Saturday, June 11, 2011

What inspired you in your youth?

In my current career exploration, I've decided to re-visit the things I know are most important to me. While, after high school, I decided not to go to art school, art remains one of my most deeply rooted passions. To me, it's a necessary part of who I am. It's a vehicle to express myself in ways that words and actions can't. It's my way of processing the world I live in and my role within it. Viewing art by other artists gives me a window into the understanding that others have of the world they live in. Art in various forms helps us understand and relate personally to our history, to make sense of our present, and to imagine what could be in the future. And it has the ability to bring together people in a community in meaningful ways. Can you imagine the world without art? Without music? Without dancing? Television and film? While I may or may not pursue a career in the arts still, I wish it to continue to be an important component of me. So what a great place to begin the exploration.

Yesterday I attended Arts Summit 2011 put on by the Alliance for Arts and Culture. Not being a member of a particular organization, I went representing myself with the objective of feeling athome within the community of community-engaged artists. What an inspiring day it was! There was a line-up of speakers all with incredible experience and influence in the community. And I got to meet various people who were so very encouraging and supportive of me and my intent. And I attended some thought-provoking dialogue. I'm so glad I took the leap and registered to attend the Summit, and a special thanks to the organizers for putting together such a great event.

In one of the dialogues, we talked about the importance of getting young people involved in art. Art is a fundamental part of being young, and nurturing the young spirit. And it's so unfortunate that as we grow old, few of us continue to nurture that part of us because of a perceived "lack of talent". We too often hear people say, "oh no, I can't draw." But of course I disagree, anyone can draw! What is also unfortunate is that when there are cut-backs to school funding from the government, the arts are always the first thing to go. They are not seen as essential in the way that academics are. I again disagree! And this is coming from someone who always loved my 3 R's. Without art, how can children learn how to express themselves, to imagine possibilities, and to socialize?

I guess when I grew up I was very fortunate to have had excellent art educators in my life. It was because of them I pursued teaching for myself. In high school, my art teachers were incredible - one I'm still in touch with today and he continues to inspire me. I also participated in a Career Preparation Program for the visual arts. As part of this I had the opportunity to be part of a large-scale mural project depicting the history of Richmond, BC, the city I lived in most of my life. It was so large-scale, we had to paint several panels separately and did so publicly at the Richmond Centre Mall for people to see. Later this was puzzled back together and displayed around a construction site where the Marriott Vancouver Airport Hotel now is. Through this project, I really got to understand the history of Richmond in such a unique way and got to be part of something big, public, meaningful, and it was one of the best experiences I had as a student. It's because of this that I've continued to want to be part of public art throughout my life. Art isn't just something for me to create in the privacy of my home, and then hang on my walls for only a select few to see. It's something to share, to talk about, to participate in, and celebrate with others.

I was ahead in my classes in high school, so I got to spend a considerable amount of my time working on this mural project, with two professional artists mentoring us in the project. One of the artists' style I particularly identified with but over the years his name slipped my memory. I was reminded of it again yesterday during the Arts Summit, and a light bulb turned on. I'm so glad I was reminded, because it gives me the opportunity to thank him, Richard Tetrault, for leading us in these efforts and inspiring me in ways he might not realize. Since yesterday I contacted Richard, and he confirmed he was indeed the artist I remember. And so I've read up on some of his work, and what an amazing career he has had so far! Such an inspiration to see what can be accomplished by one artist both locally and internationally.

Thank you!