I know it’s been a while since I posted a blog for RUSS MODE, and I apologize. I was focused on the work in the shop and before I knew it, it had been weeks since I had written anything for my fledgling blog.
I was at my favorite cafe the other day for my weekly coffee meet-up with a few dear friends of mine. We do our best to meet every Friday morning to talk politics, literature, or art.
I love coffee shops, but sometimes having a conversation in a café becomes more of a contest in volume and endurance than about substance. People hyped up on caffeine seem to talk louder and louder, like a drunk in a bar. Then, the tables are so close together that you start to merge with the neighbors whether you like it or not. Only the gods know how much I hate neighbors, and table neighbors are just as bad.
Put up a fence, I say.
The table next to us were the typically over friendly, intrusive, pains in the ass. They made several attempts to hijack our conversations. We did our best to politely fend them off, but we were finally infiltrated. Once they learned that my two friends were university professors, one of these terrorists had an opening and took it. Turns out, she too was a teacher. She taught at a local charter school. I won’t say which one, but the school has a focus on the arts.
What struck me most about the conversation, besides the fact that we had no choice but to have one with her, was that this teacher had very little respect for the arts. Why in the hell would you be teaching at a school where the arts were a focus if you had zero respect for them in the first place?
She confessed to us that she goes out of her way to tell her students that being an artist is no way to make a living. She told us she didn’t want them to be destitute. She wanted them to have a good life and to become beggars.
I didn’t really like her, and didn’t want to prolong the invasion by engaging. So, I remained quiet throughout the conversation, just listening her go on and on—degrading my profession.
I thought about kicking the legs from under her chair, but mostly I thought about her poor students. This is, after all, where it starts. This is where a young person’s dreams are often killed. Those that influence us can cause the most damage. Johnny wants to be a doctor, but the teacher steers him away from that dream because the teacher doesn’t think Johnny is smart enough. No sense in Johnny setting himself up for a fall.
What about Suzy? Suzy wants to be an astronaut. Well, that’s a little too lofty a goal. Suzy should set her sights on an attainable goal.
This kid is a problem so ignore him. That kid is too slow—stick him in special ed rather than give a little extra help. May the gods help the poor kid that says he/she wants to create for a living. That kids is headed for a refrigerator box abode.
I had my issues with public school teachers—none of which would have believed me capable of earning a Master’s Degree in literature. My dreams weren’t slain by teachers though. For me, the damage was mainly inflicted by my family. They seriously stunted my dream of being a special effect artist. They seemed to tolerate it for a time when I was younger, but the closer I got to a major pursuit of my aspirations, they began to put the kibosh on it.
They, like this soul-crushing teacher sitting across from me at the café, had little respect for art or artists. They saw my desire to pursue this career as a cry for help. Yes folks, I was on a dark path to a deviant lifestyle. Sex, drugs, and the undead—that’s were my life was headed.
I gave in to their harassment and their stories of starving artist and I gave up on it for a time. Rather than attend the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, as I had planned, I followed the path my grandfather wanted for me. I was bound for military. Hey, according to the old man it was that, or accounting. There was no fucking way I was going to become an accountant. So, I joined the service.
When I finally left the Air Force, I had another shot at my dream, and I took it. I was now ten years behind in my education and with no art school here, I continued to learn the hard way…through trial and error.
Obviously, I finally made it, but without support the struggle was harder than it needed to be. I often wonder where might I be today without the interference of misguided people like this “teacher” sitting across from me at a coffee shop.
I finally interjected. I had to say something in defense of those young would-be artists. I asked her if she liked movies.
She said yes.
I asked her if she like music?
“Of course,” she replied.
Do you read books?
I think she was starting to get the point, but I wasn’t going to let her off that easy. I pointed out that everything around her was created by a professional artist. The wooden table she was at and the chair she was perched upon—they were made by an artist. The clothing and glasses she wore, made or designed by an artist. The hair style she sported upon her head, styled by an artist. The car she drove, a professional artist had a hand in designing that too. Even the café in which we sat was decorated by an artist.
In fact, there is very little in our world (tangible or otherwise) that did not require the touch of an artist to make it marketable or appealing. We are surrounded by artwork and don’t even realize it.
It really amazes me that people still think there is no need for art or those that create it. All advertising is art. The layout of a magazine and the photos within are all art. The framing of a news caster as he/she reports to the world and the graphics in the background swirling around the screen are art. From the design on a tissue box to a painting hanging in a gallery, from the creature on the screen that terrifies us, to the lighting that highlighted or cast shadow on the scene…it’s all art.
We are surrounded by art, and yet those that strive to add more to our world are often knocked down. Yes, it can be hard to make a go of it. Like any other career, you work hard and rise. You don’t start in the mail room expecting to be the CEO the next day. You work toward that goal over time.
My hope is that the teacher from the local charter school didn’t actually crush a child’s dream. Instead, I hope she reinforced it. I hope that kid is the next major motion picture director, the creator of the next great national marketing campaign, or designs the next Lamborghini. I just hope they don’t become a fucking accountant.
Finally, don't forget to check out my other blogs here on RUSS MODE.