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Lesson Plans

Fine Arts Night

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Larry Seiler (
Fri, 5 Nov 1999 17:31:40 -0600

>Parents come in, walk around and view the artwork, =
>then go to the auditorium to watch the performance. I guess I'm looking =
>for some ideas to add more WOW to the visual arts, so that patrons would =
>linger longer or at least express more emotion! Every year my students =
>work extremely hard on their exhibit, and they get so excited about it, =
>yet there is always this "let down" afterwards. I'm missing something - =
>WHAT? The exhibit is in the spring, but I'm starting on it now. Thanks!


Mine is a long response, one I hope teachers will muse over....
I think this is a most interesting post. It parodies life as in artist in
the real world as well.

Artists that spend much of their lives developing their talents only to
discover 30 years later that only other artists appear to possess the
aesthetic and technical understanding to appreciate their body of work. I
have won some major regional and state awards over the past 25 years with
work that "wows" people...but, the only way to make a living would demand I
submit to the marketing machine that doesn't educate patrons to understand
and appreciate art. Instead, it placates to their social status via the
artist's proven accolades, and sells them on why they must buy and possess
a work. An investment. A collector's hope. Their home decor's acquisition
to impress others.

A major publisher of art today looks at their monthly sales by computer
print out. They see that 1800 prints sold the month previous, for example.
Of those, perhaps 65% were the subject of wolves, and of those 75% were
winter scenes, and of those 80% in predominant blue hues. Guess what they
want you their signed artist to paint? They will promise to promote the
importance of your work. To sell you. You sell your soul because you are
under contract, hoping that "making it" will be all that you believe it to

Its all about the value of art. How is it perceived? Why possess it? If
it fails to deliver on a promise to advance "me" the patron somehow...what
good is it?

Like the parents/community members that fail to observe the same inate
sense of priority you value for your student's art work, our culture sees
people daily going about their business, busily scurrying about crowded
sidewalks oblivious to the works of artists waiting to be viewed in
galleries- galleries struggling to pay their monthly leases.

Here's what I, a working artist returning to the classroom have come to
learn and believe. Its not what happens to you, but "in" you that matters.
Hindsight and age eventually causes artists to reconsider why they bother
to make art in the first place. Your post makes me wonder if the
frustration I and so many other artists have spent a lifetime trying to
wrestle with doesn't begin with us as children in art classrooms. I hope
this post causes some discussion, and I look forward to how other comments
might be cause for good contemplation of it. Perhaps we may be dangling
the wrong "carrot" on the stick for students that we do art for others and
their reactions to it, and set in motion that which will disappoint many
for the apparent disregard.

I have stood as a visiting artist before many art students of numerous
schools, and always they are most interested to know how much money I have
made. I have poured my soul in the passion of the smell and feel of paint,
of the effect of color, and all kids want to know is how much money I have
made. I have riches they simply do not understand and therefore cannot

Kids need to have their esteem built up. We are disappointed when their
hard work is not rewarded. In our explanation thereafter to students
however, we need to reinforce that art has value for what it does to us as

My work is in about a half-dozen galleries, yet...I go upstairs to a room
in my house and see about 60 of my paintings that need to get into
galleries still. If their only value is to be seen and to be sold, then I
am hardpressed to do something with them or I am...and my life, has been a
tragedy and failure. BUT...when I drive down a country road and see the
morning's sun reveal the mist of the dew, the shadows cloaked in cool
colors causing a fields warm colors to explode, and realize most people are
never fully "alive" because they have not learned to see beyond
"looking"....then I am reminded how rich I am.

The value of art will not be found in the empty promise to make us
something in the eyes of others. As one that has accomplished that
artistically, I know. Art is a tool that can work to complete us. It
advances our humanity by increasing our contemplative sensitivities. It
invokes a sense of compassion in the artistically inclined toward other's
misfortunes by nurturing empathy. More than that, failing to "make it"
removes us to some great degree from the rat race and values of modernity
by forcing us to look at the world differently.

Isn't that and hasn't that been historically the value of art all along?
To help us discern what it means to be fully human?

The heart of the problem, is the problem of the heart. You can't change
the hearts of all those people that ought to give the kids their due. You
do have an influence over the hearts of the kids in the classroom, and you
will need to help them see a value above and beyond the apparent lack of
public accolade.

Continue to show their work and be their advocate, but they need to know
that art is not only for the purpose of affecting change in others...but
that they themselves will be changed, and for the better. If my work is
never seen again...or if I never sell another, my next painting will be
worth my attention and what it will do in me. I am thankful for the
lifelong effect of art making which has equipped me with the means to
celebrate being alive. Peace...

Larry Seiler
artist's site-
WetCanvas Artists page- (shorter and quicker loading)

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