Testimonial #23: Kathleen E. LoPinto Vignolini, Retired, substitute K-8 & Art K-8; BA Art Ed K-12 Teacher

For me the old proverb, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.” has always been a truism, as creativity sparks more creativity.

How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

Today my motto is “Life is Art. Art is Life.” That’s because doing Art gave me life. It let me excel at something, something I loved to do. Being that I’m dyslexic and that back in the ’50s & ’60s, there wasn’t any classification, nor help, for those of us having difficulty in school. Growing up, Art was my life saving subject! It seemed my only chance to do well at something, and I wanted so much to be good at something. I loved art from the first time I scribbled on paper. Then too, my uncle was an artist in NYC and I loved and was fascinated by his work.

In school, we only had Art once a week, if we had time! Schools concentrated on the academics, the 3 R’s, along with History, Geography, and Science. Some teachers in my parochial school incorporated art within other subjects, or made sure there was time for visual art, while others did not. In my second 6th grade (I failed my first one), Sr. Marie Peter’s motto was “Observe, observe, observe!” every thing, every where, every day! She encouraged me to “be me” and that I could do more than I imagined. One “Art lesson” was to draw a tree. Sister didn’t show us how, she just told us to draw one. Everyone else did the typical round top tree, with or without fruit, some did a simple pine tree. I hesitated at first. Then, out of our window, I saw a grey sky and a leafless tree, and began to draw its dark and lighter bark. Sr. walked by and asked about my drawing. (As I had just memorized & recited Poe’s “Annabel Lee”, I thought she was concerned about my mental state.) When I showed her what I saw across the street, she smiled & said she was pleased that I observed well. Sr. also encouraged creative writing and research writing, and had us participate in class debates.
Off I went to High School. After I’d handed in a few untypical projects, my only Art teacher told me that what I lacked in talent (but can be learned), I more than compensated for in creativity. I took it wrong though, and had the emphasis on “lack of Talent” and didn’t even hear the “can be learned” part. Later I began to realize her meaning. My World History teacher, Sr Jean d’Arc, also emphasized art through out the ages. In her class we studied “history through Art” of every era, as well as the names, dates, and facts. In Glee Club Sr. Virgine added to my Arts Education. She brought NYC professionals in for our school plays. All Glee Club members were automatically in for the parts or in the chorus. Sr. also brought us to New York, to the old Met, introducing many to Opera. At my home, we cleaned our house to WQXR’s Saturday at the Opera.
Because of these and other teachers using art in their curriculum and their encouragement, I continued to doodle, and I copied those small images from Encyclopedias onto 9 x 12 paper (without graphing). I also drew all 6 of our kids faces from photos. I had hopes of going into Art Therapy, but our many military moves, and rearing our kids prevented that.

I was never trained to draw, but early on I asked for a Jon Gnagy drawing set that I saw in a TV ad. I thought that if my work was any good, I’d show them to my Uncle and ask him to teach me. But when I looked at the work in Jon Gnagy’s book, then to my own drawings, I thought mine were very poor. (I changed that opinion, when I was studying to be an Art Educator, some 40 years later.) I adored my uncle, but my awe for him and his work also kept me from asking him to teach me. After they moved to PA I’d spend a few weeks with Uncle Ferdie and Aunt Dorothy, for several summers. (Aunt Dorothy got me to memorize Poe’s Annabel Lee, just by reading it to me!) Unlike his 3 boys, I was allowed to go into his home studio to watch him paint. By this time, his work was Non-objective; just lines, shapes, and colors. Once, he told me that he “saw the whole piece before he even began to stretch his canvas.” The whole composition, every element of it, was in his mind’s eye. I didn’t believe him, so he showed me by pointing to where several drops of liquefied paint would stop on the piece he was working on. I still didn’t believe him, until years later working on my own I began to know and understood what he meant. I was doing just that! To this day I wonder, did they have me spend those summers with them, so I could ask my uncle to teach me about art? I so wish I had swallowed my fears.
At 43, I went out to start College and took an art class each semester, which in my mind, helped me get through the tougher courses. I wound up on the Deans list twice, and Graduated with a 3.5 GPA, with 2 majors: Education & Art Education. Sadly, no one wanted to hire a 50 yr. old teacher. But I became the only substitute for an Art Teacher in one school, and also substituted for K-8 in other subjects. One day I decided to finally join a local art guild. That helped me delve into other mediums, and the networking boosted my self esteem of my artwork.
My love of art and the creative process has filtered through every aspect of my life. I’ve used that creative spirit in everything, from setting up each of the 13 homes we lived in, and designing rooms to be remodeled, to making things from scratch for our kids and home, to writing memoir of my parents and grandparents. Creativity also guides me in how I handle people in various situations, and helps me continually refine my world view.
For me the old proverb, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.” has always been a truism, as creativity sparks more creativity. Like when, after I’d just finished one painting, an idea came to do another in the same method. Then before I finished the second painting, another idea came to me. Each time I did a painting in that technique, another idea would come earlier and earlier in the process of working! The end result, was a series of 7 very different paintings!

Testimonial #22: Joel Kahn, Math Teacher/Graphic Artist

How are the arts re-igniting your community and sparking innovation and creativity in your local schools?

My wife is a public school art teacher who has been plugging away at it for longer than she wants me to say. It’s a tough job sometimes, but there are students who are learning and applying important ideas.

How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?
It’s not just art by itself; it’s how art interacted with other subjects that I studied. That’s how I eventually was able to make math a basis for art I produced.


Testimonial #21: Cathlyn Melvin, Director Compass Creative Dramatics

How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

When I was a sophomore in high school, I had to fill an empty hour. The composition class I really wanted to take wasn’t open to 10th graders, so I dug through our course catalogue to find something that would interest me. I went to a public school that didn’t provide much beyond immediate course requirements, so I ended up taking an acting class, even though I knew, by reputation, that this was a class that kids took for an easy A. I didn’t have much faith that I would learn anything, but the government said I had to be in school for that hour, so I had to sign up for something.

I knew the teacher – I had him for freshman English when we read “Romeo & Juliet”. He was one of the strongest teachers I had (one of the reasons I wanted to take his comp class!). Unfortunately, he was swimming upstream with this slacker course, and I didn’t get much from most of the class.

At the end of the semester, we were supposed to prepare a scene. I knew I wanted to do a solo piece, but I was at a loss for what to choose. He asked me if I would consider doing Shakespeare, and he helped me cut some of Juliet’s monologues into a story arc.

This was the first time I got to work with Shakespeare’s language, outside of simply reading the text, and it was maybe the first step in leading me to study classical theatre in college. I love Shakespeare (Shakespeare and children’s theatre are my two favorite genres!) and looking back, I’m very appreciative of Mr. Heling’s willingness to take the extra measure and work on something that was up my alley – and challenging.

The Madrid’s Edie Falco on Carmela, Jackie and the High School Musical That Launched Her Career

By Kathy Henderson
Twitter @KatH_NY
February 27, 2013

Before Edie Falco donned mob wife couture as Carmela in The Sopranos, she won a Theatre World Award for her harrowing performance as the embittered wife of a jazz musician in Warren Leight’s Tony-winning drama Side Man. Falco continued to make stage acting a priority while becoming only the second person in history to win lead acting Emmys in both drama (The Sopranos) and comedy (the title role in Nurse Jackie). Now starring as a runaway mom in MTC’s off-Broadway premiere of The Madrid, Falco chatted with Broadway.com about her iconic TV heroines, three favorite stage roles and the high school musical that gave her the confidence to pursue a career in acting.
Read more…

Role That Changed My Life

“I was a shy, awkward kid—I didn’t know how to be popular and never wore the right clothes—and being chosen to play Eliza in My Fair Lady at Northport High School [on Long Island] was very, very meaningful. My mother had been an actress, and the idea of auditioning for a play was mortifyingly scary for me. But Fran McGarry, who is still performing, cast me and gave me the confidence that I could carry a play and lead an ensemble. The fact that she trusted me was a huge part in my becoming an actress. My Henry Higgins was David Troup, who now works at a theater in Maine [Everyman Rep] and was one of my dearest friends. I would love to do a [Broadway] musical. I almost did Threepenny Opera with Alan Cumming, but I had a conflict. I find the whole mode of expression in musicals very moving.”

Fran’s Comment:

As Edie’s high school drama teacher, I am grateful and humbled to know that I played a small part in the arc of her career; nevertheless, there are thousands of teachers who have impacted the lives of so many students. Edie was the first to share her story:
“Fran McGarry and Eve Terry, perhaps unbeknownst to them, played a huge part in my path to my present career. Though I was just a schoolkid, they treated me like an artist; made me believe I had something unique to offer. They helped grow my confidence which I believe can take you anywhere you want to go. I am so grateful.” Edie Falco, July 11,2011

What about you?
How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

First Online With Fran: 7,388 Views

First Online With Fran is endorsed by the African American Playwrights Exchange!

ff12_katori_hall[1]Friday, February 22, 2013
Cherry Lane Theatre playwright mentoring program (NYC)

Katori Hall

First Online With Fran is a TV talk show dedicated solely to arts advocacy as a means to raise sustainable national attention to the Arts. Hosted by Frances McGarry, the pilot episode features an interview with Angelina Fiordellisi, Artistic Director and Founder of the renowned Cherry Lane Theatre in NYC. It’s worth a watch for a couple of reasons because 1) playwright Katori Hall gets a plug, 2) you get to meet the person behind the playwright mentoring program, and 3) it helps support Ms. McGarry’s goal of creating the first TV talk show dedicated solely to arts advocacy– and us.