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The Challenge of Using Art to speak, communicate....


From: Larry Seiler (lseiler_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sun Aug 04 2002 - 08:10:41 PDT

I believe sometime ago, I might have mentioned I was going to be doing a
visual "performance art" presentation at a major music festival onstage.
The festival was attended by about 22,000 folks.

Sometime ago...prior to coming back into the classroom to teach, I used to
go around and keynote/motivationally speak to kids in high school
assemblies. A new direction I would go came when one school contacted me
about a week before their prom, and wondered if I could do something to
reach kids as concerned drinking...but without lecturing. So, I threw
together a program, (again which I may have already shared here), and will
simply provide a link that shows that event-

I then took that same program for this music festival this summer, but was
asked if I could do a second presentation the day following. So, again...I
challenged myself, but did so artistically. I believe the arts are very
capable to go where words cannot, (or where young yet impressionable minds
would often tune out!) and seeing something metaphorically come together
with art right before your eyes goes deeper into the human spirit...and will
not easily be forgotten. After the destruction of the 6' x 4' painting I
did, the second day I had cans of paint set up with pails of water nearby
for quick cleansing; I dipped my hands in the various paints and smeered,
wiped, slung, and smacked paint to create a new image in about 12 minutes

THAT was the big challenge for me...since I had never attempted to create a
painting before such a large audience, and especially of that size in such
short order. I had determined that a crowd could only be expected to follow
along an watch for about 15 minutes before I would lose them. I was filled
with some incredible feelings, apprehensions...anticipation, energy all
balled together just when I stood there and began.

I have a three page online article now showing that event, and think it
might be instrumental to consider and maybe even discuss with kids how art
can be used publically to call attention to issues; to communicate. I'll
warn you in advance that this festival was a Christian music festival and my
metaphor geared differently...and for those of you not interested in things
of faith will ask you to consider still from an artistic standpoint the
potential of such communicate. Here is that link-

This next week, I will be traveling and taking a five day three credit grad
course. The subject will be SAP AODA Core Training...for which will be of
interest to me. Our school counselor hopes to develop a core of teachers
that will help brain pool ideas which taking this course might instill.

We have some cutters amongst our small school. Drugs, and especially
alcohol...and recent history of devestating suicides are in the back of our
minds. Perhaps everyday stuff in some inner city larger schools...but this
is a small community in a remote national forest.

The hard part, and the part I'm looking forward to discuss in this how you go about changing behavior for which the parents and even
grandparents have show a history of. A good number of kids come from homes
where alcohol is a rite of passage, and define life. Some where drugs are
common place as well...

In a community of about 1,000 people where you have nine bars and twelve
more within a ten minute drive...a good number of your student's working
parents work in taverns, and this forms the tax base to support your school!
Hard. Very difficult to espouse the negatives of self-destructive lifestyle
in such an environment, thus I'm hoping to hear or initiate discussion that
will go beyond the pat answers in next week's class. Should be interesting.

Now...whenever you tout negatives you can paint an unbalanced picture so
I'll end saying yes...we have these problems, ...but the positives of our
community and locale far outweigh the negative, and having taught in larger
city schools I really appreciate this school and community. A privilege
really....but, these issues are real and challenge us as staff as to how or
even if it can be addressed and dealt with to any life changing degree.

Larry Seiler