Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Dear Art Student,

I teach studio art classes at a liberal arts university.  This, of course, provides me with a particular way of thinking about the purpose of higher education.  But I'm also a parent.  And that provides me with a new way of thinking about the purpose of higher education.  Each year at university recruiting events I'll have parents ask me if their children will be able to find a job if they get an art degree.  The idea of the starving artist has been perpetuated to the point of making a 4 year degree in studio art seem laughable to some.  

I completely understand how illogical an art degree can seem to a non-creative parent.  They see the world through their eyes and their experience.  But their skepticism about the possibility of artistic careers filters down to their children so that even the most talented young artist must wonder if they can pay a mortgage with their art degree.

Life is about so much more than your job.

I've had enough students and parents ask me serious questions about art related careers lately, that it feels important to share something with you.  This semester I sent an email to my upper level students to perhaps pry one eye open about the possibilities of their degrees.  That email is copied below.  Perhaps it may help you see your world a little differently...

Dear Art Student,

Some of you have a general idea of where you want to head after school.  Some of you have no idea.  Some of you have dreams that deep down you kinda sorta think will never happen.  Some of you are worried about not getting an art job or not using your 4 year degree.

Here’s some blanket advice for you:  Do what you love.  

If that’s art related, awesome.  If it’s in another field altogether, awesome.  But why on Earth would you choose to willingly work 40+ hours each week doing something that bores you?  Why limit yourself to only enjoying life on weekends?  That’s just dumb and life is too short for that nonsense.

People these days are so concerned with getting jobs and careers and they are using college as a means to that end.  You did not choose to go to a vocational or technical school.  You chose a university education…and one at a liberal arts college.  The purpose of a liberal arts education is to teach you how to think and how to be a good and useful human while appreciating the beauty around you. Sure, you may get some experiences and tips along the way to make you more desirable to a particular vocational field, but what you are learning has a much more broad application than just a “major”.  

And creative people like you are perhaps even better prepared for the broad job market than any other students.  You learn how to critically analyze a given situation and locate problems.  You learn to plan ahead and anticipate potential problems before they even exist.  You learn to use unorthodox and creative solutions to solve those problems.  You learn how to create things that did not formerly exist in the world.  You learn how to truly see the world around you and you learn how to interact with that world and how to show parts of that world to others.  That is the very recipe for a perfect employee.

Forget this crap you’ve been sold about wasting your time and money being an art major.  And shame on anyone who has insinuated or flat out told you this.  You will all leave here with a degree experience that makes you much more useful and valuable to employers and to society than any other major on campus.

So stop feeling pressure.  Stop feeling anxious about what you might do for the rest of your life.  Give some thought to your dreams.  Give some thought to what makes you happy and how you might give back what you have learned to those less fortunate souls around you who did not have the ability to be art majors.  As you plan your future, plan to do what you love doing.  Plan to live a life even better than what you have dreamed.  And when you walk across that stage at graduation, every single step you take after shaking the president’s hand should advance you in the direction of your dreams.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

it was the summer of accidental adventures

Last summer was great.  It was the Summer of Waterfalls.  And really, how can you top that?  

This summer I entertained lots of ideas.  The summer of treehouses.  The summer of beaches.  The summer of sitting around in your underwear and watching tv.  

Eventually the summer named itself.  This summer was the Summer of Accidental Adventures.  

What does this mean?  Simply put, it meant saying "Sure!" to almost everything.  Not sure you understand?  Here, let me explain in photos....

 Would you like to try on some of our masks for the parade down main street?  Sure.

 What about you young lady?  Sure.

 Can we rent a kayak and explore the inlet?  Sure.

 That was really fun, can we get our own kayak?  Sure.

 Admittedly, much of the summer was spent in the kayaks on Lake Greenwood.  Blue graduated into my single kayak and Violet and I took the new tandem.  One of the perks of accidental adventures is that there's no real planning involved.  We'd wake up, make waffles and while devouring them I'd ask the kids what they wanted to do that day.  If they said kayak, we'd tie the 'yaks down and drive to the lake.  If they said have a lazy day, we'd sit in our underwear all day.

 Of course every day can't be adventure day.  There were plenty of sculpture work days in the basement and those porch rails had not been painted in 5 years.  I suppose that was an adventure too, just not a particularly enjoyable one.

 And there were always cool new things to see on our adventures.  

 And when it's 500 degrees out, any sort of shade is a good place to relax.

 Little Miss Independence jumped at the chance to take Blue's paddle from him so she could "drive".  Blue would tie up to our boat and let us pull him.

 Fireworks?  Sure.

 Because who doesn't love sparklers?

 Ginger invited us up to Lake Lure one day to hang out.  Sure.
 The kids got to swim in the lake with Scarlett.

 They seemed to love it.

 Blue even had a quick nap.

 And who can complain when your view looks like this?

 The public sculpture project in Columbia was also an accidental adventure.  The kids had to tag along on our trips to take care of business there.  When we installed the anchor system, some punk kids came by and scratched their names in the concrete.  Vandals.

 Since we were in Columbia, we took a little hike along the river.

 Chick Fil A had their dress like a cow day.  You dress like a cow and you get free sandwiches.  We found this out at breakfast and the answer was, sure.  Our plans for the day included making cow shirts and horns.  Oh, and eating a free lunch.

 Some students invited us on a hike.  Sure.

 We went to Brevard and hit Moore Cove Falls.

 Then stopped by Looking Glass Falls.

 In the middle of our week in St. Augustine, we thought, why not drive to Orlando and check out Disney Springs?  Sure.

 And on the way home, you wanna stop by Savannah to walk around and eat lunch?  Sure.

 What's indoor rock climbing?  Can we do it?  Sure.

 jon was kind enough to let us use his lake place to launch the kayaks.

 We had a good day of paddling before being chased away by a storm.

 One afternoon we found a BBQ joint out in the middle of nowhere.  On the way home we saw a little parking area beside the river and we swerved in to check it out.  It turned out to be a very cool place.

 One of the best tasting accidental adventures was our discovery of organic and real fruit popsicles.  We first discovered them at The Hyppo in St. Augustine but we found one closer to home in Greenville called King of Pops.

 We had summer art hike after a lot of rain which made the stream crossings pretty wet.

 But it was a lot of fun.

 We stopped in Tryon to play piano with Nina Simone.  Blue showed her how to use the foot for that extra little something.

 Blue went to Sky Zone with a friend and told us how cool the ninja course was.

 So of course we had to check that out too.

 We ended the summer right before the kids went back to school with an impromptu trip to Charleston for the day.  

 We ate at Nicks BBQ and walked around a little.  When we came to St. Philip's I noticed a little sign that said to use the other door.  I took this as an invitation to go inside.  All my life I've taken photos of this church, the steeple and the graveyard but never once thought to go inside.  So we opened the huge door and walked in where we were greeted by the pastor.  He offered us water and let us look around while he attended to some things.  Photos do not do justice to the beautiful and historic interior space.  It really felt like church in there.  I recommend it.

After some afternoon beach time, we pulled up to the counter at Paige's Okra Grill and stuffed ourselves before officially ending our summer.

Maybe next summer will be the Summer of Eating Stuff.