Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thousand Yard Stare

Millie Boyd was a student in Gail Salzman's Drawing I class this past spring semester. She entered her drawing 'Thousand Yard Stare' to the Art Exhibit at the Champlain Valley Fair and won a second place in the 'Pen,Pencil,Charcoal' category. Congratulations Millie!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Travel to Greece!


ART: What is it good for?


Most of us feel deep discouragement in the face on the current global mudslide. So many things need fixing. It's true that the power to influence major change internationally seems to be in the hands of very few obscenely wealthy groups/corporations. We are told there's no easy fix, and that "It's complicated". But the good news is we are NOT powerless as individuals.Choices we make as individuals reflect in our families, which affect our communities, and so on in expanding ripples of change.

How do Creativity and Art fit into this equation? I can't be entirely objective, as art is my job and my life; I make art and I teach art-making to college students and life-long learners.People seem to get pleasure from the pictures I paint, and students find a new source of achievement when they discover their hidden drawing skills. But, are these positive experiences in any way contributing to "the big picture" - survival of our planet and compassionate understanding among all people? Probably not, if we're talking about immediate fixes. But let's look at the longer view...

The terms Creativity and Art are not the same. Everyone is born creative, hard wired that way. This natural creativity - an inclination to observe life from all angles, to try out different ways of expressing ideas and feelings- can be nurtured in ourselves and our kids.When it is given room and time to grow, Art can be one result. To paraphrase Viktor Lowenfeld in his Creative and Mental Growth, Art is an exercise in divergent thinking-imaginative problem solving. In times of crisis, the ability to think outside the box is especially valuable.Einstein said, "No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it."

Making and sharing art- whether visual art, music, dance, theather, film or literature - is an outcome of a creative environment. This begins with family encouragement, grows in a school system with creative programming of all kinds, and thrives in a community that actively participates in performances, exhibits etc.

Other forms of problem solving also thrive in a creative environment- social, scientific, and technological skills develop, which leads to innovation. Many worldwide studies show that cultural creativity and economic prosperity go hand-in hand. Cultures that value creativity of all types tend to be most productive. happier and healthier too, I would guess.

We are lucky here in Franklin County. Many of our schools have excellent art, music and theater departments.The importance of these programs to a child's brain development can't be overlooked. The whole brain is exercised in in the creative process as the act involves a total vision - observing and feeling, then finding a way to convey this vision to others. Imagination, analytical and communication skills all work together.

Art can touch some otherwise unreachable parts of us. Music sets off memories and emotions, connecting us to others. In our area we are blessed with a very active music and performing art scene. One of many offerings in St.Albans this summer was a world-class jazz ensemble led by Michael Zsoldos, a brilliant local-grown musician and past graduate of BFA. The newly renovated BFA Performing Arts Center was inaugurated in the July gig.

Compassion, passion, tenderness, joy and sorrow can be awakened through art. Our elders have opportunities to tap into deep memories and comfort through the creative arts. My mother, 96, is a long-term care resident at Franklin County rehab center in St.Albans. Music and poetry were always integral parts of her life; now her failing memory and faltering speech are re-stimulated by listening yo and playing the harp in Kathryn Dandurand's innovative "Rainbow of Sound" program.Residents who have difficulty speaking are singing in informal choral groups.

We have libraries...witness St.Albans Free Library with its impressive expanded wing. Fairfield too has a beautiful new Bent Northrop Memorial Library, well stocked and expertly staffed. Another example of the importance of art in our everyday lives, it was designed by local architect Michael Dugan. Franklin county is home to a literary journal in its second year, Route Seven, publishing fine works by local writers.

Art doesn't solve society's problems; it stimulates new ideas, offers expanded views. Art invites people to observe their world and then re-invent it. That's good place to start.