Tag 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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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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#clmooc #makecycle6 geolocate your space

I have been so busy that I haven’t been able to tackle the CLMOOC 6th project which is a wonderful theoretical collaboration between the U.S. National Park Service and educators on geo-mapping the spaces where we come together.  And given that we camp every year in the U.S. at these amazing places, it would have been easy and joyful…  So much fun and so inspiring to see what others are doing, though.  Which always makes me want to participate.

But I’ve taken a new half time teaching position in an actual college after years of teaching adults of all kinds in the places where they work and live and play. I’m pretty excited and getting exciteder (some oppositional quality makes me want to be anti-grammatical after becoming faculty) – the classes I am teaching are great, the texts are exciting, new colleagues are so helpful and there’s a nice mix of things I know really well and look forward to sharing as well as new things to learn about and I like those differential explorations. But, still.  New texts, old texts, someone else’s syllabus and lectures to support making my own, and three new tech platforms, a new-to-me institutional department and figuring out letting go of half of what I’ve been doing at my regular and much-loved work – whew!

So I figured I would forgo this as, taking on a new MOOC, I’d already given myself permission to lurk more than participate but then today as I multitasked – getting the car serviced whilst reading and annotating a text and creating lecture notes on how students might think about survey classes and master the assignments I suddenly looked down and realized I’d drawn a map. And then thought about how maps appear often in my graphic recordings.  Sometimes as pictures of maps… But, even so, the graphics themselves are maps – ways to get from one place to another.  That’s the point.

And so is the art I make – the mapping of movements and intersections…  I like this quote by Albert Einstein, “Nothing happens until something moves,” and often think about how it applies to our interactions of all kinds.

I was fascinated by the intent watchfulness of this young art student as he circled The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna, in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence, and tried to draw his movements as well as the sculpture for different perspectives...  in about ten minutes :)

I was fascinated by the intent watchfulness of this young art student as he circled The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna, in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence.  I tried to draw his movements as well as the sculpture from different perspectives as I, too, circled it… in about ten minutes 🙂  

RapeOfTheSabinesDrawing

So I thought it would be interesting just to share some of these useful mapping metaphors.

How a survey course takes a HUGE amount of tangled information and supports the student through a combination of readings, reflections on their own experience, interactions with others, and projects, to create a kind of sense-making map about what happened when, some of which can be organized into things I now know, but also leaving one with a list of many questions to be followed up later.

Draft of an illustrated mindmapping/Venn diagram.  How a survey course takes a HUGE amount of tangled information and supports the student through a combination of readings, reflections on their own experience, interactions with others, and projects, to create a kind of sense-making map of the subject – about what happened when, some of which can be organized into things we now know, but also importantly, hopefully leaving one with a list of many questions to be followed up later.

Messy!!!  Private graphics like this (see Brandy Agerbeck’s draw quad) only need to be understood by the person who made and will be using them.  For me these are always interestingly meta-pedagogical as I can see in them how the larger graphics assist the memory, inspiration, organization and planning of larger groups that I work with – at those events I’m often so focused on the listening that I’m not always aware of the usefulness.  Mapping out how one idea from the text – in this case, how stereotypes develop and may be countered – through the text, the research they cite and one’s own experience (in brown) through a kind of messy mind-mapping process out of which one can begin to formulate the paper to be written.

MindmappingCounteringStereotypes

Then I started thinking of other, earlier examples.  This is a not great photo of one of the first graphics I created publicly, a combination of graphic recording and using templates with a group of people with disabilities on “Climb Every Mountain” – what’s a challenge that you’ve addressed and what did you learn that could help you in your next challenge?

ClimbEveryMountain2010

Often graphic recording is the recording of processes.

Parents organized this evening of speakers talking about different parts of the development of their children, their children's networks and themselves.

Parents organized this evening of speakers talking about different parts of the development of their children, their children’s networks and themselves.

In these two graphics, the first maps the future plan for a transition and independence by one organization doing great work, while the second maps what another organization has done in the context of similar actions around the continent.

InCommonAndBuildingCaringCommunitiesFinally, this is one of my favourite drawings – an off the cuff “here by dragons” from a wonderful talk by David Wetherow at TASH‘s open space gathering.  “Here be dragons” is what ancient maps used to say about unmapped places they were uncertain of.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

And by the way National parks board you rock and the Jessie M. Honeyman park is my favourite place in the world so far 🙂

CollageCampingHappy travelling and happy camping!

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