I had a student ask me yesterday why, as an art teacher, I kept ‘forcing stuff we aren’t interested in on us.’ By that this 8th grader meant architecture and history and specifically the aesthetic design of Versailles. Never mind that architecture and art history are part of the curriculum. We are now teaching a generation that has lost all enthusiasm for learning.
I have accepted the fact that many people in which I come in contact with, parents, students, even other teachers view the subject I teach as irrelevant. It’s ‘just art.” But I find that sentiment sad. When I was in 8th grade myself, I was completely enamored with all things related to art. I had already fallen in love with Renoir and Matisse, longed to roam the corridors of the Louvre, could identify artists from almost every major period, was exploring art media. Most of my students just don’t care, about learning about it or even creating on their own. My days are dominated sometimes with apathy.
I just wish they would take the time to actually look at what they think they are not interested in. I wish they could put down their phones long enough to ponder the meaning and images in Guernica, to examine the use of light in the work of the Impressionists, to examine the placement of dots of paint in LaGrande Jatte. When I took a group of 8th graders to the National Gallery last year, I did get to see some of them react to real paintings. To hear their comments upon viewing a room of Van Goghs, to exclaim over the life likeness of David’s portrait of Napoleon. The kids sitting in my classroom yesterday were lamenting their own upcoming trip to the nation’s capital and hoping it would not include visiting ‘boring old museums.’ I hope the Gallery isn’t one stop they skip this year, but it may well be because I am not the teacher leading the tour.
On the other end of the spectrum are the students who are planning to go, with me in tow, to London and Paris and Amsterdam in the spring. The six students who agree that to go to Paris and skip The Louvre would be a travesty.
My love of art finds its way into my writing as well. I am not a great artist, I’m an okay artust. I know my abilities and my limitations. It doesn’t stop me from creating, I just know that beyond teaching it, I probably couldn’t make a living doing it. But I still write about characters who either create art, appreciate it, or, in the case of my Louvre Trilogy, will put it before almost anything. One of my favorite quotes from the Monuments Men is when George Clooney rallies his troops by telling them that their mission was never supposed to succeed but that it is important because the are preserving the culture and the history. Here’s the clip:
In my Louvre Trilogy, the characters get what George Clooney’s character is talking about. They understand that art matters and shouldn’t be ignored or left untaught. The character of Alain especially reflects my love of art.
Encourage kids to learn about art and other things they believe are uninteresting. It is our job to teach them that, to hold onto the art and books and music that have inspired mankind for thousands of years. Without that encouragement, in a few generations it may all be forgotten forever.
And if you are curious about my Louvre Trilogy, check it out at http://www.booksbylynnmurphy.com