Arts Education Transforms Societies

Robert L. Lynch Headshot

Testimonial #42: David Morehead, Executive Director, Calling From The Dream

“I did not have a teacher that influenced me to actually pursue the arts. My decision to do so was pretty much pre-determined genetically at an early age. Music, acting, and the arts were a major part of my life growing up. Unfortunately though, the school system I attended, though not devoid of support for the arts, the focus and dollars were geared toward athletic programs and most specifically football.”

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?

My life was indelibly touched by an art teacher as a sophomore in high school. His name is Robert K. Haselier and it is a rather long and amusing story of where we started almost 45 years ago to where we are today as friends. I believe we both started at the high school I attended the same time; he, as a teacher and I as a student. If he did not leave the year I did after graduating, then he left the following year. My first encounter with him was when I entered his classroom for a drawing class. We had an assignment that required the use of scissors of which I did not have. I approached his desk and asked the question,” Where are the scissors at ?” ….This opened a lecture of how one does not use “at” at the end a sentence or end it with any preposition, blah,blah,blah….. Me being a 15 year old kid with attitude, I suppose it is easy to imagine my restrained thought of commenting “Kiss my …” followed with several choice expletives ending with my desire for him to return his to New Jersey. Fortunately, I did not. I had him for several classes the next 3 years all focusing on the arts, be it fine arts, foreign languages, humanities, etc. Eventually, we grew a tolerance [for each other] which developed into an acceptance, and avoided any confrontational situations. Towards the end of my senior year, he overheard a conversation I was having with a classmate about a stage production of “Tommy” that I had seen the night before. Long story short, he told me that he could allow extra credit points with a ticket stub and a written review if I wanted to submit. I found out that would have also been permitted for any class that I had taken from him e.g. a trip to an art museum for an art class, a concert for music appreciation, etc. With my backyard and stomping grounds being Sarasota , St. Petersburg, Tampa to Orlando and Daytona Beach and my love for the performing arts, had I known….I would have skipped classes a lot more than I did and actually came out ahead rather than being penalized. After I graduated from high school, we crossed paths a couple years later when he and his band mates came into a night club I was working, which featured live rock bands. We reconnected and saw each other frequently the next few years until I finally moved to the west coast. We did not see each other for a number of years. We did however touch base every few years, and then with the advent of Facebook and other social media avenues, are up to par again. Though we may not communicate daily, I do feel confident that he also feels that mutually reaching out to each other would bring a welcoming reception.
How are the arts re-igniting your community and sparking innovation and creativity in your local schools?

I am sure this is not quite the response you were anticipating as I did not have a teacher that influenced me to actually pursue the arts. My decision to do so was pretty much pre-determined genetically at an early age. Music, acting, and the arts were a major part of my life growing up. Unfortunately though, the school system I attended, though not devoid of support for the arts, the focus and dollars were geared toward athletic programs and most specifically football. One does not miss what is not available and besides this was something to have fun with, but not to be a chosen profession desired by my parents for me. When I was 16, I attended a Moody Blues concert with a friend and made the prophetic announcement that this was what I wanted to do with my life. Four years later, I was in a nightclub conversing with a keyboardist while he was on break and discovered that he, too, had a similar epiphany. Before he went back on stage, we had a laugh and decided we knew what we wanted; now, we had to just figure out how to make money doing so. Here I am today still trying to find the answer. If and when I do, my legacy will be to create a scholarship for students pursuing a career in performing arts. If it’s really successful, I will build a K-12 performing arts academy inclusive of a medium size theatre for the students’ performances. Hopefully, when she does appear at the end of my life, the fat lady who sings, will be a graduate of the academy and a recipient of a scholarship!

Testimonial #41: Joseph Crawford, Creative Producer/Artist

“The reality of the Arts as an industry is that you will be made to work hard, adapt to foreign situations, work for free (for a bit), and take your fair share of rejections… but it’s worth every minute when you see YOUR idea turn into a reality. “

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?

Mark, my English Literature teacher at Birkenhead Sixth Form College, taught me more than just an appreciation of history’s greatest written works – he also taught me that creativity is a choice, and it needs tending to if it is to blossom. Mark was a spell-binding individual; pony-tailed, long-bearded, and walked with the aid of his tree-branch staff (taken from the tree Wordsworth liked to sit under) – the definition of a romanticist. He would finish lessons 30 minutes before their time, and invite us to spend the rest of the time writing poetry. It was my own choice, and pleasure, to stay behind constructing sonnets while most of the classroom left. Through Mark’s lessons, I realized that I was not going to follow the same path as the majority. Nowadays I am surrounded by inspirational figures; Charlotte Corrie/Christina Grogan – Open Culture, Chris/Kaya Carney – Threshold, Alex McCorkindale, Director of Flux Liverpool (to name just a few) – Liverpool’s cultural icons who invest their time and energy into making the Arts a sustainable industry, and to inspire the next generation of Creatives. If I have a creative idea, I know where to begin in order to set the wheels in motion – never forgetting the realities, the costs, and the rewards of this harmonious community. Without mentors, young people in the arts will simply make the same mistakes as their predecessors, and in an increasingly difficult economic environment, we need all the help we can get. Cultural education starts in the Arts, and leads to bigger things than you can imagine.

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

 Since recognizing that the Arts is a nurturing community, I have encountered a body of wonderful people, discovered mind-blowing talent, and found true purpose. At the start of my third year of university after wading miserably through another “student-night” in a cesspool of night-clubs, I cried out ‘There has to be more than this!’ Two terms later I dusted off my guitar and began practicing again, eventually performing in the SU bar. By the end the following year, Lancaster had shown me a whole family of musicians, artists, actors, (and bar-staff) who genuinely cared about each other, and who helped me forge the tools for a career in the arts. Thanks to their tuition and support, I now perform across Merseyside – expressing my irrepressible creativity, and even getting paid for it. Now in Liverpool, I’ve found the same formula applies – a new family of supportive people who simply love to create. And it’s nowhere near as breezy, pie-in-the-sky as some people told me – it’s a commercially viable industry: the difference is that you are never left to fend for yourself! I have since learned the value of communications, marketing & PR, recognizing what a real team looks like, relationship-building, and so many more transferable skills! Like any industry though, there still exist odd barriers. Young people in the arts tend to be viewed as expendable commodities – an ornament used only for image, and rubber stamping ‘young’ ideas. Again, it all depends on who you’re working with; but the reality of the Arts as an industry is that you will be made to work hard, adapt to foreign situations, work for free (for a bit), and take your fair share of rejections… but it’s worth every minute when you see YOUR idea turn into a reality. Keep the Arts in schools – the future of the next generation of Creatives depends on it!

Testimonial #40: Jennifer Lavern, CEO of AURAA UNLIMITED

“These women, I give voice to, because their voice is my voice.  Their voice is our voice. They have broken traditions, fought to express themselves and because they’re fierce like that, they “don’t look like what they’ve been through.”

 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?

As a little girl growing up on a small island in the Caribbean, I, at once, hewed to and despised some of the more stringent traditions. At the time, the word sexist was not in vogue but somewhere deep within me I knew that my soul was being robbed of its fullest expression.

Being the eldest sibling my role as a leader was secure but the inner me rebelled at the very thought of gender submission.  It is not that I was personally subjugated. I attended an all-girl high school which was presided over by a formidable head mistress. Many of my teachers were women and the few people that I elevated to role model status were female.  Yet, there was a restlessness within, an unspoken but unrelenting whisper which kept beckoning me to seek grander pursuits.

Limited by geography as well as opportunity, I chose to explore a world unknown through reading. I read whatever I could get my hands on. Through the pages of the mystery books, sans illustrations, I could be whoever I chose to be. I could travel to any continent in the world and I could control my destiny just as the authors of my favorite tomes did.  As I got older and became familiar with different genres, I would engage the author in a battle of wits, racing ahead with a self-styled version of the conclusion, one that I conjured to suit my fancy. Often, we would wind up on the same page, author, protagonist and audience; audience of one.

The more I read, the more I came to understand the power of the pen. The power of the pen soon gave way to the power of the written word. The written word became my escape from the confines of the edited spoken word.

My mind could freely wander away from the dictates of the patriarchal systems of education, religion and culture. I could easily segue from adventurer to jet setter, from hall monitor to strip teaser all the while maintaining the demeanor that won me an award for comportment. I could create roles for myself that would shock the establishment but would fill my fanciful world with excitement. Through my early writings my teachers came to know the person behind the pressed school uniform, the passion beneath the pirate hat, but only as much as I allowed. Hints of my quiet rebellion would emerge but could be discerned by only the most careful observer.

Years later, a college professor, Dr. Shine, broke the code as she discovered that my opinion pieces were particularly pithy, betraying a more than casual observer. She encouraged me to enroll in an advanced English class which tackled themes that questioned the very core of my belief systems. There I learned to wrestle with the status quo. It was in that class that I came to appreciate the plight of “Everyman,” the constant struggle of our higher consciousness to subdue our lower nature. It was the thinking developed in that setting which taught me that the gender war is timeless, universal and that without great sacrifice there could never be great victory.  It was there I discovered that the most brilliant diamond needs undergo tremendous pressure to release its shine.  Then, it was all theory. Now, it is a living truth.

I have watched individuals face insurmountable odds and eventually triumph at the very brink of defeat. I have seen women fearlessly brave crushing challenges and cave at the onset of moderate pressure only to rise again at the edge of their mortal strength.  These women, have become for me, icons of virtue by virtue of their resilience. These women, have become the women I admire and whose cause I am honored to champion. These are the women who inspire me and whose stories I am now chronicling in my upcoming book titled, “A Quote She Wrote.”

These women, I give voice to, because their voice is my voice.  Their voice is our voice. They have broken traditions, fought to express themselves and because they’re fierce like that, they “don’t look like what they’ve been through.”

For consideration to contribute to the book, “A Quote She Wrote,” please visit www.AQuoteSheWrote.com

 

Can Children Deprived of Arts Education Still Grow Up to Be Innovators?

September 8, 2014, 9:00 AM

by Robert Montenegro

“Michigan State University observed a group of its honors college graduates from 1990 to 1995 who majored in the STEM fields. Their research uncovered that of those students, the ones who owned businesses or filed patents had eight times the exposure to the arts as children than the general public.”
To learn more about why the arts are essential to a robust core curriculum (as well as to read up on STEM’s younger sibling, STEAM), check out Brady’s article in The Washington Post by Robert Montenegro