my grandmother’s house, when I was a little girl. I was fascinated by the inscriptions on the headstones, and with the diligence of an archeologist, I examined the time worn markers, carefully deciphering the birth and death dates. I would work the equations in my head so that I could figure out the ages of the persons whose graves I tread upon. I would always feel so sad to discover the burial plot of a very young person or a child, imagining the grief of the family.
Even now, cemeteries still have an allure, and it is not unusual for me to stop and take a look around if I am driving by one, and I have a little time on my hands.
One of my favorites is the historic Lakeview Cemetery, which straddles the border of Cleveland and Cleveland Heights. It is the final resting place of many of the city’s most famous citizens, from President James Garfield and billionaire John D Rockefeller, to law man Elliot Ness and inventor Charles Brush.

In Lakeview Cemetery there are thousands of graves, each one representing the final page of a life story. Some graves are nearly anonymous, with a simple inscription of Mother, Father, or Infant. Others give the visitor a bit more; a name, birth and death dates, and occasionally, a verse from the Bible. My favorites are the elaborately carved monuments. Stained by acid rains and the polluted atmosphere of a city where fortunes were accrued in the steel mills and factories, figures of angels, saints and the deceased stare eternally at the landscape.
I can’t help but wonder about the people who sleep forever below the grass. Where they happy or miserable? Did their lives end with an illness, accident, or could they have been murdered? Who did they leave behind? Were they loved or lonely?
I can walk for miles here along the roads and pathways. Wandering between the headstones, I become cognizant of my own time on earth, and begin to contemplate the impact I’ve made so far.
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Monday, October 13, 2008

Finger Painting: We go back to the Basics

"I want this group to be able to do things you don't normally do in your regular art classes."
I stood in the center of about ten students gathered in the art studio for the first organizational meeting of the Max Hayes Art Club.
"We can visit galleries and meet professional artists in their studios, we can experiment with different mediums, I have tons of ideas. How about you guys? What would you like to do?"
A short silence ensued while eyes scoured the room for inspiration.
"I want to finger-paint."
Smirking at the silliness, I shook my head. "C'mon now. Be serious."
My comment unleashed a torrent of teen-aged voices. "I want to finger-paint too!", "I never got a chance in kindergarten.", "It would be the most fun thing EVER!", "I love finger-painting!", "Pleeease, please, please, let us finger-paint!"
Wow! I hadn't seen so much adolescent enthusiasm for an activity that didn't involve food in a long, long time. It would be wrong to quash this kind of passion. So, setting aside my personal dislike for this kiddie-kraft, I capitulated.
"Okay then... next Thursday we will finger-paint."

My excited little group began to gather in the art room before the last class of the day was even over. A few stopped in to tell me they would be late, since other commitments needed their attention first, but to PLEASE make sure and save them some paint.

About ten years ago, I gratefully accepted a big box of art supplies from a friend who was retiring from teaching elementary school. In it were all kinds of craft items and paper tablets along with several dusty jars of finger paint. After sitting in my closet for a decade I hoped they had not dried out.

A table in the back of the room was cleared to make room for large paper, and I spooned out dishes of the colorful gel, slightly shrunken, but still usable.

Eager hands could hardly wait. It was time to get messy.

There is something both primal and decadent about finger paint. A lifetime of hand washing caused some reluctance to stick my own paws in the paint, but I forced myself to make the plunge. Although I smeared and scribbled a little with my fingers, I still could not cross that uncomfortable mental barrier of "ickyness", and after a few minutes, retreated to the sink.

The kids, however, happily experimented with color mixing and technique. Given complete creative freedom, images began to emerge. Landscapes, rainbows, monsters, and Halloween characters soon covered the tables.

As four o'clock neared, the inevitable question was raised;

"When are we going to do this again?"

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Sunday, October 12, 2008


Overheard at a party last night:
Republican 1: I've voted Republican for the past 30 years, but this time I'm voting for Obama.
Republican 2: But he's BLACK!
Republican 1: I lost $40,000 this week. How much did you lose?
Republican 2: $38,000.
Republican 1: Think about it.
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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Marian Wright Edelman at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History

The auditorium was filling up quickly. "Darn!" I thought, "Too late to get an aisle seat..No, I think I see a few empty rows down near the stage." I hurried to throw my purse and jacket across two cushioned chairs, and once having staked my claim, flopped down to wait for the speaker to take the podium.
I'd been invited to the evening's reception by my friend, Susan Miller, to hear a presentation by Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund and award winning author. Ms Edelman came to Cleveland this week to promote her latest book, The Sea is So Wide and My Boat is so Small - Charting a Course for the next Generation, and celebrate the opening of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History's new provocative exhibit, "Race-Are We so Different?", sponsored in part by the nonprofit organization, Facing History and Ourselves
Finally, after the representatives the event sponsors greeted the audience, the third speaker introduced Ms Edelman and called her to the stage. To my surprise, a little woman with elegantly coiffed salt and pepper hair who had been sitting quietly in front of me, stood up and walked to the microphone.
In a low voice of quiet authority, she began to read from her book. Her words grabbed the audience by our collective conscience:
"A poor black boy born in 2001 has a one in three chance of going to prison in his lifetime; a Latino boy a one in six chance; a black girl a one in seventeen chance; a white boy a one in seventeen chance; a Latina girl a one in forty-five chance; and a white girl a one in one hundred and eleven chance."
"Child poverty and neglect, racial disparities in systems that serve children, and the Cradle to Prison Pipeline are not acts of God. They are America's immoral political and economic choices that can and must be changed with strong political, corporate, and community leadership."
The audience of more than 400 people gasped, although I was not surprised. I have been familiar with many of these statistics for several years. I cannot count the number of times I have looked over my classroom full of inner-city students and sadly wondered, "What will eventually become of them? Which of these young faces will end up behind razor-wire? Will it really be ten out of the thirty? How do we put a stop to this insanity?"
Every point she made so eloquently were themes I'd also written about over the years. It was very encouraging to hear the message repeated in a public forum large enough to have an impact. She has done the research, assembled the facts, and reached conclusions one could only arrive at if one has been not only a careful observer, but has fully experienced life in it's many facets. A smile, borne of recognizing a kindred thinker, spread across my face.
Each chapter of her book was addressed to a different audience. To the educators she wrote:
"If we want to assess the status of America's future competitiveness, national
security, and democratic health, one need only stop at the school doors through
which millions of ill-prepared students pour every day.
What do we do?
Educators need to remember what their mission is: educating children. Those
who use public schools as political patronage and job security rather than as
child learning and development sites need to be confronted and ousted. Old
interests and ways of doing business need to give way so that children's futures
can be protected. While there are many wonderful teachers and schools all over
the country, there are very few whole school systems where all children are
achieving well."
Ms Edelman reprimanded schools who implement zero-tolerance discipline policies for non-violent behavior, calling them feeder systems for the prison industry. She also spent some time chiding individual educators who don't love (or even like) children, advising them to get out of teaching. Worst of all, she warned, are those who seek to line their own pockets at the expense of innocent children. She brilliantly coined the term "affluenza" to describe the apathetic culture of the 'haves' and their deliberate avoidance of the 'have-nots'.
Every person in the audience received a copy of her new book, and of course mine is already digested, highlighted, and annotated.
I think I have discovered a new favorite author.
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Monday, September 29, 2008

Afternoon at the Zoo

It was one of those weekends that happen every now and again, where you say “We should do something…but what?”
On such occasions I like to play tourist, grab the camera, and explore Cleveland by the guide book. There are so many interesting things to do in this city.
“How about the zoo?” Tom offered.
“Wow, I haven’t been there for a long time. When was the last time you went to the zoo?” I asked.
He rubbed the goatee on his chin and thoughtfully answered, “I think it’s been about thirty years.”
It was a perfect zoo day. A mid-morning drizzle insured light attendance for this early autumn Sunday. The sky was a little overcast, and the cooler temperatures meant the animals would be a bit more active than they are on hot, sunny afternoons. Cleveland Metro Parks Zoo is truly a beautiful place to wander. The landscaping is lovely, and the exhibits are well planned, and quite informative.
Young parents pushed strollers and herded children along the pathways, stopping at each pen to roar, squeal, or whistle relentlessly, trying to get the creature to pay attention. Usually the animals ignored the obnoxious humans, some hiding in the corners of their enclaves, noses to the wall.
Zoos always make me a little sad.

I know, I know… many of the animals are endangered, and their chances for survival and procreation in the wild are shaky in this day and age of climate change, environmental poisoning, and the encroachment of man. But to see these noble beasts confined to such tight quarters, pacing back and forth, like frustrated claustrophobics; it tore at my sympathetic soul.

The silverback gorillas were the most heart-breaking of all. Their faces, so close to human, looked almost annoyed as they stared through the thick partition at the visitors who pressed their noses to the super strong Plexiglas. Innocent prisoners, on display for our entertainment, they sit hour after hour on concrete ledges designed to simulate the rocky terrain of a mountain habitat.
I wondered if they ever dream of freedom.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Shop Talk

"When you're making chips, you're making money."

That's the mantra of the machine shop, and Cleveland area component manufacturers have been filling up the chip bins.

Surprised? Cleveland has been bleeding manufacturing jobs for years, high labor rates in the states, and free trade legislation have decimated the industry, right?


The first rule of entreprenuership: misfortune for some means opportunity for others.

As component manufacturing began moving offshore to take advantage of the incredibly low labor rates, many local business owners threw up their hands and closed up their shops, saying, "We just can't compete."
The remaining die-hard companies asked the question, "How do we become more efficient?"
By taking advantage of new technology and automation, smart manufacturers were able to not only decrease labor costs, but dramatically increase production. Not only were they able to keep work here, but some jobs were even brought BACK from overseas factories. With less local competition, many of these businesses find themselves in the enviable position of needing to expand their operations.

Alas, every silver lining has a cloud. Automation requires highly skilled technicians, adept at math and computer programming. Employers who invested in education for their workers were able to survive. The problem now is some of these folks would like to retire, but there aren't enough young people to take their places. Companies are poaching technicians from each other.
I understand there may be a whole lot of folks in the banking and finance industry who will be back in the job market soon. I'm thinking they should look to the manufacturing sector for retraining. We could really use them.
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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Artist Market at St Josaphat Hall

This morning I stopped by St Josaphat Hall on East 33rd street to preview the first annual Sparx in the City Artist Market, sponsored by Convivium 33 Gallery owner, Alenka Banco.

Artists do indeed accumulate wonderful things, and this eclectic sale showcases the treasured hoards of a number of creative Clevelanders who are willing to part with their collections of tchotchkes, antiques, and furniture at bargain prices.

Make sure you schedule a stop at the Artist Market this weekend as you check out the rest of the galleries and artist studios during the Sparx Gallery Hop.

September 20-21, 2008(Sparx in the City Weekend) from 10am-5pm
Artists have the coolest junk/stuff!
Convivium33 Gallery at Josaphat Arts Hall has invited artists to sell their wears/wares during Cleveland's Sparx in the City Weekend.
On Saturday, September 20 and Sunday, September 21, 2008.
The naive at Josaphat's will become the Artists' Market.
Doors open at 10am with early admittance at 8:30am to dealers/public for a $5.00 donation.
(100% of admittance fee will go to to support the Art Department at: Max S. Hayes High School/Cleveland Metropolitan School District)
No admittance fee during regular hours from 10am-5pm.
So...whether you are looking for art, clothing, furniture, etc. it should be fun!
Cool Junk, Cool Neighborhood- The Quarter!
For additional information: vendor Please email
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Friday, September 19, 2008

Teaching Conceptual Art

"Anyone here an artist?" I ask. A few hands go up.

"Anyone here who would rather be taking a different class?"A few hands go up again.

"Who thinks the class could be cool, but are not sure if you'll be any good at it?" Almost all the hands go up."

"Now that's encouraging." I smile.

Most high school visual art programs are elective courses, offering a traditional arts foundation curriculum. The kids who sign up for the classes have an interest in drawing, painting, sculpture, printing, or photography.

Because Max Hayes is an industrial trades school, many of the students I teach come into my class with no desire to become artists, and even less desire to make art. You see, all students must have 1 fine arts credit to graduate in the state of Ohio, and I am the only arts teacher in the building - no music, dance, or drama here. In order to make art relevant to the kids studying auto tech, construction, or machining, I've learned to take a very different approach to the arts curriculum. I focus on art as concept, and the artist as communicator and visual problem solver.

This year, I began my course with a poem by the artist who created Cleveland's "Free Stamp", Claes Oldenburg. The poem, titled simply "Statement" , is a long reflection on the idea of art as concept.
It begins:

"I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other
than sit on its ass in a museum.

I am for an art that grows up not knowing it is art at all, an art given the chance of having a starting point of zero.

I am for an art that embroils itself with the everyday crap and still comes out on top.

I am or an art that imitates the human, that is comic, if necessary, or violent, or
whatever is necessary.

I am for an art that takes its form from the lines of life itself, that twists and extends and accumulates and spits and drips, and is heavy and coarse and blunt and sweet and stupid as life itself.

I am for an artist who vanishes, turning up in a white cap painting signs or hallways.

I am for an art that comes out of a chimney like black hair and scatters in the sky..."

After looking at more prints of Oldenburg's sculptures, depicting everyday objects treated as icons and transformed into monuments, I asked the students to come up with a few "I am for art..." sentences of their own. Here are some examples:

"I am for art that fools a mosquito into the light, but is betrayed and hits the earth like a comet."

"I am for art that makes a fat lady seem small when she smiles."

"I am for art that has no thought nor expression, free of emotion, yet little discretion."

"I am for artists who sit in the dark and paint."

"I am for the art of monsters in my closet and secrets hidden under the bed."

"I am for art that grinds through life on a skate board, and I ain't talkin' lupe fiasco."

"I am for art that tickles my skin."

"I am for art that claims my life story through powerful words of my poetry."

"I am for the art of love between 2 teens whose love is doubted by parents."

"I am for art that is 'hood."

"I am for art that helps old ladies cross the street."

"I am for art that doesn't exist."

"I am for art that makes you think"

Hm-mm...I'm thinking, they "get it".

I'm forever fascinated by the number of kids who are eager to share their poetry with me. Once they know I'm interested, the old spiral bound notebooks and scraps of lined paper filled with verse are retrieved from closets and under beds and timidly placed in my hands in between classes. Teenage love songs, family tragedies, neighborhood violence, and tales of adolescent angst, I read them all without criticism. One young machinist even asked if he could bring his guitar to school and play for us, while the class illustrated their statements on long strips of donated, factory remnant, poster-board.
"Of course!" And so after many months of practice he finally had an audience.
I am for an art that gives the soul a voice.
An advocate of experiential learning, I like to take advantage of Cleveland's vibrant arts community and bring working artists into the school, take my students out to explore urban galleries, view public art in our neighborhood, and visit local artists in their studios. Last week, I took a group of kids to the Rock Hall for a presentation on Woodstock and album cover art, stopping by Claes Oldenburg's Free Stamp along the way. Next week we are going to SPACES gallery to view the "Bilingual" show and meet Cleveland painter Michelangelo Lovelace.
Our school is fortunate to be located on an RTA main route, so close to downtown. We can go all kinds of places for the price of a bus ticket.
I believe my students need to experience art beyond the walls of my classroom. If what they learn about art while they are in high school is confined to a few school projects, they will have a very limited education indeed.
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