I am a summer study person. I divide my time lopsidedly between my teaching classroom and my self-study classroom within my local area and New England states. I am blessed to live by the ocean. I grew up on Maine’s rocky coast, dallied for a while by Lake Champlain (not an ocean, but far more wavy and chilly than Buzzard’s Bay warm waves lapping on Mattapoisett’s shore) finally settling in New Bedford, #1 sea scalloping port. My world consists of land and water; water feeds my soul and surrounds everything I do, both figuratively and physically.
I am also a person that loves rising to challenges. I love diving deeper, and deeper still. Surface quips hardly do it for me – my mother complained that I asked too many questions for such a young child; too many whys and how-comes interrupted her domestic routines and caused her to think that there was no way to satisfy me. As a departing high school senior in 1973 I was awarded the Shelburne Museum Art Award, it came with a small stipend and a Winslow Homer research requirement that had to be completed before I left for college. This was my first experience in actual museum research and it opened my eyes to the depth of museum holdings; there was far more than what was hung on walls — the public had little knowledge of the relationship that existed between librarian and curator.
Winslow Homer has fascinated me since I discovered him as a young child in my art books, hanging in the Bowdoin College Art Museum, and in the Shelburne Museum. You can follow my growth and movement across the upper New England states from the museums that I visited and called my own. My parents were not museum folks; church and family events filled their lives. My mother insisted that piano lessons, drawing and reading occupy my time, I failed miserably at piano but found a world beyond Lewiston-Lisbon Falls-Brunswick, Maine, that enchanted me. My Godmother, from Maryland, supplied me with art books and art supplies, and an avant-garde leather jumper when I was eleven that definitely didn’t fit into my mother’s idea of proper school attire. My Godmother was probably my first inspiration, my muse – she opened windows to far more than elementary art-in-a-cart ever could have and I responded with pent-up talent that exploded and caused adults to take notice. Like the Petite Prince I often heard, “Is it really an elephant under that hat?”
Like the waves that beckoned me at my favorite beaches, Maine’s rocky Reid State and sandy Popam, Winslow’s waves have drawn me into being a ‘painted wave/water’ connoisseur. Water, in any medium, must at least match or exceed Homer’s oceans to pronounce it well done and worthy of respect. This is especially true for computer-animated video today (oh, I can just hear my students groan, I have mentioned my pet peeve, my most argued point in class). Once, when I was in college, I came upon an art magazine that boasted of a new young artist that had mastered the ability to paint water in its true liquid state. I fell in love. I idealized the painter, the magazine color printing didn’t do justice to such a beautiful presentation of the artist’s work – I needed to see the work full size! I hungrily devoured the accompanying article and found, to my dismay, that the artist used photographs and an overhead projector to compose his paintings – he even painted with the projector on! I couldn’t believe what I was reading! I was a purist, this was unacceptable. I was young, I was naive. Water is still my quest, waves still fascinate me; water needs to look wet, and deep, and reflective. Homer has done it, and the collective Wyeths have all done it, and Rockwell has illustrated it. I am appeased; I am at peace. I can look and I can love these works, they speak to me, they sing of wind on guy wires and full sails, of lobster winches and the splash of fins and pots and the bow spray and calling gulls.
Teaching art has been my goal for most of my life. It has been an elusive goal based on school budgets, competition and youth versus experience. I have chosen to teach handcrafts instead of fine arts because I believe that art is more than drawing or painting and should be more inclusive to all students regardless of ability or mental capacity, and speak to the desire to create in a medium that responds to hands and sweat and skill. I have taught both fine art and handcrafts to behavioral students, developmentally delayed, visually handicapped, learning disabled and regular education students for over 16 years. Recently, I have combined Art with Special Education and created a position that allows me to reach a diverse population and also co-teach World History as well as teach remedial world history when the need arises within the public high school. I refresh my knowledge/skills during my summers – this being the prefect time to stretch and grow – whether with digital camera, journaling or dissecting crabs – I can’t just stay idle. I have spent past summers studying US History and Art in content institutes and Studio Art grad courses, art workshops, summer conferences in the Berkshires, and weaving in Vermont. My tastes are very eclectic as I dabble in many forms of craft and art media.
I have earned an M Ed in Occupational Arts, which dovetails in nicely with Special Education; my bachelors’ degree is in art education; I am certified in Visual Arts K-9, 5-12, and SpEd 5-12. I have amassed 65+ grad credits and am contemplating a MFA in my near future. I can research and write. I’ve studied poetry and Pre-Columbian art history at the Institutio de San Miguel d’Allende, Mexico. I’ve been published in college and in local print, and my illustrations have been printed in advertisements and as calendars. Recently, I have taken numerous workshops on Frederick Douglass, the Underground Railroad, and the latest, Black Hands, White Sails, introduced me to Paul Cuffe and Mum Bett. My knowledge of New Bedford almost makes me a native, at least in my soul.
I have mentored about eight teachers at Apponequet Regional High School, none of them in art or special education, all of them in the craft of teaching. College teacher prep programs teach new teachers that teaching can be learned, that it isn’t something within a person. They tell them that gone are the days of trial by fire and not smiling until 3rd quarter. But, this isn’t all true, who among us teaches without the light within us? Weren’t we moved to teach? Don’t we distain the saying “those who can’t ——-, teach”, aren’t those words hateful to us? As mentors we bolster their flagging spirit, support their ideals, and teach by modeling. I am the living, teaching craft – I won’t label how or why I do something, even though I know why and how by scholarship but I don’t like to qualify my life into a science to be mirrored by a disciple and used without heart.
My job, as an art educator, is to guide student appreciation of art, of all aspects of arts; to help form well-rounded citizens in their vocation and avocation. I want to discover Maritime America, as well as New Bedford’s and Massachusetts’ role in the maritime trades, so that I can share it with my students and colleagues. [Although I spent my high school years avoiding The Great White Whale but reading Ahab’s Wife drew me towards Moby Dick. In Ahab’s Wife, a young girl dresses as a boy and goes to sea on a whaleboat out of New Bedford – the author hails from Kentucky, yet she immersed herself in Melville, studied whaling, maritime charts, and the Quakers. She made the book sing with the sea – her book lives in me after years of being read, shelved and reread. This is what I want – to immerse myself in the ocean and let it talk to me, let it take me back, let me hear the stories and taste the salt. I want to experience my great, great-uncle’s sea voyages from the Indies to England (and God knows where else because it is not spoken of in the family), running his sloop down the Atlantic coast to the West Indies and then out to George’s Bank and beyond. I want to create lesson/units that mesh with imperial colonialism to flesh out dull textbook passages. I would like to teach some maritime crafts to my students and invite artisans into my classroom and school, to share their craft and stories. Today’s students don’t seem to be offered enough real material from where they live which tends to make them feel that their local area is worthless – that their heritage is wanting and weak. This needs fixing, we have to put the culture back into schools and into our students, we have to include spoken word and put handcraft traditions back into people’s dreams because if forgotten then we are doomed to be empty desiccated husks. I want to make sure that those husks are re-hydrated with salt-water.
Nothing infuses life into seminars better than community building and nobody needs that more than educators who, for the most part, spend a good part of their days teaching in isolation. Gathering together to discuss educational strategies geared toward renewing student’s progress whether through journaling, sharing readings, artwork and research, enlivens a teacher’s spirit and sparks creativity. Teachers tend to sacrifice their time and energy for their classrooms – everything they do is inspired by what can work for the least of their students. I am no different; I look constantly for what works, what can be modified or taught differently. By applying for this seminar I have finally given myself “permission” to focus on myself, to recognize my talents and expand my capabilities, disturb my comfort zone by learning new techniques, to go outside the box. I will explore and better my writing and photography skills, add to my art appreciation techniques and create new lessons to put into practice in my classroom, as well as share with my colleagues throughout the regional district.