Thursday, March 31, 2011

I am an Artist (#idesmar)

A few weeks ago, I was asked to write about how the arts have influenced me personally and professionally. Here is what I wrote:
I am an artist. There I said it. I am not a bohemian walking around with oil paint on my pants. I am not an art student who knows the difference between a 6B and 3B pencil. I am not a trumpet player busking at the train station. I am not a poet in a beret with one of those really long cigarette holders. No, I am not that kind of artist.
Still, I am an artist. I've been creating and enjoying a variety of art my whole life.
The arts have been a part of my life since the beginning. My parents have finally forgiven me for drawing on the hallway wall when I was 2. I was fortunate to attend a middle and high school that valued the arts. I acted in every play from 6th through 12th grade. I sang in the regular and select choirs. I was the photography editor of the school newspaper. One summer, I attended the National Music Camp at Interlochen, MI, as a theater major. In college, I focused on technical theater and built scenery and props. I continued with tech theater for a couple of years and gradually got interested in woodworking. Although more a craft than an art, my woodworking was a creative outlet for a few years.
My daughter has been the impetus for another artistic outlet: drawing. Some yeas ago, I collected a few drawing pencils and started to sketch. I found that I liked to draw, but I did not like to show my drawings to anyone. Now, I watch her draw and end up joining in. This year, I took a leap and created an account on ArtSnacks. I have only uploaded a few drawings so far, but it is a thrill knowing my drawings are out there. (OK, so maybe I do know the difference between 6B and 3B pencils.)
Something kind of cool happened about ten years ago. I found an old trumpet. I played for a while and then forgot about it. In 2007, when I became principal of Spofford Pond, I could hear the different bands practicing each morning before school. One day I remembered that old trumpet. As a way of showing support for the band program, and to satisfy my own artistic drive, I asked if I could sit in on the beginning band once they started in January. The band director was thrilled. So, I was the tall one sitting in the back row with the fourth graders in the band. I was the only band member to bring coffee and my school walkie-talkie to rehearsals. I even joined the group for the big concert (I ended up filling in on snare drum for the Theme from Star Wars when none of the kids could keep the beat). I still play the trumpet, although too sporadically to get any good. Now, my daughter (5 years old) has started to play. Maybe she will one day be the busker.
Professionally, the arts have always been part of my educational outlook. I integrated arts into my history lessons back when I taught middle school. As an administrator, I have supported arts during tough budget times. I have made it clear that I value the arts for the benefits they bring to children.
The arts are known to improve children’s academic motivation, achievement, and school attendance. Training in and practice of the arts helps students gain self-confidence, creativity, and success. Children feel good about themselves when they have something non-academic to enjoy and find success in. Students can create fantastic art together regardless of their background. Stanford Thompson, Director of Tune Up Philly, also notes that the arts nurture social-emotional and behavioral development by providing family and community experiences. Performances at school are something parents can enjoy and appreciate regardless of language barriers or cultural differences. Nothing brings parents of all different ethnic groups together at school faster than a concert, play, or art show. The arts are vital to a full education and a full life.
I still don’t own a beret, and I’ve never used oil paint. I do draw and play the trumpet. I do support and value the arts in school. The arts benefit me, and the arts benefit children. I am an artist. Students are artists.
What about you? Are you an artist? Do you truly support the arts in school?

Artist Ellen from jimjarmo on flickr CC BY 2.0