Sunday, December 16, 2012

Big Ideas, Take 3.

Big Ideas, take three.

Big Ideas Fest ( 2012, my third year in attendance.
                The holidays are an interesting time of year; filled with ceaseless running, endless to-do lists, more money going out than most other times of the year, and an overall cloak of overwhelmed craziness.  It is a time when we remember and reflect on seasons of the past, move closer to a new year and the goals and aspirations that come with the future.  This is the perfect time of year to be immersed in Big Ideas and the liveliness of the design thinking process.  The Big Ideas Fest annually acts to kick start my notions of life’s true, wild, and viable possibilities and reaffirms the importance of making my days filled with more fun than not, more risk than fear, and more wonderment and awe than settling for present circumstances.  It continually acts as an important resolution to not simply accept those things that are easy, but instead to find those that fire up my soul. 
The Big Ideas Fest knocks down the doors of what is thought to be probable.  It debunks the status quo and what we can choose to accept as ‘just the way it is’ and empowers doers to change the world, starting with themselves, starting with ourselves.  Seriously, the speakers at the Big Ideas Fest (BIF) are incredibly human and absolutely phenomenal.  Only by following their oftentimes misunderstood voices do they redefine what is conceivable. They have found themselves in an amazingly colorful, fun, lively reality by simply starting small, trusting in the unknown, and by taking one step at a time.  There is nothing but possibilities out there for each of us to grab onto.  There is no room for settling, and there is no reason why each of us can’t live a fun-filled wild and energized life.
                 I’ve been researching a lot of the effects of art making, art appreciation, and art participation on our emotional, biological, and neurological selves as of late.  It’s pretty amazing to learn that, without a doubt, on a deep innate level, across history and cultural differences, we all appreciate beauty and awe-inspiring events.  We all crave the miraculous.  How we get there is extremely inspiring and tangible, something that was highlighted at the BIF.
The greatest take away for me from attendance at BIF this year was the 1-10-100 theory and it’s relation to achievement.  There is a certain amount of mysticism surrounding great success and outstanding accomplishments.  The 1-10-100 theory breaks the idea of genius down to its human state.  Each of us may stumble upon a great idea (1), and after 10 tries or ‘experiments,’ it could quite possibly show its potential to be pretty awesome and interesting.  But only after much effort and hours of work does the 100th try turn into that awe inspiring mystified event.  The first try is not the end; it is most definitely the start.  It is only when we give up at 20, 90…that we won’t succeed to move into astounding.  We must begin by allowing ourselves to let go of our agendas as well as those schemata of our culture and family, to creatively seek answers and discover new beginnings for ourselves.  We must also practice patience, persistence, and kindness and give ourselves the time to work and think diligently into experiment 100.  If not, the extraordinary may never come to fruition.  This was an amazing take away for me.  Each and everyone one of us has the ability to achieve the extraordinary.  It is terrifying to walk forward into the unknown, to trust in the universe and to have faith in oneself.  To put more energy into believing and less into the fear that our ideas and actions might be crazy is difficult, and it is absolutely worth it. 
Actions taken to leap honestly and with good motives should be, and I believe that they are, supported by the universe.  The act of showing up to a blank canvas to paint is important; even if the end result is absolutely unknown.  It’s a great reminder for myself to seek and expect more out my extremely human self (and sometimes annoyingly human self) and to not give up.  The message is in all things, to try, to refocus, to learn, think creatively, have faith in your vision, hone in on the goal, and try again for however many times that it takes.  It’s very uplifting and empowering to know that we can all make a difference or a change in our own lives.  Go big folks- let the miraculous happen.
                Every presenter at the Big Ideas fest had heart, believed in something bigger, and lacked ego.  They were all open to share their process, failures and success.  All of the participants and presenters seemed to find inspiration in simple events and were filled with energy, life, humor, and vitality.  It was an amazing, inspirational weekend that again, after my third year in attendance has opened doors to additional possibilities in my own life and work.  Thank you to ISKME for putting on such a great event! 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Big Ideas Fest 2010

Big Ideas Fest:
December 5-8th, 2010

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Isaac Newton

If I were to summarize my 4 days in Half Moon Bay, CA at Big Ideas Fest (BIF) it would be that the potential of each of us is greater than our minds could possibly conceive. BIF was filled with normal people. These normal people of all ages are achieving inspiring things and not one person doing them egotistically. I met so many humble individuals working hard, moving through doubt and seeming disasters and simply continuing on because that is just what they do. Meeting people dedicated to the pursuit of their joy felt like a breath of fresh air! People are inspiring, they connect with one another, are kind, and are working to be their best all over the world; but they’re still just normal people who have decided to do the work. Throughout the weekend, there seemed to be reoccurring themes that are important ingredients for these normal people to achieve exciting change.

Number one involves letting go of preconceived ideas and assumptions. Crack your brain open to ALL of the possibilities; mundane, insane and everything in between. Allow yourself to be open to the unknown. A change in perspective is imperative, so is number two, defining a need.

Why and for whom are important things to ask yourself. Is there a need? It seems like focusing on people is a key to success, especially when things get trying as they will. A need could also be more personal. As you pursue your passion, the road seems to appear before you where you hadn’t seen it before. Maybe the need is following your joy and to keep saying yes and moving even if you’re not sure where you’re going. But you don’t have to do it alone.

Number three, find a support system and ask questions of those who know more than you do or know different things than you do. Ask, ask, ask and then keep asking questions. Stay humble and open to others, the universe and to the experience. One of my favorite quotes shared during the week was, “If you want to go quickly, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.”

This was a busy whirlwind fest. One I had no preconceived plan as to what I would achieve. I can only say that it felt like the universe was pushing me to attend and the only way to see why was to just commit, to say yes. I think it’s better to do than to sit back and wonder, stuck on the “what ifs?” I am glad I went. There is something about timidly entering a group and slowly feeling oneself connect with others, feel understood and to grow into new ideas and ways of thinking in only a few short days. I did learn a lot about concrete things and I was exposed to new programs and technologies. I think those things are very important. But what I took away most from BIF was a feeling of inspired possibility and momentum.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Digesting the end of the travel year...

Another year of traveling is under my belt. Sitting in my work area (aka couch), sipping on some great caffeine and looking out at the Bridgers at honest to god spring weather has me breathing in the start of a new season! I have been many places this year, interacted with many amazing people and had the honor of touring around an inspiring gallery of artwork. Now I'm going to attempt to digest where I've been, what I've seen, learned, how I've grown, and what I believe, my hopes and the things that I am dedicated to working towards. That sounds like a lot, and it definitely is. That's part of the reason my mind feels like an overflowing bowl of popcorn...

Around 12,000 people participated in the Art Mobile this school year, I'm told that is a new record for the program! That many people in around 75 days out on the road. I truly have an amazing job to be given the ability to interact with so many unbelievable individuals. In an age where art has somehow lost it's intrinsic importance- where schools are making cuts left and right, when we as a culture have somehow forgotten about the importance of knowing ourselves, our history, our beautiful diversity, accepting one another, appreciating our environment, creatively solving problems, allowing children to discover their love for the process of learning and ENJOYING life. I'm not sure where the root of the problem is. Did it spring out of a desire to make sure the "brightest" were used in positions that somehow give us, as a country, more perceived power? How many songs or stories have parents dreaming of their children being "doctors and lawyers and such?" When did parents decide to mold their children into potential Olympians and not allow them to find themselves? If we allow one another the power, ability, and circumstances to find our true passion, spirit, and person I believe truly that we will all be happier and more progressed for it. How many of us have tried, somewhat desperately, to fit into a box that was not us? I know plenty of intelligent people who went onto higher education because they had the ability. Somehow in the mix however, they lost track of what truly makes them feel alive and happy. Each of us owes it to ourselves and to one another to take the difficult journey toward finding out what really makes us feel alive. And we're not doing this for ourselves and we are definitely not doing this on a large scale for younger generations in our schools. It actually makes me feel ill to see so many people working for the weekend. So many people stuck and accepting that where they are is their life. It's not easy, it's not a clear road and it does take time and perseverance as well as finding ways through seemingly closed doors in order to find who you are and what you love. I am still on the road trying to find where my passion lies (with a few off road experiences mixed in). But I do have something I can lose track of a full day doing. I have something that is mine and for that I am truly blessed. I don't paint for anyone but myself and I will paint until the day I die. I love sharing who I am, but my energy to paint is more intrinsic rather than dependent on the outside worlds acceptance. I truly have something that is mine and it feels empowering. I want to help others to feel this way. Maybe that's why I teach?

I have been all over the great state of MT. Montana is rich with truth, honesty, and hard work. The people here are genuine and wear their hearts on their sleeves. They are more connected to the environment and their history (even if it's a more limited family history). It's inspiring to say the least. There are students who are confused by art. There are adults that feel the same way. Yet, there are also students who through art, finally find their way of expressing themselves, understanding their world and feeling alive. I believe that the Art Mobile is important for each of these types of people. It is an important learning and growing experience to come across things that are difficult for us to understand. Without these new ideas and ways of thinking, we wouldn't grow. It is equally important to show what is possible and available to those who haven't found something in school or life that they feel jazzed up about.

All of us listen to music. It makes each of us feel alive. Yet, the demand for music and all of the arts comes after it is created. We aren't supporting the individual and nurturing them to grow into their own person. It's sad. But it is truly amazing to see when people, even in our current state of education, find their passion and push it to the limit so that they are in fact making a living doing what they love to do.

This blog post has turned into another ramble...but time on the road, good books, amazing music, great people and the process of digesting a full school year will do that to me...

Something that came my way that is worth it to take a look at, I promise it's worth your time..

For now- a happy summer to all! I'll be sure to add more tidbits from the road in the near future!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Flathead Lake

Ahh, a beautiful spring sunset in Polson, MT on the bank of Flathead Lake. I love this place. I used to spend summers here as a kid and it is a perfect mix of nostalgia and straight up awe inspiring natural beauty. Not to bad for a post work evening.

It was a full day today. 12 classrooms at Cherry Valley Elementary, all K-1, an Art night and some computer catch up! The kids are great. Something about teaching the young kids allows me to glimpse the world when it is still brand new. They don't have any judgement, for the most part. Things are new, beautiful, exciting...I think that's why I like this age group. That and they say some of the funniest things I've ever heard.

The people here are great. Honestly, 99.9% of the people I run into in this state are amazing. I love that they wave, that I can stop at Subway and have kids who met me that morning run to greet me. It really is nice to meet such amazing people in my travels.

I am however REALLY tired right now. I traveled last week as well and am starting to lose my sense of direction. Where am I? Where am I going tomorrow?? Thank god for planners.

For now I am going to relax near this beautiful lake. Montana is an amazing place and I am a very lucky lady to be surprised and reminded of it so often.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Legislative Link

The Art Mobile is invested in partnering with our community and bringing enriched art experiences across the state. We deeply value visits from all members of the state government. A personal visit is a great way to showcase what the Art Mobile does for students across MT
Here is a link to a visit from Montana State Representative JP Pomnichowski.

If you are interested in attending an Art Mobile presentation, please contact me (Allison McGree).

Last Tour of 1/2010-

I just returned from a tour through Ramsay,Cardwell,Garrison/Gold Creek, and finished it up with two final days in Butte. It was another busy week! Winter road conditions make traveling a bit stressful. It seems the worse the roads tend to be, the more it seems like it's me in the Art Mobile interacting with a pack of semis on the road. I made it just fine however.

Ramsay was art lessons for K-8, along with a quick art show of our Native American pieces. It was a fast afternoon for sure. The students created visual stories, using ledger art for inspiration. I'm always amazed by the creative stories students come up with. One of the teachers at Ramsay is my cousin. So that made visiting even more fun.

Day two was through a snowstorm to Cardwell. I swear it snows most of the days I need to drive. It leaves me dreaming of all of the fun outdoor activities that I could participate in if I were not driving through the snow in a semi-stressed state. Yes, I do check snow conditions frequently and envy my friends who are out enjoying the weather! When I finally did make it to Cardwell, it was great. An old gym was my teaching headquarters. I love old gyms, they tend to remind me of all of the people who once enjoyed them. A box of history.
I was invited to return to teach a ledger art lesson (I was there in November). It was great. Senator Terry Murphy met up with me to see what the Art Mobile is all about. The students in Cardwell LOVE art, so it was a great afternoon.

I made it to Garrison on Wednesday. 1 student, 1 teacher, and a bus driver from Gold Creek met us as well. Garrison is the size of community that gives their school an address like, "1 School house Rd." It leaves me looking for speed zones, buses, and playground equipment as I inevitably drive through their 2 block long town. I don't think I've ever seen an actual sign for any "school house road." However, many rural schools leave this as their address. That, or "one tree road," named after the single tree behind the school.
Garrison was a quick 4 hour trip, gallery and lesson (cattle marker landscapes). I drove toward Butte to finish up my week.

Butte Central started self-portraits in December. This time, we painted (with spray paint) their work and added details and designs to them. It was fun. However, 2 days full of spray paint, even if it's done outdoors is waaaaaaaaay too much for me.

I'm now back to scheduling and trying to plan for the weeks ahead. Amazing how tired I get from a week on the road.
That's all for this update. Pretty bland as far as updates go. It was a good week, I'm just having difficulty remembering any funny details right now. More soon-

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The first travel update of 2010!

I realize that time is really a constant and consistent thing. Generally, each day has the same amount of hours, minutes, seconds. That being said, there are days when time seems to have more of a slingshot approach over it's seemingly perfected rhythm. Today is one of those days. My last entry was around Thanksgiving. It is now rounding up to the end of January. Thus, time seems to have slacked a bit and now is slapping me in pure slingshot style.

I did travel in December, and I am currently traveling in January as well. The Art Mobile is still visiting Butte Central every month. That trip is great for a few reasons. The students and teachers are getting used to my being around. I am able to teach a variety of art lessons, medias, techniques; which definitely makes me realize how important frequent art education is. We are discussing creating a tile mural with student artwork in the next few visits. Next week brings the culmination of self-portraits and students will be able to use (under supervision of course) spray paint! They are more than excited to work with such a different type of paint. I think it's the added thrill of working with paint that usually falls under the guise of graffiti and other "ills." Wherever the source of their excitement comes from, I love to be greeted each month with students who are thrilled to see me. Makes a teacher feel good. :)
One additional reason I am enjoying (the frosting on the cake per say) Butte Central so very much is that I am able to teach 10 of my younger cousins and their friends. I have an unbelievably amazing family and seeing these cousins in their school element combined with showing, discussing and teaching them something I am incredibly passionate about is so very amazing. Not to mention, I spend nights with my Gram prepping and explaining what I'll be up to the next day. So yes, Butte has a special place in my heart. It is a town that reminds me that people are good. They help one another, care for one another, work hard, and value family and the deep roots of history. I'd hate to ruin the image a lot of people have of Butte. But it is one of the most admirable and inspiring towns I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of. Check out the PBS documentary, "Butte, America" if you want to see a glimpse as to why.

I have had many other travels up to this point as well. Many meals from my cooler, pretty horrible cups of coffee (still does the trick, but it is semi-painful), interesting winter roads, down right cold days, and most importantly I have met GREAT people. One thing Montana is full of, strong, caring, giving people.

The first week of January marked the end of holiday vacation. Students and teachers went back to school, and I hit the road. My first stop was Dillon. I met with the Dillon home school group and I have to say that this group is one of my favorites (and yes, I can have innumerable favorites, it's insanely hard to choose). I was less than thrilled to be leaving town in the midst of a winter storm warning, but all in all, I did just fine. I love to see what students remember from last year. There were even a few students who, over the summer, had met and purchased (with their own money) prints from an inspiring talented artist, DG House, at the Folk Festival in Butte. They were so enthusiastic! There is no doubt in my mind that they will remember DG for the rest of their lives. The parents are just as interested as the students to hear and learn about the work. The hunger for knowledge is being handed down, and that is fun to be a part of.
As I was packing the van up to head to Jackson, MT, I could see the storms circling around Dillon. It was inevitable that the winter weather was going to find me at last.

I made it to Jackson and I swear the temperature dropped 20 degrees. I hear this happens in the Big Hole valley. A absolutely ridiculously beautiful place that can get really, really, frigid cold. Well, I drove through Jackson before I realized that I drove past where I was staying for the night. Not to worry though, it was only the distance of an eye blink. I turned around and the Jackson hot springs gave me a room for two nights. They actually called me by name when I walked in the door. I was the only person that was possibly checking in. Makes me feel special when I walk in the door to a place I've never been and they greet me with, "hello Allison." It's my glimpse at celebrity. I guess they could have seen the Art Mobile drive past, that van is hard to miss and people definitely know when I'm in town. I'll keep my celebrity story though.

When I'm on the road, I sometimes come face to face with my addiction to technology. I lost service right outside of Dillon. Until I parked my van in Jackson, I thought I was going to be officially cut off for the rest of the week. I find it amazing that a cell phone (a thing I have only had for 8 years of my life) can actually send me into a period of anxiety. Will I survive if I can't contact anyone/someone at a moments notice, hard to say? Not to worry though, Jackson just recently obtained cell service, so I was able to breathe through the lack of Internet, radio, tv, etc. Really, even though I know it's insane, how am I comforted by my phone working? I am, maybe I have a technology addiction, TBD.

People in Montana are just friendly. Maybe it's the lack of traffic bringing new people to the area, but I swear I can meet and hear the life stories of innumerable people in one weeks time. Honestly, I have to hole myself up in my room with a book if I hit my maximum social capacity for the day. That happens too. You can only really socialize for so long before (at least I), need to recharge my batteries. This trip was no different. I met a lot of people.

An early morning drive through snow covered, icy, wind-blown roads brought me to Wisdom (I was lucky my van started, frigid, again). Plow trucks, one semi, and the Art Mobile braved the trip. It was a bit sketchy to be honest. Not to worry, my truck driving family has instilled lessons of safe driving into my core. I made it with time to spare. Wisdom, what a great name for a town! I had to be reminded where the school actually was (not right on the hwy as many are). But an amazing man was raising the flag (without hands mind you) at the post office. After I watched in awe at how a person can find ways around obstacles, I asked about the school. His reply was something along the lines of, oh, I thought that was what you were lookin' for. Great guy (on first impression). I had in fact been to Wisdom before, but sometimes towns blend together. I find it's easier to ask at first sign of confusion. Might as well, you always meet someone interesting and generally, you find your way faster. I love returning to schools and recognizing the students this year. It was a quick 4 hour visit, and I was off the Jackson school. How I drove by the Jackson school amazes me, but I did. I was having direction issues I guess.
Jackson was another, great, small school. These schools all had a max of 18 students K-8. A student was celebrating his 12th birthday, so I even had a brownie. Not to0 shabby of a way to finish the day. We all created ledger artwork and in the end, checked our visual storytelling ability by guessing one another's stories. I am never less than amazed at the creativity of students! The stories (real or imaginary) are always amazing. After a great, full day, I retired to my home at the Jackson hot springs. When you get done with teaching at 4pm, you really have a lot of solo time to burn before you can really justify bedtime. I had a great book, and have to admit that I'm a P90x junkie. So, on any given evening, you can find me in small town MT motels jumping around like a goof and doing a variety of other exercises. Jackson was interesting though, upon jumping, I had fear that the floor would crash in on itself. I'm not entirely sure why I'm admitting that, but it's true. It's amazing what you find when you have the new perspective from doing a push-up. Dog food pushed under the radiator, nice. I don't generally claim to be too high maintenance, but some of the places I stay surprise me. Wine rings on the table, bananas in the garbage, wine stains on the sheets (that look new), various wrappers all over the place, coffee grounds left in the coffee maker...and that's just the beginning. I bring my sleeping bag and have given up on the supplied comforters. So I guess I may be high maintenance.

An even larger storm was on it's way the next day. So my last night in Jackson reminded me how Dorthy must have felt in the Wizard of Oz. The wind was insane. At times, I was sure the room was going to pull away from the floor I had broken doing P90x earlier. It didn't, I survived. I even had a great cup of serious, black coffee from the main lodge in the morning. I needed that coffee too, I was on the way to Grant, MT. Did I mention it was over 30 degrees below zero??? It was, I ran my van for 30min and the frost had barely started to come of the wind shield.

Now, if you ever go to Grant, make sure you really take a look at the map. It's only 40 or so miles away from Jackson. But all of those fancy map making Internet programs say it will take 2.5 hours. Why?! Good question. The shortest route takes you down a dirt road, in this case a snow covered dirt road. With some assistance, I decided to stay on the main roads. I ended up at the Clark Canyon Dam, with more than an hour to spare. Well, I was now 12 miles away from my final destination, and I needed to use the restroom. There are no gas stations in the area, but the Dam (filled with ice fishing remnants) has a restroom. Have you ever used an outdoor restroom when it's around -30*?? Just take a second to imagine that...enough said. I spent an hour admiring the snowy sparkle that happens when it's so cold. I read my book, enjoyed the sun on my face through the window and burned an hour up very easily.

Off to Grant, another fantastic small, rural school. Only ten students participated (ooh's and awe's filled the room when each piece was placed on the gallery walls). The students LOVE the art they see. They value my trip to see them and seem to be anxiously excited to see what is new this year. It's amazing how much I take for granted all of the art I am able to see on a daily basis. But through the eyes of these kids, I get excited all over again.

The end of Grant took me to Butte to stay with my Gram and prepare for trips to Divide and Melrose. The weather cleared up, and roads were back to their normal rolling, weaving, and relaxing way. Both Divide and Melrose were also amazing rural schools. The students are now expecting to see the Art Mobile each year. They are excited and very thankful when I come. The teachers in rural schools seem to have a different rapport with parents and students alike. They are more of a big family who participate, teach, and look out for one another. Very admirable. A lot of the schools this week chose the ledger art lesson. I like it because it teaches about an amazing historical art form, it incorporates many media, it explains visual communication, it allows students to be creative and to tell a story of their own, and the focus is more on the story and less on technique. It seems like students need to feel less inhibited. They aren't as worried about doing it wrong, they jump into their story with more ease.

After this busy first week back, I had another great project coming up! Pine Creek school scheduled the art gallery (and me) to visit on Thursday. We left the exhibit up, and had a big plan for Friday. Friday, Bryan Peterson (a GREAT local metalsmith) and I drove over to Pine Creek. The students and teachers used recycled materials (old cereal boxes, recycled chopsticks donated from Dave's Sushi in Bozeman, and recycled tin cans) to create amazing flowers! The process of talking about the design and symmetry of flowers, drawing, cutting, and combining for a great 3-D result was amazing. I learned a lot from Bryan, as did everyone. He has a great artist statement, inspiring artwork, and an amazing ability to work with students of all ages. The end of the day culminated with an open house. We put the student's flowers in vases, a parent brought light refreshments and family and community members attended. They were able to view and ask questions about the exhibit. They visited with both Bryan and myself. Students taught their parents about the work in the show. Additionally, Bryan brought more of his work to show. All in all a full (no time for lunch on these days) as well as fun and inspiring day!

As you can see, I have been busy all over the state of Montana.
I have another full week coming up and am actually almost booked through the end of the school year. If you are ever interested in seeing the Art Mobile in action, feel free to contact me.
For now- I will close this VERY long update and try to be in touch with greater frequency.