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.

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