Free Time

by beccaborrelli


Andy Warhol. Do It Yourself Landscape. 1962

What is this elusive thing called teaching Art?

Is it studio skills? Children follow prescribed steps… products of carefully constructed methodologies… soon art morphs from sticks, to shapes, from shapes to forms. It all looks sterile nice mounted on acid-free construction paper from Pacon.

Is it Historical knowledge? Van Gogh cut off his ear… Mona Lisa smiles… Picasso was teased at Art openings… Warhol likes tomato soup. Disjointed fragmants of history that may or may not have anything to do with anything to a seven year old who plays DS 5 hours a day, and can write html code.

Is it Aesthetic understanding? The feeling I get from Salvador Dali is “fear shown by the warm colors and brisk brush strokes?” Is fear a pigment? Are the layers of meaning within such a complex feeling, really done justice by a tube of acrylic?

Kids raise sticky Elmer’s fingers above heads:

“Do you like my project Miss B?”

Responded with:

“Nope, hate it. What do you think?”… trying to snap glazed eyes into half-awareness even if only for a moment.

“Ha, ha no really, Miss B…. do you like it?”

Where does the elusive heart play into an Art Education? How will brazen ones teach students to listen to the heart in a public institution that is steroids for the brain.

This causes me to be reminiscent of my own Artistic process. As backwards as it sounds-

I don’t make things that look good- I make things that feel good.

I believe this is an important tidbit of knowledge when teaching Art. I just don’t know what I’m going to do with a tidbit like this. Especially considering how much writers of educational policy “love” things like feelings, paradoxes, and subjective viewpoints.

I’m bothered “much more than just sort of…” by an overly intellectual approach to Art. It’s an ideology the National Art Education Association trumpets in order to retain invitation to Academic Happy Hours… cocktail parties if you will… where Math, Science and Language Arts have been sipping Gin and Tonics for decades. Now even the Visual Arts Programs are struggling to cram things in folders with colored tabs that can be plugged into pie charts.

Two months ago at an Akron Art Museum workshop, we were given 15 minutes to create a collage. Surely with expensive handmade papers strewn around, and almost 25 years of art making experience I could shove something out.

As I watched other teachers organize well thought out plans, I began to crave a hole to crawl where I might play with shreds of paper until something came out of me that “felt right.”

How the hell should I plan this, and poop out something in 15 minutes?

How should I ask my students to do the same?

Google- a company that is pooping out a dozen creative ideas a day- tells their employees once a month-

“Take 72 hours to DO WHATEVER YOU WANT.”

Not surprisingly, this is how a lot of Google’s most innovative and ground breaking new ideas have been created. Stress free-for-the-love-cream-puff-new-age-hippie-corporate-genius.

So the question begs to be asked- ‘How will school districts going down an economic drain (without a Google budget) shift the focus away from “projects, deadlines, and pretty products that make pretty Art shows that make community members pleased”… towards cultivating this elusive creative process that may or may not render anything refrigerator worthy in the short term?

Silly rabbit.

No one cares how Art is taught. Art is Willy Wonka, sugar plum fairies, peace, love and utopia that will never be. It feels fuzzy, looks nifty, and sounds glorious, but schools know the tough stuff should be left to the real subjects. Google-schmoogle.

“Maybe I should go upstairs and watch “Dancing with the Stars” like my roommate.