I have been procrastinating on starting a blog because I didn’t want to be restricted by a weekly deadline. But after the Santa Fe High School shooting…
I have to start writing down the insights that I have experienced through my 30+ years of gathering information from my ART students.
I have been teaching ART for more than 30 years now… in public & private schools, rehab centers, several ART Camps throughout the country, and now in my home studio.
Expressive Art is a visual way to communicate your ideas and feelings when words are not enough.
The most powerful form of communication is IMAGERY & SYMBOLS…
and my experience teaching ART in Santa Fe is the perfect case in point:
I taught ART in the same Santa Fe school system where the May 14th 2018 shooting took place.
I was hired to teach Art and the principal gave me great lee-way to do what I wanted as long as all the National Core Standards were covered. I was excited for the opportunity to make a difference.
Until the very first day I was there I felt a heavy, dense energy around the school and in my class room. I pay attention to the life-force around me and was determined to lift the bad vibe. I began by blessing my art room every morning in order for the class to be free of the reluctance to express themselves creatively. The intention seemed to work and I rarely had any disruptions in class. I did hear that other teachers were having discipline issues, but the same “difficult students” were “perfect artists” in my class room. I think it was that I expected “authenticity” from them, and I got it.
The students in Santa Fe, in the mid 1980’s, were mostly poor white and there was a definite KKK presence in this small town. (Keep in mind, this was 25 years ago, so I’m sure there have been many positive changes since then).
Having said all that,
In order to understand my student’s situations better, I developed an art class called “POSITIVE & NEGATIVE THOUGHT PUPPETS”. Each student made two felt puppets: one who gives them pessimistic messages (“you are not good enough”) and one who gives them encouraging messages (“you can be whoever you want to be”). They visualized what the image would be and made them both with thought provoking symbols. When they were finished I had each student debate both sides (in their best puppets voices, of course 😉 about a recent situation when they had a battle in their mind between the two different perspectives:
“Steal that, no one will see you” VS. “Wait until you can afford it. Don’t take the chance.”
“You are fat and ugly. No one likes you” VS. “You are unique so choose your friends wisely”
“If I make it with him he will love me.” VS. “Give yourselves a chance to know one another.”
The animated dispute was extremely telling. For some reason they performed openly and to the point.
Here are some of their actual puppets:
After the dialogue between their puppets, I had each student choose which puppet (or side) they wanted to believe. “You are like a judge in a court room and you don’t have to go with the first thought that pops into your mind… or the one that screams the loudest. Take a breath. Your intuition (your gut) will tell you what to do. It’s called DISCERNMENT and we all have it”
They had to choose one puppet to side with and say why they chose them.
*Some students chose the positive side only because peers were watching.
*Some chose the negative and that would bring up a great talking point amongst their class mates.
*Some couldn’t even hear the positive puppet at all. In that case I told them to think of the exact opposite of what the negative puppet was saying…and THAT’S the POSITIVE voice.
*A few chose the positive thoughts after thinking about it… but only a few.
ALL NEGATIVE (thoughts to actions) HAVE CONSEQUENCES… AND ALL POSITIVE (thoughts to actions) HAVE REWARDS !!!
Once they understood the above concept, I could see the subtle light go on in their eyes.
I helped them to realize that we draw circumstances into our lives by our STATE OF MIND and it’s best to stay positive.
It’s the LAW of ATTRACTION.
LIKE SEEKS LIKE.
It’s a MIND MUSCLE that I tried to develop in my students over the years.
Some got it. Some didn’t.
I was concerned for the students who didn’t. They had patterns of discourse in their families that had lasted for generations. It was a hard break. My only resource (besides blessing my ART room) was to give them ART lessons that revealed new ideas to them. To help them to see themselves, and the situation they were in, more clearly. (You have to know where you are AND where you want to go, in order to measure your success…
YOUR ADVANTAGE in the game of life.
After 5 years in Santa Fe I moved on to a college ART position in Houston, Texas. I was sad to leave my students, but I knew I had done the best I could while I was there, in that “not-so-unusual” rural, southern town. It was a learning experience I will never forget.
I have since then, written several curriculums on the subject of EXPRESSING YOURSELF
THROUGH ART, concerning different populations that I have worked with: brain-injuries, eating disorders, kids-at-risk, veterans, and most recently… DIVERSITY.
If you are interested in seeing what I do, go to ArtwithaPurposeBooks.com .
I PRAY for WELL-BEING and SEND LIGHT to the survivors in Santa Fe.
I am offering my book, BEYOND ART (for FREE) to any “daring soul” who may want to facilitate some art classes in their after-school program, their community center, in churches, families, and any person who doesn’t have words to express what’s happening inside.
IMAGES and SYMBOLS help to EXPRESS deep feelings and thoughts… when words are not enough.
If you feel the nudge, contact: TamlinAll@gmail.com and I will send as many books as you need.
Respectfully, and full of HOPE for Santa Fe, Texas.
Expressive Art Specialist
PS. What would YOUR symbols for + & – puppets be?