Tag Archives: School Arts magazine

Memories as catalyst

Movie Theater © Edward Hopper

Let’s go to the movies.

My earliest memory of going to the movies is of a drive-in theater in Shawnee, Kansas, near Kansas City, Missouri where I was born. My mom would thoughtfully pack a red and black plaid picnic bag full of snacks, although once there, my brother and I would beg our dad to walk us down, over the humps of concrete and gravel to the drive-in cafe to buy burgers and fries. My dad skillfully built a custom platform that would sit in the floorboard, behind the front seats, and in front of the back seats, of their green, 1964 Pontiac. This well-crafted innovation was a “make-shift” playground for my brother and I to play in or to use when we got tired of the movies and wanted to lay quietly, looking out the windows at the stars and eventually fall asleep.

I still laugh at a story my former husband always told of going to a rural drive-in theater, on a double date, with his high school sweetheart in Monroeville, Ohio. That drive-in backed up to a sheep farm and, during the film, a mischievous teenager cut the fence wire that separated the farm from the drive-in. Within minutes, while everyone was engrossed in the movie, or in romantic escapades, hundreds of sheep came up beside the cars bleeting “baaa….baaa” and carloads of movie goers were startled and laughing as the herd quickly spread through the rows of cars! Some people were so shocked they started their cars and drove off without first taking the speaker off the car window!

My memories of old cinemas go back to my junior high school days. On weekends, one of my favorite things to do was meet up with friends at the old Ozark Theater in Ozark, Missouri.  It was a run-down old place on the south side of the square that we all called the Rat-Trap. I remember buying big bags of popcorn for fifteen cents and being thrilled to sit next to the boy I had a crush on. Not only was I recently reminded that I received my first kiss there on the worn out velvet seats, but afterward I went home and threw up out of nervousness. My sweet friend, Debby, remembers worrying that she might get pregnant after kissing her first sweetheart there.

School Arts magazine coverSince then, I’ve always noticed old cinema buildings and drive-in theaters as I’ve driven throughout Texas, my home for the last twenty-seven years. The unique charm of their facades and the beautifully shaped marquees always capture my attention. These memories sat in the back of my brain’s file cabinet for years before I was able to apply them to a successful high school project that was recently featured in the April 2012 issue of School Arts, a professional art education magazine.

As the article explains, I was visiting a new friend’s home and quickly realized they were art collectors. One of my favorite sculptural relief pieces was by Dallas artist, Jon Flaming.  Flaming’s love of Texas is evident in his landscapes and rural settings, and it was precisely when I saw his piece, “Nehi Bottling, Deep Ellum” that, in a moment’s flashing, I knew I’d found the project to apply my collected memories of “vintage cinemas” to. I invite you to read the article, which explains the project in detail, and see if you can apply it to a project of your own. For my readers who are interested in old Texas theaters, I used the fabulous website called Texas Escapes. Be careful, though; you can get lost in it for hours!

Maybe you, too, have an interest in old cinemas, but perhaps you have a fond memory of old gas stations, old courthouses, old bridges or water towers. Stand in the quiet, perhaps after a yoga practice and think back to fond memories that you can build a project around. Make a list. What are you interested in? Pack a picnic, go to a park and lay down in the fresh, green spring grass. Look up towards the heavens and let your mind drift. Think back to childhood things. Remember what you loved. Is there a way to bring it to life through your teaching? I think the reason my students get so excited about their projects is because I’m excited about them, as so many of them have to do with me! As my colleagues always say, “As artist-teachers, we give our best ideas away to our students.” Through these projects I tell stories about me; things I experienced when I was their age, and they listen and laugh at how times have certainly changed.

What are your favorite memories from childhood? Let’s create a project around them!

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Teaching on the planet

Olive Picker Girl
by Melissa Enderle

People always ask me, “How did you think of that?”

I never know how to answer that question. It is usually asked of me in regards to the student projects I dream up. The culmination of my experiences and the emotional attachment I have, on any given day, to the things I see in my path: the turning of a page of a particular magazine, the sight of a particular word in a poem, the fragrances I smell on my walk, can set off a creative burst of energy like a boulder rolling down a mountain. My colleagues can attest to the fact that when I’m in “my zone”, I don’t hear people talking to me that are sitting right in my office. I can totally tune out when I’m tuned in to what I’m doing.

Although I studied art education for a while in college, I eventually changed my mind and became a studio artist. I received my BFA and also got certified to teach art, Kindergarten through 12th grade. I remember saying that I didn’t actually want to teach. But time changes things and now that I have taught school-age art students, I would conclude that this experience has been one of the most valuable gifts I’ve ever received.

I recognize the responsibility that I have in the influencing of young minds. This is bewildering, exciting and frightening. I know they watch me and see my faults, but they seem to love me anyway, and I’m humbled. I work at stretching their minds open to new views, both about their art and about life in general. I never liked fitting into the crowd and I try to encourage them to not only find the courage to express their artistic visions but to also embrace being unique, as a person. I want them to PUSH their blacks in charcoal and PUSH their imagination. My critiques are hard, but my love for them runs deep and they know it.

I used to have a button in college that I wore on my backpack. It said, “I Want It All”. I wanted every experience I could fit into a lifetime. I used to say I want to be a parent, but I don’t only want to be a parent. I wanted to try my hand at different jobs; be with different kinds of people. I’ve been known to get bored easily and look for the next new thing. I’ve loved teaching and it would be easy to stay where I am. I’m so comfortable and my blanket of security is warm. But, life is moving at a fast pace and I want to PUSH these remaining seasons of my life.

In April 2007, I was looking through a professional art educator magazine called, School Arts. There was an article that captivated me and was written by a woman named Melissa Enderle. In Teaching Art Abroad, Melissa wrote of her experiences of teaching art overseas in international schools. I ran to the photocopier to copy her words and have thought of little else since that day. Melissa is an artist and an art educator. Her artwork can be seen at her website. She also keeps a blog where she chronicles her daily experiences. Since that time, I have contacted Melissa about the possibility of my teaching art overseas like she does. She is a great encourager and has openly provided honest answers to my many questions. I’ve also done hours of research about working with a variety of educational recruitment firms. Now that my daughter is about to graduate from college and begin her adult life, I decided it’s about time I began mine too.

Melissa and I both agree that teaching abroad is a way to experience the world’s people in a personal manner that will change lives. Not only would I hope to influence my students and allow them to see a glimpse of what I know, I know that they, too, would teach me. Together, we would learn and the planet wouldn’t seem quite so large.

Is there someone who has influenced you in your career direction? I can’t wait to hear! Please comment.

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