When we were little, my brothers and sisters and I used to sit on the floor under our big square kitchen table and draw on its underside. Thirty years later when I took my daughter back to see our old house, that art work was still there. Something akin to cave drawings.
Art has been part of my life as long as I can remember. When my brother Leo and I were teenagers, we took oil painting classes together. Since I got back into painting as part of my “year of good health“, I’ve modified two of the paintings I did in that class. That’s a detail of one of them at the top of this post. It’s been fun to reconnect with the 15-year-old artist I was.
Now art is about to become an even bigger part of my life. I met with Dawn Martinez Oropeza and Vince Lewis to plan for a project with the Whyld Girls and Backyard Boyz at Ritual Café. The installation will celebrate Latino culture and Dia de Los Muertos. We’re talking skeletons, skulls, banners and masks. This is exciting stuff!
I’m also going to be helping out with the Des Moines Art Center Outreach Program. I’m excited to reconnect with my refugee art class at Lutheran Services in Iowa in mid-October. My students are from Bhutan and Burma and have very little English. Most of them never had the chance to go to school in their own countries and they are passionate students now. We’re doing clay, collage, tangle webs, circular weaving and painting, but this time each student will combine most of these media into one “self-portrait”. The Art Center will hang a special show to include these pieces and other work.
So, why am I so pumped about these developments? Because art is soooo important to spiritual growth, to critical thinking and decision making, to seeing the world as it really is. As I developed Teachers Going Green, I found the Four Keys of Character Education—self study, other study, public performance in a supportive, challenging community. All of these things are such integral parts of the process of creating art.
John Dewey asserted that art is proof that people use materials to expand their lives and communicate their emotional experiences to others. Janet Heinicke shares this view, “Art isn’t about creating something beautiful; it’s about expressing yourself and communicating what’s inside to others.” We ALL need to do that. Starting with those cave drawings on the underside of our kitchen table.