Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear

I was down at Shelf Life books, listening to a wonderful double book launch by  German Rodrigues and J. Pablo Ortiz.  It was a very unique evening of spanish language literature, celebrating the launch of German Rodriguez’s The Time Between His Eyes (El tiempo entre sus ojos) and J. Pablo Ortiz’s Open Sea (De mar abierto). It was an excellent event and I was happy to reconnect with Pablo and to hang with his partner and my longtime friend, Brian. After the reading, I set about looking for the book, Birds Art Life because I had heard an interview about it and knew that it would affirm my experience of the pond, the discovery of birds and the resulting experience of art-making.

It was a bit of a search, but before I left, a copy of the book fell into my hands.

Very linear in my approach to books, I finished the McCullers title, before snapping up this beautiful object of my obsession.

I rushed through my earlier two reviews, books I’ve read in the past month, so that I could get to this recommendation, Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear.  In this book, I found something kindred to everything I have become in retirement and in the past six years of loving a single ecosystem, a pond environment within the boundaries of the City of Calgary.

I kept putting the book down, and lifting off of the sofa or my bed or the bench out in the back yard, in order to pace and whoot and say, out loud, “YES!”  Since reading The Diviners so many years ago, I have not had such physical reactions to what I am reading.

Here is an extract from the book that speaks of my philosophy and experience, very clearly.

I discovered, through the book, that my ‘SPARK’ bird, was a sparrow, more precise, Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow, some eight years ago.  Hardly romantic or colourful, strange that my true attraction to birds was discovered looking out from my kitchen window, across at the open vent of my neighbour’s kitchen…several nesting seasons…widowing…lost youngsters…and determination through all sorts of weather conditions.  I began to watch. I took out the camera, for the first time, to take photographs of sparrows.

Kath's Canon Male Sparrow Emptying Nest July 7 2015 006

From that kitchen place, my exploring began at a pond environment that I call Frank’s Flats, named after a homeless man who most evenings, watched me gather up litter into a bag a day for several years.  He drank six beer in the time it took me to fill a bag with plastics, straws, newspaper flyers and other human garbage.  He chatted with me, thanked me and visited at the end of most evenings, as I put my collection into the bin, near his viewing spot.

I think that the first time I really noticed the birds, I was drawn to the red winged black birds because of their determined mating calls.

Facebook 40 Male Blackbird

My experience of the pond has, since discovering birds, coyotes and little field mice, become magical.  The lessons I have learned about compassion, care, art and writing, have been many and profound.  I am so grateful for the number of stories and discoveries that come my way because I am always looking for the little miracles.

Kath's Canon, September 22, 2015 early aft Frank's Flats Heron 038

Facebook 7 Black Capped Night Heron

Kath's Canon September 2, 2015 Osprey, Franks, Stinky Max 062Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 141

If you are looking for a way to deepen your experience of life and living, pick up this book.  It is a treasure and my new favourite!  It contains countless references to other writers, thinkers and artists…book titles…and the author’s connections with her own story.  I hope that my readers will discover urban nature and hold on to the power of that experience.

Today at the pond…

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The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

When one thinks of good literature…beautiful writing…one can include the title, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by writer, Carson McCullers.  At the young age of twenty-three, McCullers took on this project.  I reflect back on myself at the age of twenty-three; young mother of one, struggling in a turbulent marriage and I can hardly imagine sitting down to write a powerfully inspiring novel.  Carson McCullers did.

To be honest, I would never have picked up the novel, given the title.  It sounds to be a bit of a cliche and looking back on my life and the significant events that mark transition, loss and accomplishment, I managed to steer clear of this one, up until now.  It sat on my book shelf, having been picked up along the way, as a second hand cast off.  Upon reading it a couple of weeks ago, the title now makes perfect sense and represents the content as much as any other could.

As one pours over the many reviews given to this book, it is difficult to articulate those qualities that make it so successful, just because there are so many.  I decided to write about just a couple and to simply recommend the novel to those who haven’t read it yet or those who read it a very long time ago.

Categorized as Southern Gothic, it is a novel that captures that particular flavour that one might find in To Kill a Mockingbird or A Street Car Named Desire.

 

McCullers’ use of language is elegant and it is consistently supportive of character development from beginning to end.  The reader comes to know, in the most intimate way, the characters who live ordinary/extraordinary lives in this small mill town in the south.  As if under a microscope, we observe their motivations, thoughts and ‘hearts’ from their introduction to the very end.

From the book, Without a Map: A Memoir by Meredith Hall, this…

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Oprah Winfrey offers a thorough book study section on her website for any of my readers who are considering taking on this one with a book club.  I highly recommend.  Included is a visual map and character links in order to explore, deeply, the motivations of each of the ‘lonely hearted’.  You can find the schematic and links here.

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Every one of these characters holds lessons for the reader and given Meredith Hall’s brave confession at the end of the quote shared earlier in this post, I will confess that I, too, am a lonely hunter.  Now, don’t be worried about me.  I think that there is much that is ‘unspoken’ in each of us.  Yes, I have faith.  Yes, I have a beautiful life, as do the written characters of this novel.  However, there is loneliness, even in the most social and ‘connected’ beings.  I think that McCullers’ characters are very brave and for a whole number of reasons.  At completion of the novel, one is left with the revelation of one’s own courage to face the day-to-day issues of living.

I find John Singer to be central to the themes explored in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.  We meet him, along with Spiros Antonapoulos, very early in the novel.  The fact that he is mute, and that others rely on him for his good counsel, is essential to the theme development.  I think that the fact that his advice is really only fleeting and that he is left to seemingly absorb the personal narratives of others, is very significant and sometimes painful.

Since reading this, with respect and care, I highly recommend the novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.  You will find yourself or someone you love, written inside the pages.

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My Decade at Old Sun, My Lifetime of Hell by Arthur Bear Chief

This book is very accessible to readers on line.  Download the PDF file through Athabasca University Press and pour over the book, in just a few hours over two days.

Judy Bedford lays down tracks for us in the Preface, exploring the process of actually archiving this personal record and moving through revisions.

“Arthur’s living story will evolve, and so will his written story, which will have its own future. It will reach a far wider audience, and it will affect others in ways that cannot be predetermined. Like listeners, readers have a responsibility not only to approach Arthur’s story with respect and open themselves up to his words but to ponder the relationship between his story and their own lives—to find in his experiences truths about themselves. Readers are also responsible for “retelling” the story by sharing what they learn with others.

In this way, what is written will become oral. It will not be archived. As any story should, it will live and grow—and in that there is hope of reconciliation.” –Frits Pannekoek

Arthur’s remembrances of being a young boy, growing up with his mother near by, being taken from his family and educated in residence at Old Sun, is chilling.  What his section of the book lacks in elegance, is so authentic that the reader can only feel  helpless and sad.  Arthur recalls the sights and sounds of family and home on Blackfoot Reserve # 146.  His initial memories are very tactile in nature and it’s interesting how often he mentions the touch of his mother, throughout.

It is a very hopeless thing to read about a child who is overpowered by adults who are sick, perverse and controlling.  It is made me so angry to read that dearest friends should silence one another in the dark of night, in order to avoid reprisal and further hurt.

The Afterward, written by Fritz Pannekoek is excellent because it puts into a very clear context, Arthur’s experience.  It gives the reader a very strong foundation for understanding the journey of one man in the system of Residential Schools, but also, the frustrating process of revelation…of truth…of trauma…of financial settlement…and ongoing systematic abuse, whether that be physical or emotional.

I learned so much through this book and it causes me to hunger more for understanding of current issues around the Truth and Reconcilation process.  This is a very fragile thing…and readers must understand that without the active engagement of all Canadians, the political process meant/means nothing.  I invite readers to seek out information and to familiarize themselves to the various agendas that are out there.

Thank you to Jess, for the invitations to further my study. Thank you to Sable Sweetgrass for the awesome efforts via social media.  I’m really enjoying the book suggestions and on line discussion. Thank you to Michelle Robinson and the Community Safety Initiative: Aboriginal Pride with 12CSI.

One child’s heart…forever, changed.

 

 

 

Earthlings: Beginning With Kinngait: Riding Light into the World

This post…another case of not responding to events in a particularly expedient fashion.  Some days ago, I began to respond to two films that I had viewed at the Esker Foundation.  A lot has happened since.

I made the decision not to attend the opening of Earthlings, as has become my typical pattern, given the huge and disquieting nature of ‘openings’, in general.  I’ve come to accept this in myself. Openings are only disquieting for me in so far as I can not find my way through the many conversations that merely brush over the surface of life and art and being, instead of immersing into the depths of it all.  There is hardly an opportunity to wrap it all up in my arms and swing it in circles.  And so, I wait for those days when galleries are quiet and the works are entirely ‘exposed’.

To begin…

Take a look at the Esker programs and take advantage of the easy registration option.     On February 9, there were two screenings, the first, Kinngait: Riding Light into the World and the second, Ghost Noise.  Both were exceptional. My exposure to Inuit art was limited to a small calendar that I purchased back in the 1970s. I traveled to Lethbridge from Great Falls, Montana in 1973. The first person I met on the steps of the University of Lethbridge was Richard Nerysoo.  Quite out of his element, he was being sponsored to come from the far north for his education in Southern Alberta, of all places.  I bonded to him immediately, given my loneliness for my own nuclear family that had, once again, moved east.

Lethbridge was a good place for people who wished to learn about Indigenous cultures and the University, itself, was introducing innovative programming based on insights from the elders of the regions that surrounded it.  Built on the edge of the Old Man river, I felt as though I was living in a very spiritual and inspiring place, geographically, aesthetically and spiritually.  So, it was during the ’70s, that I first became hungry for knowledge about Canada’s indigenous peoples.

Earthlings at the Esker Foundation creates visual bridges between artistic practices of the contemporary north and south, through the innate creative force of individual artists, as well as through collaborative exchange.  A powerful exhibit, the art works reach far beyond the notions of tradition and realism, and move into various contexts; collaboration, dreamscape, mythology and personal narrative.  Profound and heart-achingly beautiful, one really needs to see these works ‘in the skin’.  Produced by Roger Aksadjuak, Shuvinai Shoona, Pierre Aupilardjuk, Jessie Kenalogak, John Kurok and Leo Napayok, the art objects are both challenging and simple; joy filled and painful.  Creative, Shary Boyle, is phenomenal in her ability to create ‘bridge art’ and to have manifested such vision in this extraordinary experience of the visual world and the spiritual world.

It is apparent that this exhibit is an opener for me to learn about art and artistic practice and artists of Rankin Inlet, Matchbox Studios, Baker Lake, Cape Dorset and Toronto.  I will be responding to various tours and programs connected to the exhibit.  Most recently, Shauna Thompson conducted a thorough and enjoyable tour titled Cooked Earth and Ghost Noise, taking the participants through the entire gallery, addressing the various processes involved in the making.

People of Belleville, Ontario

I’ve grown to know and love the people of Belleville and most especially, the “People of Parkwood”!  As I’ve been nesting today, I’ve been looking back on albums and photographs, ones that weren’t saved off of my memory stick and these were heart warming, so I want to archive them here.

There is a community of people in Belleville that welcomes me when I make my migrations east and that is a lovely feeling.  The lesson our family members have learned because of a lifelong connection with the military is that where ever we go, we can adjust, settle in, make new friends and reconnect with old friends.  Just this past year, I reconnected with a kindergarten teacher, Stella Pelkey and her daughter, Lila.  It was as though the years had not gone by.  We shared laughs, tears and stories of Hornell Heights and Paul Davoud School.

While visiting Belleville last summer, my dearest friend from high school years, Ramona Venegas, drove all the way from Michigan, enroute to the east coast of the United States and we shared two magical days together. This happens where ever I travel in Canada and on into the United States.  We are graced in these times with social media that links up dear friends.  Moving on is sad, but we are well cherished beyond time and distance.  This is something I’ve grown to know and understand.

Here are some of the people of Belleville…many are not here because some how they got away without having me snap a photograph.

Dear friends, Beth and Christine Self.  Beth was the youngest of the Self family, three postings to North Bay, Ontario.  Stan was our Padre and the Protestant Chapel on base and our shared activities included many barbecues, Christmas parties, sing songs, church choirs, Youth Groups and mutual support through difficult times.  I love this family, deeply…always will.

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Barb and Morley…exemplars of faith, family and love.  We met in Belleville.  Barb is a mean cook!  Morley, an inspiring minister, faithful, fun-loving and a great banjo player.  He played and entertained for my father’s 80th birthday party and my dear Mom who suffered Alzheimer’s disease, was well aware that day about how special she was as we also celebrated her birthday.  When I think of these two, I am reminded to have hope.  They took the time to come out last summer to my art exhibit and I am so grateful.kaths-art-14

My beautiful cousin, descendant on my maternal side, and I found one another in Belleville.  We have both searched and searched family roots, but from opposite sides of Canada.  Belleville connected us.  Liane is so absolutely beautiful and it was like an explosion of love and joy to meet.  Our ancestral research continues, but a link was made by her generous use of time.  (And by the way, she purchased THAT painting!)img_1649

St. Columba Church garden…this photo represents the beautiful Presbyterian community that my mother loved and my father continues to love.  As the summer’s drought was coming to an end, this photo represents the last of the harvest…only a week before I headed out on my drive back to Calgary.img_1648

At my father’s prompting and his generous contribution of shipping, I donated a painting to this newly designed and decorated meeting space in the church.  Here he is with some AMAZING human beings, Gary, Jane and Jen, the beautiful minister of St. Columba.  Jane and Gary have been long time family friends and with each of my migrations east, I have built relationship.  Prayerful, loving and supportive…these three showed my Mom and Dad such support.  They are to be cherished.  Special prayers for all three this morning, as I type.img_1633

I simply love this photograph of my father and so I include it here.  One of the greatest gifts that Mom gave to me was a relationship with my father.  I used to spend most of my time gabbing on the telephone long distance, with my Mom, as Mom and daughters do.  As Mom’s health failed, Dad did not hesitate to sign into Skype every day at 5:00 so that Mom and I could spend time with one another; singing, talking, laughing and crying.  Since 2013, my father and I have continued that ritual, chatting via Skype almost every day.  I have treasured my alternating yearly drive out to spend summers with him.  We have created memories by sharing our own time together, attending theater, going for beautiful drives, eating out and sharing the feast table in his apartment. (and sharing the odd bottle of red wine with one another)  img_1629

My cousins through my Auntie Mary and Uncle Pete, Laura, and Brenda and Gwen (no photograph…for shame) are very special to me.  They also lived the military life and ‘get it’. Distance doesn’t change our shared experience and our connection to our roots in Magrath.  On this past visit, I feel I got to know my cousin Laura (the youngest) better and was so thrilled for that knowing.  Recently, Laura traveled out west, and along with her brother, Peter, we went up the Custom Woolen Mills.  That afternoon was heaven, it was so filled with laughter!img_1604

My Auntie Mary, beautiful Auntie, attended my art exhibit.  We hardly see her enough, but when we do, it is like yesterday.  She was generous in allowing me to collage her image( a professional photograph taken by her best friend’s father during Moose Jaw days) into one of my paintings this past summer.img_1596 img_1592

Here, she recreates the dreamlike expression captured in the earlier photograph. Makes me smile!img_1585

I met Ina at Parkwood Estates.  She and I had two treasured visits in her apartment.  Now in her 90s, Ina and I spent time looking at her photo albums and she shared stories of cottage country and the process of building their cottage from the ground up.  She told me about Roy, her husband…his work, his plans and his health.  Ina shared about her teaching in Montreal, what teaching was like in the day…the expectations, the challenges and her passion for teaching.  We had very beautiful talks and now we write letters to one another.  I treasure Ina.img_1484 img_1481

Ina and Roy.img_1478 img_1477

Dianne has a thick french accent.  She comes in every two weeks and cleans Dad’s apartment.  But, she is more than that!  She offers enthusiastic conversation with all of her clients.  (Can my readers tell?)  Max loves her!  Dianne and her husband love to fish.  It is not an uncommon thing for her to bring fresh pickerel to my father and she says, “Just fry it up in a little butter.”  She does a beautiful job cleaning, but she has a big heart as well.  She exemplifies ‘goodness’.img_1427 img_1423

One Euchre table.  My Mom and Dad were always big Bridge players.  I didn’t inherit that passion nor do I understand how it is played.  I also don’t know a thing about Euchre.  While I am familiar with these people of Parkwood, I don’t remember their names.  This is a common gathering space and there is always something happening. The renovations are beautiful in this location!img_1354

Marjorie and Trevor White have been another great couple who shared many years, many experiences and many social gatherings with Mom and Dad, in the military life.  A pilot, Trev had the most wonderful stories (unbelievable stories) and was such a smart and funny man.  Marj lost Trevor recently, but she continues to share those stories of times with Mom and Dad and I love this connection.  We write cards to one another.  I need to keep this connection. Thank you, for fresh Basil from your garden.img_1353

Peter Paylor and Lisa Morris….amazing artists and artisans in Belleville!  These two are such visionaries and have huge energy in the arts community; music, visual arts and theater.  They welcomed me into their circle and for that, I will always be grateful.  All the way from Calgary, I will always support their efforts and their projects.  I love ’em.img_0941

…and who wouldn’t love this?img_0940 img_0938

A series of photographs here…just because these folks are so beautiful!  As I would leave to walk Max on beautiful summer days, I’d always stop and chat with whoever was gathering in the common space.  Usually there were laughs happening, often, serious conversations.  Bev is the one with her hand on her head here.  Bev and I shared a small conversation every single day.  She gives swimming instruction, wears a fit bit and can tell you at any time of day how many steps she’s made.  She is warm and lovely and I had the chance to sit next to her during a very special One Act Play festival in Belleville this past summer.  Her husband, Gerry, is a Belleville historian and writer of several books.  He and I met, quite by surprise, the summer that I was making a big fuss about Susanna Moodie’s marble head stone being made into a memorial.  I did a lot of research in the Belleville Library this past summer on the Marchmont Home and the BHC of the area.img_0934 img_0933 img_0932 img_0928 img_0927

Here’s Ina…always impeccably dressed.  Former school teacher, she and I shared so many stories.  I love Ina.img_0739

She explained how Roy, given that they didn’t have children, was always called upon to be MC at various people’s weddings.  He was a strong orator and he and Ina always gave the newlyweds a copy of Desiderata because they loved it so much.  Ina has this copy hanging near her front room.img_0738

Ina told me about the day that they moved into the Parkwood Estates and how Roy brought this Dogwood tree in and planted it in the corner.  Ever since then, Ina has been collecting these little birds.
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Jen, Dad’s minister, stopped in for a visit and gave Buddy a ton of love.  I love this woman so much.  She gave prayers for Mom and sent Mom on to the path of Paradise, with many blessings.  She is a strong and wonderful person and a great support to our family.img_0718 img_0716

Denny…always a big one for greetings.  He is like a welcoming committee to the apartment.  I typically found him outdoors on a short stroll or sitting on the bench when I would head out with Max on his morning walk.  Here, he is getting the machines set for Wii Bowling.img_0713 img_0712 img_0711 Heck if I could figure this out either, but weekly, Wii Bowling achieved a huge enthusiastic group!  I always stopped and said, “Hi”.img_0710

Carolyn and Bob….Carolyn is my Ya Ya in the east.  She bubbles over with enthusiasm!  This past summer we enjoyed the Festival Players of Prince Edward County under the dome tent, a beautiful heart wrenching piece, A Splinter in the Heart, that left both Carolyn and I crying at the end.img_0697

Yes.  Lisa again…here, we were at an open mic event in the ‘old boy’s club’ downtown Belleville.  Lisa had just come over from a rehearsal for an amazing steam punk piece she would be performing in in the One Act Play Festival.img_0662

More of Aunty Mary as we headed out for lunch on The Lake On the Mountain.  GOOD BEER!img_0508

Artist, Janet Beare, living a magical life in her downstairs space…a world many may not know a lot about.  MAGIC!

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Ina with her bird mug…this is the occasion when I learned that she had a bird tree and “May I come to see it some time?”img_0446

Coffee and birthday cake gathering!img_0445

Cold Creek Winery and Dave!  Amazing guy with such a huge heart!  I see Dave every time I drive out east, simply because Dad and I drink red. ;0)img_0379

Maureen and her daughter, Cathy.  Perched above the Bay of Quinte, these were the first friends we visited on last summer’s trip.  Maureen is an amazing artisan, always creating with her hands.  She was very close to my mother and kept Mom’s fingers going, creating beautiful things for the Mistletoe Market, for as long as was possible.img_0344

Barb and Rob, resident managers extraordinaire, back when I began my journeys east.  Always kind, generous and very very good at what they did.  I’m happy for them for the adventures that they have enjoyed since retiring, taking their RV across and around two countries.  They epitomize what potential is in all of us to care and give.  Love you, two.barb-and-rob

Home is what we make of the places we visit and where we nest.  We take home with us wherever we go.  People do not have to remain constantly within our view to remain constant and caring forces in all that we do.  We just owe it to them to try to stay in touch, how we can.  Wishing my friends of Belleville, love and care.

Janet Beare Studio: Belleville

It is a very snowy day here in Calgary.  A quick outing this morning, and I’ve decided that the roads are such that I’m going to bunker down, drink hot coffee (which I never do in the afternoon), and do a bit of nesting.

In looking over my archives, I realized that I didn’t get around to writing about a lovely studio visit that I shared with Janet Beare in Belleville, Ontario last summer.  I was blessed to have spent a summer painting poetry in my father’s apartment and to have exhibited a show for the Lisa Morris and Peter Paylor’s Artist and Artisans Studio and Gallery.  Through this experience, I had the chance to meet and enjoy the company of the community artists and musicians who are creating work in their home studios, and for the most part, exploring media and the arts with wild abandon.

Over the years, I have enjoyed conversation and support in a wide circle of female artists.

I really did appreciate the dialogue with Janet, one beautiful summer’s day, in her home studio just off Farley Ave.  Thank you, Janet for the trust and fun of sharing your studio space!

Janet has experimented in a variety of media and her subjects range from purely non-objective colour/textural studies to representational works in both water colour and acrylics.  Don’t you think it’s fun to explore other artist’s spaces?  I like the intimacy and personality of these spaces…one of the reasons I really pleasure in Wendy Lee’s Love Art in Calgary Tours.

I hope my readers will enjoy exploring Janet’s space and thank you for the warm welcome of a visiting artist in your sacred home of creativity!

Some people like her work, some people don’t.  I really really love Tracey Emin’s work, first seeing it during La Biennale de Venezia when my daughter and I traveled to Venice years ago.  Tracey’s early work enveloped a process of personal healing and it has evolved tremendously through the years.  I find it deep, meaningful and reflective of women’s issues in the world.

I like this little film because of the accessibility to Tracey’s space.

Big Brushes! Big Paper!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about  the Alberta Art Curriculum and where it concerns Division One students, including Kindergarten.  Division One, for those readers outside of Alberta, Canada, are Grades One, Two and Three.  Within the framework of the Expression Component of the Alberta Art Curriculum, there exists a language that, since 1986, when the curriculum was written, published and implemented by teachers,  is becoming more and more distant and misunderstood.

In the 1980s, I was blessed to be a part of the Fine Arts team under the inspiration of our Fine Arts Supervisor, one of the Supervisors in our District Program Department.  That team included a Music Consultant or two?, a Drama Consultant, and a Visual Arts Consultant/sometimes Visual Arts Specialist.  Today, I feel like writing about ‘the best of times’ in our District when Fine Arts were well-supported, vibrant, inspiring and growing!  Professional Development was offered on a very regular basis where teachers had opportunity to share ideas with other teachers in the District, learn techniques, share lesson plans and observe demonstration lessons being delivered by professionals in the field.  For many years, there had been a Fine Arts Center, a place where students were bused on a regular basis to have experiences in Art, Music and Drama.  It was an amazing time for Fine Arts in Calgary!

When the ‘NEW’ curriculum came out for Visual Arts, the schools were assured that expert teachers became familiar with how to use the document and feel comfortable with designing lessons, and further mentored non-specialist teachers to the point where they became comfortable with delivery of lessons and program.   Resources were updated, including textbooks and large visuals, in order to support the Reflection Component.  If teachers were struggling with ideas or implementation, a specialist booked one-on-one appointments and traveled to schools to explain, support, observe and assist with ordering media/resources or teaching.  This was happening in core subjects as well, but not to the detriment of Fine Arts education.

Somewhere during that process, our department developed a list of indices for administrators…these described what an administrator would see if, in fact, the curriculum outcomes were being met.  For example, walking down a hall, a person might look at the walls and be able to quickly identify what quality art works would look like at each Division.  Photo copied and cloned or teacher-made works, for example, would optimally, not be presented as student art work.

Not meaning to sound stuck up or arrogant, but truly, ‘perfect’ art is not ‘child made’ art.  Child made art is perfect because it shows the true schematic development of each individual child.  Somewhere along the line, adults, over the years that I’ve been teaching have somewhat imposed their fear of ‘not being able to draw a straight line’ onto children.  They sometimes fail to celebrate the wonky cutting and ‘out of control’ line that is imperative to developing fine motor skills.  Congratulations to those of you who treasure these discoveries.

All of these experiences and initiatives, I see as valuable and imperative to the life of the arts in schools.  It seems, however, that since then, this DISTANCE between educators and the arts, at least visual arts, has been growing larger and this concerns me.  I believed then, as I do now, that Fine Arts are essential to the healthy development and well-rounded education of children.  The parts of the brain used in each of the experiences of visual art, dance, drama and music must not be left unexplored.  Creatives are the answer to so many of the world’s challenges right now.  These have always been my beliefs.

So….what are the realities in schools today?  What are the pressures being put upon an authentic visual arts experience…for the sake of this rant,  and authentic visual arts experience for the youngest of our children?

Occupational health and safety guidelines now require that only a certain percentage of bulletin board space may be covered in paper.  Now, we see the art works, even by Division One children, shrinking.  We see their tools becoming smaller.  But, THIS IS A PROBLEM!!  We can not sacrifice who our young people are and what they need to experience based on the numbers of works that we can display at any given time.  It is possible to observe the safety requirements and still address the actual art curriculum, that also, is required.

Because of their little fingers, young children need large brushes and large paper.  If you have to rotate their works of art over a month long period, to be fair, I think that is a possibility.  Their fingers are not ready to hold tiny water colour brushes, or to manipulate lines and shapes, with paint in an 8 x 10 picture plane.

I’m ranting…let me see if I can find a little video or something that supports anything I’ve written here.  Well, HERE is a write up titled, YOUNG IN ART by Craig Roland, outlining and illustrating the natural progression of making symbols and then images.

You may want to mute the next video.  I know that I did.  Sometimes music distracts.

I think teachers of art will be less frustrated and children will be less frustrated if they can enjoy art experiences that challenge, but do not frustrate.  Somehow, it’s important for teachers to identify the stages of artistic development that exist within their classrooms.  If a student struggles with fine motor skills, media needs to be selected that will ease that struggle.

For young children, I recommend BIG brushes and BIG paper.  Drawings can easily be accomplished with a piece of white chalk.

My thoughts on Pinterest?  Did anyone ask? I’m laughing here.  Truly, this post is a rant and not anything but.  I have to say that Pinterest is both a blessing for a visual arts educator and a curse!  To generalist and specialist teachers alike, I pose these questions. Do you understand what the curricular outcomes are that are being met by each Pinterest ‘idea’?  Are the outcomes appropriate for students at your grade level?  Are you including in your art experiences, lessons in Reflection, Depiction, Composition and Expression?  Are the end products the driving force behind the lesson or is the experience the child is having while creating them, the most magical?

All things to think about…

I think that we have done a disservice to teachers cutting back on professional development where it includes topics with direct impact on teaching.  I think that these are the days where we focus most on technology, assessment and inclusion to the detriment of self-reflection, lesson and unit planning and professional sharing opportunities.  In ‘the trenches’, there is very little time to explore.

The cost of art materials is, I’m certain, escalating.  The time on the schedule is diminishing.  Visual arts education is slowly being absorbed by other subjects and being called integrated visual arts.  If students use crayon pencils and markers, there is some thought that they are practicing art.  This, in my opinion, is a fallacy.

Anyway, I feel like I need a drink after all of this.  Good for you, if you read to this point.  I hope that you know that I’m behind all my readers and I certainly use my opportunities, as a guest teacher, to explore the art curriculum with kids simply because I love it!  Sometimes the kids call me Painter Lady.  That makes me happy!  What better way to learn, create and explore ones mind, but to dip a big brush into a buttery bucket of paint and then to watch that paint flow out onto a surface?  For those of you out there, with kidlets, have fun with them.  They appreciate any opportunity you give them to roll up their sleeves and get into those gritty aspects of learning!

Valentines…a lesson, or two.

Valentines this year…Grades Three and One.