Find Your Voice

722. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Yesterday I worked with teachers and students in an art cadre. We explored what it means to make art.

I am resistant to write, “We made art” because it implies that the “art” was a product, a thing separate from the process. It implies that the “doing” was incidental and the outcome was the thing called “art.” That notion is upside down. The art is not the outcome. The art is the process yet we have no language to correctly express it. What happened in our art cadre was essential. The students and teachers recognized that a great product requires a great process; the process is the essential.

We focused entirely on process because I know that students and teachers alike are all the time squeezed into demonstrating outcomes. They are forced to let go the primary in service to the secondary. Art teachers are generally under siege and always have to prove their value to school districts because school districts see “art” as an incidental. Consequently, art is often taught as a product and therefore not art. It is misunderstood as something non-essential.

There is an entire industry known as “self-help” dedicated to a single, simple impulse: the full expression of the self: how to give full voice to perceptions and ideas without impediment. In other words, how do we get out of our own way? This is a question of process and reachable through “art” when art is understood. Businesses invest fortunes to “brainstorm” new ideas, to see patterns and give form to new conceptions. Perception is the province of “art.” I hear whining from the glass towers of commerce: “Why aren’t schools producing self-directed, critical thinking workers?” Answer: dedicating the focus to outcomes and answer regurgitation (in other words, beat the art out of people) will always produce a hiring pool of anesthetized answer regurgitators. We get what we produce. Self-expression and critical thinking are sister skills. Quash one and we quell the other. Art would seem to be an essential skill for business.

One of the saddest moments of the day came after the cadre. Two teachers stayed to talk. They told me that they knew what they are doing to kids (yes…doing TO kids) is wrong. They are required to produce products. They believe that they have no voice in the matter. They told me that they agreed with everything we explored but must serve the product expectations of their district. I didn’t ask the question I wanted to ask. There seemed no point. I wandered when they would wake up and recognize that supporting a system that they knew to be harming kids was also taking a toll on their health and lives. Voice is not something other people give you. It is something that you have to agree to give away. Voicelessness is a terrible thing to exchange in order to follow a rule, especially if you do not believe in the premise of the rule.

4 Responses

  1. Love this post! Great insights into art – they are so true. Art isn’t an object. It isn’t something you can make. Art is the process of revelation — the process by which you expose something true and beautiful and meaningful to another person or group of people. Art is more of a moment, a period of time, a memory, something you keep with you and let speak within you. The “work of art” is simply a reminder.

    This is one of the best posts I’ve ever read. Great work!

  2. I was there! My students got to focus on self awareness and expression through many materials that made a “mark”. After a full day of experiencing this “empowerment” to create, one of my students who struggled a bit with this commented, “I got it, the process is more important than the product”. Just WOW! 🙂

  3. David, the world needs to know this. I wish I were there to experience how you crafted the day. One day, and look! PLEASE keep going.

  4. “Get Out of Your Own Way” is the sign I made to hang on the door of the room I write and make artwork in. Yes, Sir, get out of your own way!

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