Larry, what a beautiful letter. Your students are indeed fortunate to have
you as a teacher and mentor. Klara from Seattle
From: Larry Seiler [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Sunday, May 05, 2002 6:09 AM
To: ArtsEdNet Talk
Subject: RE: our lives (jobs) and art
> To those that say you can do both, well maybe, but how much
> better would you be at either if you weren't making those choices.
> How can you paint all night because you are on a roll or attend an
> event that would enrich you artistically when you are thinking about
> the alarm clock going off in the morning and what you must
> prepare for. At the same time, I don't think art teachers every really cut
> off the artist within even though they are not showing. Their artistry
> displays itself in other (maybe less satisfying) ways.
> Martha Ulakovits
Its all about balance Martha....
jumping back into teaching has helped in that sense for me, and no doubt
will as long as I continue teaching. Of course with all the changes hitting
education in the next several years, I think part of balance for me is to
keep alive my potential to work as an artist should cuts find their way to
Whatever consumes your passions, your heart...becomes almost like a god or
thing that controls and possesses you. Painting reminds me that balance
needs to exist even in teaching. Teaching reminds me that making art only
as a profession too can possess you. Making art is a form of practicing
habits of celebration. It requires choices. I don't watch
"Friends"...don't frequent nightclubs, bowling alleys, basically...avoid
most social life. I can't make as much art as I used to, but that "how I'm
going to manage my life and make it work" as a pressure, is off as an
artist. Thus, I'm enjoying an aspect of art that as a fulltime artist for
twelve years I stepped out of the classroom I had lost. I'm not missing the
pressure to make life work, nor the pressure of the publishers, art agents,
galleries etc., to make what they would agree to market.
Keeping a painting going in the art room legitimizes in the minds of the
students that I place a high value on making art. Fielding their questions
causes them to consider that one human being is not trapped by the
enculturation of what is important that comes across MTV, or Hollywood, or
sport's channels. Knowing how heavily many kids are involved in the
drinking scene and how many of their parents role model the importance of
yet going to their favorite bars/taverns...they have to rectify one person
they have come to like, an adult...that would prefer to NOT be part of that
scene. To choose instead to set up an easel at some isolated scene and
paint. Some have driven by at times in our northwoods and have seen me
It carries the emphasis of my classroom teaching art out of the classroom...
and if it can exist outside of the classroom for me, then the message is
sent that art or rather "celebrating life in a wholesome impassioned manner"
can exist by the choosing for them.
I've had kids ask in lieu of my paintings (had this conversation last week),
why I "am wasting my talents as an artist, teaching?" Those are good
moments to talk to kids. Perhaps not making art some teachers might not
hear such things, I don't know. But time and time again I get the feeling
that students think teachers teach because they couldn't do something else.
Thus, I bring an added sense of urgency or of a crusade into the classroom
that learning has value.
I've been here several years now...and am tenured, but as yet have not
bought a house. I know that students and administrators are wondering if I
intend to stay. I know that many wonder if I am not entertaining moving out
west near some more artistic communities to work as an artist. Its kept a
respect for who and what I am alive...I know that. I think in fact a couple
teachers are bugged by what they think is my not fully embracing that I now
am simply, "a teacher." I know their prescription- "just teach, then go
home. Get over it...other things that could expand your horizons are over.
You simply have retirement to look forward to now. That's it."
Its not about feeling guilty for not making art. I certainly hope that my
zeal for the making of it does not react in that manner on others. Again,
its not about trying to figure out how to make life work. Its more about
learning to be content, recognizing when you are being blessed, and yet
blessed or not can still accept each day for what it is. Not necessarily
always happy, yet joyful. The greatest value of making art for me and what
I role model, is the independence from not having to march to the drum of
every source of influence around me, young people...or anyone. IT is
learning to jump off the treadmill of the insane pace of the world, its
values, its enculturation...question and take in values, find means to
contemplate...to seek, search, find, then hold onto higher things. Then
learn to celebrate that Life! Balance...