Thursday, February 5, 2015

Benched Week 70: flames to fan

If ever a room needed a bench, it would be an art room.  As I have learned, benches are the perfect place to think, to observe, and to sketch.  At least, that’s what I told middle school students this week.

And since this particular art room didn’t have one, I assisted the art teacher in lifting a bench from the school lobby.

Dawn is an old friend.  Up until my schedule became too demanding, I came in six times a year to teach a simple watercolor class to seventh graders. 

Over the fifteen years of those lessons, she and I talked much about art and teaching and kids.  She’s passionate about all three.  I knew she’d be game with my odd seating request.

I went in twice this week to meet with the Art Clubs.  It was a treat to show my work to young artists who are intent on pursuing their own creativity and skill.

Day One: I showed slides of my art and answered questions, telling the students that the one thing they could do to become more creative is to buy a small notebook to carry with them and write down or sketch what they observed.  As fun as the hour was, I walked away thinking I had lost an chance to co-create with them.  Tomorrow, I thought, I’ll change that.

Day Two:  I raced through my presentation, fielded a few questions then turned the tables on the kids.  “You’ve asked me about my art,” I said.  “Now I want to know about yours.”  I directed them to two large sheets of paper with a simple question.

Without hesitation, they spent the remainder of the time drawing and writing their answers.  Roaming the room behind them, I realized that as fun as this was to watch, I had still missed the goal.  We weren’t co-creating.  I was a bystander.

But maybe something more important was in play.  Perhaps my most important role in these two brief hours was one of cheerleader for creativity.  To applaud that innate spark of a desire to capture our view of the world visually – a spark we all had as little children but only some fanned into flame.  I suppose it was my turn to wave that fan for a few kids.

The girl drawing this came to me on the second day and told me, “I went home last night and had my mom take me out to get a small sketchbook.  So I can do what you said.”

It made me smile.  I guess I’ll have a tiny supporting role in her life of creating going forward.  Sometimes the best collaboration is to encourage – then watch what happens.

Something a great teacher like Dawn could have told me.