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

 

The First 100 Stories Campaign

The Arts continue to be cut from school curriculums across the nation. Despite arts advocacy groups’ efforts to prevent the decline of arts inclusion, the budgetary solution remains to be that the arts are perceived as extra-curricular and disposable.  In Chris Cleave’s novel Little Bee, the central character decided to right a wrong by collecting stories:  “One story makes you weak.  But as soon as we have one-hundred stories, you will be strong.” Similarly, we can do the same for the Arts.  Here’s how:

First Online with Fran is launching The First 100 Stories Campaign.

Let’s hear it from you: Teachers! Students! Graduates! Parents! Artists!

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? Click here.

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

Here’s the first testimonial…contributed by one of my favorite high school students…

Testimonial #1. Edie Falco, Tony-Award winning Actor

“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 school kid, 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.”

What’s your story?  First Online With Fran wants to hear what you have to say…

You-ve-Cott-Mail-for-Mon-Aug-20–The-tipping-point

Lorna Kneeland on the blog of 4Culture [cultural services agency for King County, WA], 7/30/12
In the past few years, there has been a fair amount of public attention (but not enough) on the dire state and inequity of arts learning for K-12 students. The expectation that arts are an essential aspect to student education has been lost. This year in Seattle, not a single arts organization was deemed qualified for the Families and Education Levy. This is surprising given the great deal of research demonstrating the strong link that arts education has to academic success and social development. Now, let me turn this depressing train of thought around…Despite the cuts, I strongly feel that we are approaching a tipping point that has the possibility of pushing this train in the other direction. Malcolm Gladwell writes in his book The Tipping Point
“… in order to create one contagious movement, you often have to create many small movements first…The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”
Nationally and locally, big and small collaborative movements are happening that are generating momentum to put arts learning back on track. Perhaps the largest local movement on this front is the Seattle K-12 Arts Learning Collaborative. The goal of this citywide effort is that all students in all Seattle Public Schools (SPS) have opportunities to learn through the arts, to succeed in school and in life. The community has come together in a powerful way — driven by the Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs and SPS with parents, the funding community and arts leaders such as Arts Corps, ArtsEd Washington, Arts Impact, PONCHO [Patrons of Northwest Civic, Cultural and Charitable Organizations] and Seattle Art Museum leading and owning the charge.
First Online With Fran: The First 100 Stories Campaign National Arts in Education Week, September 11-17


In July 2010, Congress designated the second week of September as National Arts In Education Week (add link) to promote and showcase the immense role arts education has in producing engaged, successful, and college and career-ready students. To that end, First Online with Fran is launching The First 100 Stories Campaign.

The Arts continue to be cut from school curriculums across the nation. Despite arts advocacy groups’ efforts to prevent the decline of arts inclusion, the budgetary solution remains to be that the arts are perceived as extra-curricular and disposable. In Chris Cleave’s novel Little Bee, the central character decided to right a wrong by collecting stories: “One story makes you weak. But as soon as we have one-hundred stories, you will be strong.” Similarly, we can do the same for the Arts. Here’s how: 

Let’s hear it from you: Teachers! Students! Graduates! Parents! Artists!
Fill out the form to submit your testimonial!