Yesterday, one of the kids asked me about the next art project. I was taken aback. Come to think of it, every other day, this other kid asks me, ‘So, what’s today’s conceptual/Contemporary art?’ And, this other other kid has been asking me about a project we started but that I’ve back-burnered. Ha! This school year more than previous years, I’ve joined my work as an artist to my work as a teacher. I’ve run/am running three or four projects that respond to our lives at school. The habit has become so seamless that I didn’t even realize that my students were conscious of art as a ‘thing’ in our daily interactions.
My work as an artist and teacher is based on faith – free of evidence – that how we think about the world shapes how we interact with the world, and that healthy communities require the holistic and full development of all individual community members.
Art for me is a stepping out of, an away from, to see how a ‘thing’ works. Teaching for me is a stepping in to, a bumping up against, to look at how we (might) position ourselves in relationship to the ‘thing’. I’ve been patching together a ‘way’ of doing this work from all kinds of examples, but, until yesterday, I hadn’t had any evidence that my work made any difference.
Which is a lie.
Before yesterday, I hadn’t had any evidence of the efficacy of my way that an interested outside party that ‘matters’ might accept. I had evidence of my own in my life and in my students’ lives, things like the way we talk to each other in class or how the kids share with one another or expand their ideas about what life can be and messages from the real-world about the choices they’ve made. I care about those things, but they aren’t measurable in any way that standardized tests and grades consider. At best, their questions about art at school would only be relevant to some non-profit arts organization. That’s an improvement, I guess.
But, no, my current students’ articulated awareness of conceptual art in our lives at school is evidence to me that art can be a conscious, vital, everyday part of anyone’s life.
My students don’t get cultural cachet from our art. There’s no money involved, there are few, if any, objects to be hoarded or displayed. The art is in the idea, our interactions. And now I feel like a right ass for making any statement about it at all.
Back to work.