Category Archives: education

Everything is art

quote-the-arts-it-has-been-said-cannot-change-the-world-but-they-may-change-human-beings-who-maxine-greene-93-20-31I spent two years in art school, doing little else but make art.  When I graduated they invited me to apply for a place in a new diploma program where I could focus on nothing but print-making, with access to a studio and supplies and assistance for larger projects.  I made hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pieces.  I rented a small studio in a building full of artists and in the common space where we made tea and took breaks we had great conversations about things like the techniques used by Japanese masters in watercolor woodblock prints, and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s use of pop drug culture and the idea of framing ontology in classical painting.  I got a job as an art history research assistant with responsibilities for editing visuals in a classy academic journal and they sent me to New York and Toronto to do things with architecture and check out galleries.  It was a heady transition for a kid from the farmlands and I never thought I’d do anything else.

Aaron Monet Waterlilies May 2018

May 2018, celebrating my 61st birthday with Monet’s Waterlilies at Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.

However, not long after that I received the tiniest inheritance, a few hundred dollars – it seemed like so much money at the time – and when I was reflecting and meditating on what to do with it, it came to me that I needed to have my feet on the ground and my hands in the earth.  So I moved out of the city and rented a tiny house with a tiny garden and got a largeish dog.  I applied for and got accepted into a university education program to teach art in schools, but it got shut down the week I began so I transferred into English and Classics.  I studied all day, all week, and at night I cleaned offices and on the weekends I silk-screened logs onto bathing caps.  And, one day, when I was having lunch with an art school friend, and she said, “It’s such a shame you’re not making art.”  That hadn’t occurred to me.  Was I even missing it?  Not that I’d noticed.

I went home and was weeding the garden and looked around at the flowers, herbs and vegetables and at my hands covered in earth and everything moving in the slight breeze and thought, “I think this, too, is art.”  And then the neighbour lady, who was a drug addict, came over to ask if she could have some flowers to take to her sister, who was also a drug addict, and had been beaten up and raped in the downtown east side and was now in the hospital recovering.  “I just love your flowers, I look at them all the time.”  I picked poppies that I grew because Monet did, and roses from a bush that Vita Sackville-West wrote about and sunflowers that van Gogh had loved…  you get the idea.  It was a garden built on art.  When I laid the bouquet into her arms, the rose thorns scratched her and I said, “Oh, I’m sorry!” and she laughed and said, “No harm done!  My sister will love these flowers.  I bet no one has ever brought her flowers before.”  And I looked at her arms, pocked with needle marks, now scratched and bleeding a little, and I thought, this too, is art.

graphic recording moving into my self 2018-06-30As I come to the end of one career after thirty years in social services and supports to people with disabilities, and vibrate in a whole new and exciting way in a new career teaching college students, I think, “this, too, is art.”  Everything is art.  I have somehow, after so many years, started using art in research and facilitation so that now I spend hours making art, with all kinds of partners and all kinds of colleagues, bringing everything I’ve learned into one package.  Some graphic recorders differentiate between their “art-making” and their graphic recording.  I don’t.  The recording of free ranging conversations with large groups of people and the clarification of the directions people want to go in to create a future that I am able to help them picture, is art.

I am preparing to teach a class in policy development and Indigenous experiences through a lens of truth and reconciliation.  That, too, is art.  I will begin with the metaphor of fire: policy is fire.  It can warm us and make us safe, and if we let it get out of control it can force us to flee in unwanted directions.  We can cook with it, we can get burned by it.  We can learn how to use it.  The most useful manifestos in my life have been those that were written by artists.  I think I will begin our class with some drawing…

Best wishes to a New Year, 2019, full of all kinds of art that you care about.

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A busy month…

I’ve been finishing up a big, distracting project that has required a lot of focus…  for some reason this meant that every time someone asked me to work at an event I just said yes 🙂 Hospitals engaging patients, self advocates strategic planning, MAPs and PATHs and training in California and with teachers in B.C..   It was good to use the other side of my brain, but it was particularly a gift to be around so many interesting people doing so many good things.   And always a gift to spend time with Liz Etmanski, who did some of the most charming of these drawings, and of course Shelley Nessman, my facilitation partner.   Next up – the Family Support Institute training weekend and then strategic planning in Kent, Washington with TLC.   For more information about having us at your events, you can contact me at imagineacircle@gmail.com or Shelley at Shelley@spectrumsociety.org

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Syllabus #CLMOOC

Then I thought, hey And courses I’m teaching – person centred planning for folks with disabilities, leadership and developmental studies through the lifespan – are really exciting too.  As usual I am thoughtful about how the support of folks with disabilities, one of the most lively, joy-provoking things to do, is made dull with old scripts based on needs and lacks and deficits…    and perhaps that’s the point?  If we were to really throw ourselves into the inspiration that folks with disabilities give us – I don’t mean by this a kind of disability-porn too-easy sleaziness – the way they and their families view the world and make it possible for all of us to view it in new ways that insist on our changing ourselves and the world so that it can belong to everyone.
And, if you are already working in the field you might want to check out Douglas College’s PLAR – Prior Learning and Recognition – because you can get credit for your experience that you can use towards a diploma or a degree.
Also I need to make a really great video.  You can see more of Mike’s work in Digital Ethnography here.
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