Monday, April 19, 2010


1 a : to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope : hearten
2 : to spur on : stimulate

This weekend was our school art show. It was the result of the efforts of many people over a lot of time. It showcased work by more than 300 students and 16 guest artists. It brought together the families from our school. It was held at local businesses. And it was the vision of one great encourager: Miss Camilla inspires, heartens and stimulates all those around her, including her students.

Maybe as you read "school art show" above, you have an image of flimsy sheets of paper with lots of glitter and glue affixed to cinder block walls. You'd be wrong (well, OK, glitter and glue do abound). Picture instead portraits inspired by Picasso, hearts crafted by crayon artists under the guidance of an artist who looks at a box of crayons and sees a multimedia palette, kimonos crafted from paper, silk screened medallions and more. This is not a student art show. It's an art show. Each parent is given the opportunity to buy their child's art work and I found myself hoping that some parents missed out on their chance because I'd love to have some of this adorn my walls.

But even more than seeing the art, I loved seeing the artists themselves and imagining what they were thinking as they walked through the displays. Each student was given the opportunity to write an artist's statement describing their work and inspiration along with a short bio. I loved seeing what inspired them (everything from their friends to famous artists to comic books) and I loved seeing how many of them described themselves as artists. Because how can you see your work displayed in such a professional manner and NOT think you're an artist?

This art show is so much more than a way to raise money for an art department. It's a way to empower children to see themselves as both who they are right now and who they can become. And frankly, it's the kind of thing that makes me wonder how this homeschooling experiment next year will go. Because I'm pretty sure I won't be installing a one-woman show as the result of our year at home together. I worry less about whether my daughter will be appropriately challenged than whether she'll get enough time with other adults to help her see herself as she is. Because one reason these students believe Miss Camilla when she tells them they are artists is because she is not their mother. She brings to the table a perfect combo of knowing these children, loving these children, but having enough distance for them to trust her wisdom and expertise.

It's hard for a child to do that with her own parent. K and I were talking about homeschooling yesterday:
K: When you homeschool A will teachers come to our house?
Me: No, I will be the teacher.
K: You?! You aren't a teacher.
Me: But I will be A's teacher next year.
K: Well, you're going to have to teach her a lot of things.
Me: I know, honey. I can do it.
K ended the conversation a bit dubious that I'm up to the task. I think I can handle some fifth grade grammar, math and history. But can I help my ten year old see her own potential? Can I convince her that I'm not just a student of art history and literature, but a student of her? Or is a mother simply too close to hold up the mirror for her daughter to see herself?

I'm left admiring Camilla for the way she pours herself into her students, the way she encourages their efforts, stimulates their creativity and heartens their self-confidence. I'm left pondering how I can do this for my own daughters - and how I can do it in the lives of others. Because I want to be an encourager. I want to help others see the gifts they have and encourage them to use those gifts. I want people to spend time with me and leave feeling as hopeful as I did at the end of that art show on Saturday.

Photos are of student art from the Art Show.


Variations On A Theme said...

Yes, she is amazing. She makes beautiful things happen everywhere she goes.

Chris and Tiana said...

I love how you think about those issues with homeschooling. Those are some of my biggest concerns for homeschooled kids, too. It's not the academics, it's the other things that are much harder to learn outside of a classroom. But for the record, I think you're more than capable of it. I can't imagine a better teacher for Anna than you!