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Drawing From Life Experience: Lessons Learned
Mulberry Street Library was very excited to receive a grant from Lifetime Arts this year to participate in their Creative Aging program. Lifetime Arts is an organization devoted to enriching the lives of older New Yorkers through both the visual and the performing arts. We received our grant to offer Drawing From Life Experience, an 8-week drawing class for older New Yorkers. The students learned the principles of still life and live-model drawing, using a variey of papers and drawing materials. The culminating event on May 12, 2012 was held in our Community Room, where the students displayed one matted artwork they created in the class. The students spoke about their artwork to an audience of friends and family, and reveled in celebration afterwards.
Drawing From Life Experience was an opportunity to collaborate with teaching artist and Mulberry Street Library patron, Jerilyn Jurinek.
What was your progression from artist to teaching artist?
In the seventh grade, a teacher who did not know me, based on the results of testing, informed me that I should become a teacher.
"Teacher!" I snapped "I don't want to be a teacher! I'm going to be an artist!"
Well. I told her!
But artists spend so much time and energy explaining themselves to themselves and to others, that teaching is complementary to creative work. Art is a dialog between the artist, the art community, the public and the canon of art practice. Life experiences are great for creating empathy with those who want to learn. Becoming capable of teaching is a process of becoming verbal enough to communicate effectively. Also teaching different populations of students develops the breadth of ideas and language to speak to all ages, and experience levels.
What is your Philosophy of Art?
While I am a lover of much art, I need to be nourished long term, by an art that is more than an aesthetic, decorative or conceptual, as pleasurable or even as intellectual as they may be. The art that fulfills something deeply human is a sacred, historic, and even anthropological experience. I need the figurative tradition, with its architectural and compositional devices. I am an action painter, somewhat abstracted in my representation. Regarding my oil painting "Crossing the Delaware River," author Peter Neofotis said "Indeed, once the painting amazingly becomes three dimensional, one is able then to understand that the colorful shapes are indeed figures on a terrifying, yet hopeful journey across a deep cold river."
How do you inspire your students to see?
This is tricky, sneaky, not self apparent. It usually means putting them off balance to get beyond linear minded-frontal lobe-left brain driven thinking. All people respond differently. You have a chance to see anew when your crutches are removed, obscured, confused, delayed by interjecting some unfamiliar, complex or thought- provoking task, rather than using only hand/eye coordination or formulaic, rule-following,"how to" conscious mind logic. What a mouthful. Yikes!
How do you explain the intersection of Libraries, Art, and Communities?
The library is the center of any self-governing citizen's life, because to be a self-governing citizen, you must be involved with your education. The book shared is the language of the culture. Whether that was Greek and Latin in the 1700 to early 1900s, or the mixed brew of today's English/American w all its influences, what we do, say and see makes community. Last year at the Mulberry Street branch, I had an exhibition, and instead of having an opening, I asked to have a reading of the Letters of Abigail and John Adams on Valentine's Day. This year I'm teaching drawing here with a grant from Lifetime Arts. I now have a production company that has a play — The Correspondence of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. We will perform at several branches this season. I use the computers here, borrow books for research, and movies for entertainment. I run into friends and neighbors. I experience community and dialog. All my forms of expression blend in my life at the library. I visit several times each week.
Learn about more upcoming Creative Aging classes at New York Public Library branches.
All photographs taken by Greg Holch, Mulberry Street Library volunteer.