Friday, June 25, 2010

The Hairy Potter

I am very glad that my parents allowed me to do creative things when I was a kid. Growing up in Toledo offered me a chance to take part in some great cultural events and programs. My parents knew that I had the artistic bent from the get-go and allowed me free reign with art supplies. At one point, my parents hooked me up with a local artist Virginia (her last name escapes me now) and we worked together in her studio while she designed a fountain for a local mall. It was very cool. My Dad’s business in its early years shared a building with a head shop/art gallery and I loved walking up the street to see my Dad and the artwork in the gallery. I remember a massive painting of a nude woman and where her breasts should have been were two massive light bulbs turned socket side out. I remember trips to the Toledo Museum of Art as a kid to see the mummy and all the other treasures therein. My heart still leaps when we drive down Monroe Street and the museum comes into view.

So, with a little trepidation and some internal cajoling, I committed to this year’s Kid’s College at JCC. My nickname, The Hairy Potter, became the theme and motivation for this annual week long art camp focused on 5th and 6th graders. In the past, I have ignored the true Harry Potter stuff, but this year we went crazy with the extras and created a pretty cool spot in the studio with flags, banners, some spooky props and silly house names. The area kids have only been out of school for a week, so we wanted to make this a fun place and space for them to chill out and have fun. I lived for this stuff when I was a kid and remember the hot and muggy afternoons spent at the junior high making stuff. It was fun to be out of school, but it was also fun to be back making art.

When I was in college, I received a work study grant to help out with the Museum’s Saturday kid’s art program. I became a little dizzy knowing that I would actually be teaching and helping out at the place that ignited my love of art. It was a thrilling moment to receive my official museum badge and to be able to go in through the back door instead of the main entrance. My art nerd was in full swing. There are a few of my students who help out each year and it is my hope that this week will inspire them and guide them in their path towards becoming a teacher. Sometimes the sublime moments are what get them, other times it’s the reality of just how much damage a group of tweeners can do to a room in three hours.

The schedule is rough this week, but we’re having fun. The kids are engaged, polite, and fun to be with. I am noticing that they are fearless when it comes to working on the potter’s wheel. My college students seem to hang back and want to immediately go for perfection while learning. Granted, they are doing it for a grade, but there is something to say for diving in full force and enjoying the experience and not necessarily going for a grade. Anna, in the musical “The King and I” had this to say about her profession:

It's a very ancient saying,

But a true and honest thought,

That if you become a teacher,

By your pupils you'll be taught.

There is much wisdom in those lines and I may take them to heart when I begin fall semester. Focus on the process and the craft and ignore the grade. Maybe we’ll see great things… but right now, the Hairy Potter has to go wedge some clay.