Making Art is Taking Action
I am honored by the invitation to be the Monthly Mentor for January, 2013. I’ll be writing about a few ideas, applications, and projects. But, for this first post, I feel compelled to mention the current sadness felt by educators in all school subjects. The recent school shootings reminded me of my first art teaching position in an area where students died each year as a result of gun violence. Many households had guns and I remember the second grader who brought her father’s loaded gun to school for show and tell. Even in that environment, most parents and teachers worked hard to keep school a gun-free zone.
Yet, now, the NRA wants teachers to keep guns in classrooms and the amount of ammunition usually sold in a year was sold in three days before Christmas. Gun promoters are trying to convince people to buy body armor for children, bulletproof backpacks, and gun training programs for elementary school students. In other parts of the world, people have learned that such mercenary interests have hurt more than helped, whereas gun control and buy-back programs have succeeded.
So, as we start the New Year, educators at all levels are wondering how to respond to gun violence and the hysteria that could endanger more children.
Educators are often told that we should teach only the truth, stick to facts, and avoid teaching values in school. We teach the visual arts, which are fundamentally about beliefs, values, attitudes, perspectives, and alternatives. The fact is that fine art and other forms of visual culture can remind us of the value of human life. Art and design education are as much about new ideas as they are about established truths --- but, let’s teach the truth about gun violence and ways the arts can aid in its prevention. While dealing with the most recent administrative or policy mandates, it helps to remember the purposes of art. At any age, making to express opinions, release concerns, or convince people to stand for peace, health, and safety, gives students an opportunity to be proactive, rather than fearful. Making art is taking action.