Saturday, November 21, 2009

More cows than people.

I have been on many two lane roads these days. Not incredibly even, bubbling up and down and swiveling through mountains and fields. On these roads I am constantly mesmerized by the landscapes. Amazingly diverse layers of colors and textures. Fields, mountains, peaks, grasses, lakes, rivers...sometimes all in a single view. I read once that Montana has more cows than people, I think I believe that. Some days, I wonder if I were to break down, when would the next car come by? By car, I mean truck, I think trucks still outrank cars in this state. No blingy trucks either, serious working, useful automobiles. If my van WERE to break down, I would want to be saved by a truck. I bet that truck could build me a new van.
In these areas, the Art Mobile gets a few looks. I get a few looks too, as most people can come up with a very interesting character to play their art teacher. I should start the presentatin with a crazy dance to play into that idea, but I don't. It is amazing how we all try to size one another up, thinking that due to our previous experiences, we'll be able to tag a person based on what they look like. Well I may get the hippy/outdoorsy/outsider/blonde first impression. But, it's always amazing to me how the outsider induced cold shoulder turns incredibly warm when folks learn that I grew up in this great state, 5th generation. My dad, Butte, mom, Great Falls...those facts take me into the real Montana zone. In many towns, if not all, I have met someone who went to school with, dated, worked with some member of my family. It helps that my dad is one of 9 and my mom, one of 7. Most still live in Montana, so if that continues, we may start to outnumber the cows.
I'm always struck by Montanans. So real and lacking in most of the frills of commercialism. Yet, until I'm one of them, I hover in an outside circle. What I bring is not a necessity in many of these places. Yes, some people crave and are incredibly inspired by art. Yet, if a family has to eat, they have to be have more certainty that the art world initially provides. If cattle need to be moved, taking time to paint a pretty picture does seem frivolous in a way. But it's the bigger picture. It's understanding our history, our lives, our story. It's sharing that story and connecting with someone, something else. So I get a lot of comments that someone just doesn't "get" art. But I would make a cattle ranch go under in a matter of days. I don't "get" cattle. We each "get" something, hopefully love and are passionate about something. But isn't communication how we "get" one another? So, in essence, art is important if only as a way to get one another; to visually communicate.

There are moments in my day when I know what I do is worth it. Every teacher can feel bogged down with problems and issues. It's when a kid learns, has an "ah-ha" moment, when what I bring to these schools seems to touch a kid. Indian Education for all is an important facet of the education system. There is much to be learned about a culture that intertwines all disciplines. Because everything is connected. All too often, we attempt to appropriately label and separate EVERYTHING. Art is a part of science, history, math...everything. Native Americans seem to innately know and practice such things. That is reason enough to learn about the culture. I had a student this week who finally saw some of his world in the Art Mobile. If you think about it, the way we learn history is definitely from a specific perspective. He lit up when he saw the ledger art, because he connected to it. That's what makes it worth it. To have a kid see something at school that connects to their life and to the learning process. I like those moments.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday West of the Divide

Another great day on the road! I had three presentations today. One with a young group of uninhibited and inquisitive, yet the attention span isn't all that lengthy. Great kids though. It's neat to see the craving for knowledge that most young kids have. I wish that hunger continued...and in some, thankfully, it does. The humor of a 5yr old, usually not purposeful, but it is brilliant and fresh and I absolutly love it. Bring on the 5yr old comments!! The big groups were 1-5th grade and then 6-12th grade.
Teens, oh boy. I wish I could help the teens realize that learning is cool. Or maybe that they can be an individual...I don't miss those years of trying, somewhat desperately, to figure life out. That combined with the seemingly invisibility of that age group. With each grade level, comments definitely decrease for the Art Mobile. It's like with each year, we learn that there is pain associated with throwing it all out there. Are we learning to be inhibited? Yes, you could be horribly wrong- but trying, THAT is the most important thing. Being comfortable in situations where you are uncomfortable, also important. Yet I can feel the high school kids sizing me up to see if I'm a "cool" kid. Or sizing the art up to see if it is "cool" to like. All in all the teachers are all very excited to see and learn new things. It's great to see educators who crave and get amped up on knowledge; extremely inspiring. What I don't quite understand is the few teachers that nod off or obviously zone out during my presentation, okay, maybe only one or two...but still. As if the students don't learn what is appropriate based on seeing the actions of adults. That's frustrating, especially if they sit in the front row. :) But the day went well. I would say that the native art pieces and Steve Glueckert's drawing machine drew the most inquisitive and out of the ordinary looks. The strength of the exhibit makes it difficult to perceive any favorites. I think the variety and technique shown by the Montana artists makes my ramblings about their work somewhat easy and natural. I love thinking and talking about the why and how's of very interesting and never the same answer. Even when an artist uses the exact same materials, they can't help but to make it their own. Love it. On to a more northern site tomorrow. Until next time-

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I think my brain gets fried after talking all day long...I wonder if I can scientifically prove such a thing. All I know is that the process of setting up the exhibit and talking about the work is exhausting and great all in the same bundle. I hope what I say makes sense, but knowing that my brain seems to operate in run-on/ADD fashion, I can only hope for the best. Somewhere in the third hour of talking about the art, and amazing artwork as it is, I hit a blurry haze and wonder if I just repeated myself or if the information I just shared was at all coherent. I have been on tour a lot in the last month, so I think that sleeping away from home adds to the level of exhaustion. Or, I'm just crazy, hard to say. :)
That rambling is a warning that this journal/blog entry could possibly be somewhat incoherent. However, I want to update, so here it goes...

Ahhh, the good stuff, the art education/outreach is worth it. I have been all over mostly NW/W Montana. I am constantly seeing new things in the artwork that is in the exhibit, due to the inquisitive eyes of students and teachers. It is amazing how, as an artist, we create something that is a part of us; something hopefully unique. Something we hope connects each of us to someone else, or possibly the someone else to the environment, a dream, place...something. Whatever it is, it is about that connection. After all, without the viewer (connection) the work never becomes real or alive. I have to hope that even if that connection is small...say, a once a year visit from the Art Mobile, it will be remembered. The possibility that something else is out there. That rules can be broken or that each individual story is important...those are thing I hope these kids are left with. I don't trick myself into thinking that learning a few art terms and creating art for an hour will change their lives or the world. I definitely have students fall asleep and zone out during my visits. But maybe I'm there for the kid in front, soaking it all in and asking every question possible. Maybe that's who needs the Art Mobile.

I have been amazingly blessed in my life. I have the support, education, and drive to be able to create art and to travel with the Art Mobile. I will continue to grow and I will reach goals only to set new ones. I can only hope that each student gets fired up enough, about something, anything...that they will strive to reach their potential. If the students I reach aren't thrilled about art, maybe they'll grow in their appreciation and understanding of it. Possibly we can cross some boundaries and grow to empathize with one another with such thoughts and realizations ...

There are a lot of questions that being on the road and teaching all of these great students leaves me with. I have never seen Montana in the way that I see it from my van. Good people, hard-working people who are doing their best to simply live their lives. People living in an area because a certain industry brought them or their ancestors there. Now seeing schools close, lose enrollment and the number of vacant buildings in small town Montana...I have started to fear that these places may disappear. Jobs are necessary in these areas. I don't think there are a lot to go around. I don't know the answer, I just don't want to lose the core of our state. The people are always inspiring and determined. I trust they will find away to stay afloat. For now, I'll keep bringing them the art!

Monday, November 2, 2009

soabox rambling

Wow, a MONTH since my last post, slacker.
It's an interesting job. A lot of NPR (or bad country radio, it goes both ways) and coffee in the morning, while driving. Followed by meeting some new people and sharing the exhibit with them, followed yet again by some more driving. Books on tape, radio...aimless thought wanderings. I have always painted, spent time alone and been comfortable doing so. But this leaves me time to write songs, if I were so inclined or talented in that fashion. I am not, or I haven't developed myself in that way.
Some current questions...what happens if the next Turner, Picasso, Michelangelo..fill in your own fav artist from history, just so happens to not be exposed to art? No training in art...imagine the void. Can we not value art because we can't perceive the void?
Why do we need art? Maybe because each of us needs to have a reason to wake up. A way to feel alive. If it's skiing, science, math, carpentry, break dancing, or art- whatever it is, each of us has to find it.
Why is there a battle for the arts? Is that really something to debate? The necessity of feeling connected to humanity, the need to dance, sing, feel something beautiful wrap over you? Really, because even though I will admit that I wouldn't spend my spare time doing math, does math wrap around even the most ignorant mathematician? Does math cross cultural boundaries and communicate...shiest, maybe it does in a way. I'm not a math hater. I am simply saying that we can and must have it all. I want to give the next Turner a reason to believe they can and should paint. Or at the very least, I like seeing happy kids simply making art. They're happy. Why can't we fight for art just for that fact?

Soapbox, down.