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Cleansing the Palette - February 2009
Message from Deborah B. Reeve, EdD, Executive Director
Cleansing the Palette - February 2009
In the early 1980s, a small ad agency opened in Minneapolis, named Fallon McElligott & Rice. They took on small clients at first, the better to do some of the most brilliant and outrageous advertising in America. Back then, before they became the global ad giant they are now, one of their projects was a print ad campaign for a local public speaking coach. One of the ads featured a full-page visual—a wilderness ridgetop perspective on an overcast day, looking out over forested hills stretching into the distance, with a slight break in the clouds allowing a single ray of sunshine to reach a valley floor. The headline read: “Anyone doubting the concept of eternity has never had to give a 5-minute speech.”
Our “year of seeing dangerously” will continue when we gather in Minneapolis in April for our annual National Convention and—while we all have our moments—I doubt that any of the speeches and presentations will seem to last an eternity, because provocation and inspiration will be the order of each day.
Consider several featured presenters:
Kay WalkingStick, a painter whose juxtaposition of the physical and the cultural, of body and earth, provides a fascinating model for balancing multiple perspectives in our lives as art educators.
Eric Jensen, whose 2001 book, Arts with the Brain in Mind, makes a powerful statement about the educational importance of the arts as both aesthetic pursuit as well as an engine of intellectual development.
We are also introducing two new Synergy Sessions:
Judy Chicago—whose entire artistic life has been an experience in “seeing dangerously,” and never more so than in her still-provocative work, The Dinner Party—will present the conceptualization and evolution of a comprehensive curriculum resulting from a collaborative effort.
Mark Bradford, a featured Art:21 artist, who “…transforms materials scavenged from the street into wall-sized collages and installations that respond to the impromptu networks … that emerge within a city” and that challenge us to be more mindful.
These presenters—and so many more of our distinguished colleagues who will be presenting the latest in research, issues, and trends—represent a cast of the diversity of ideas and perspectives that you will be able to tap into during our 5 days in Minneapolis. In fact, they are representative of the wide range of expertise and resources that are available to you at any time, in any location, as our virtual community develops and evolves.
But in Minneapolis, we will step into our community in real time, as several thousand of us come together to share ideas and experiences—and to gain new understanding through the many learning formats presented. There will be the reports on promising initiatives from every corner of our country, including a preview of the release of the 2008 NAEP Report on arts education … and there are the heated conversations, late-night debates, back-of-the-napkin brainstorming, and hands-on workshops … the off-site tours … the expo hall filled with exhibitors and their new product samples…. It is a great palette of inspiration for our work over the next year!
This year’s convention theme— “A landscape for 21st century learning” —is a dangerous concept in its own right. Why? Because it represents the flag we’re planting in the larger landscape of teaching, leading, and learning in the 21st century. Our cause is not just the elevation of art education as a profession and field—it is the elevation of all education and human development as an aspiration that gives meaning to our value as art educators in today’s world.
True to our mission, NAEA is the voice of our nation’s art educators and we have begun preliminary work with the Obama administration and the appointed U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in being certain our voice is heard. This new administration represents change and makes very explicit that our responsibility as educators is not just to look backwards to make sure that no child is left behind, but to look forward to ensure that all children and youth are given the intellectual tools and stimulation that will allow them to rise up and grow to reach their potential as members of American society.
This is not a simple charge, either to propose or implement. The economy is unstable at best. Budgets are being slashed. Positions are being reduced. Subjects are being dropped. If our charge of advancing art education and ensuring its rightful place in the central curricula has been challenging in the best of times, it is perhaps truly daunting under these circumstances. That is why I believe the educational philosophy emerging from the Obama administration, and its view on what is needed for us to succeed as a nation and as a people in the 21st century, presents an extraordinary window of opportunity.
But as art educators, if we are going to take advantage of this opportunity, we must accept the responsibility by working together in new and different ways, bringing our best minds to the bigger tables and generating dynamic initiatives in both research and practice—at every level, from local to state to national—that will move our mission forward.
That is why events like the National Convention that create synergistic opportunities are so important. The magic of a serendipitous gathering in a hallway or a restaurant, where a chance remark starts a conversation that can ignite a movement, is what nourishes the work we are called to do.
What’s more, it is only in this gathering of so many of us that these potential movements, and all the many initiatives that go into driving them, can be seen most clearly—and grasped most securely. There is an energy generated in this great meeting of minds and hearts that cannot be replicated in any other way.
And that reminds me of another terrific print ad campaign to come out of the young Fallon McElligott & Rice offices in Minneapolis back in the mid-1980s. This one was a trade campaign for Rolling Stone magazine. There were two pictures side by side. One was placed under the word “Perception” and it portrayed images of a long-haired hippie, a psychedelic VW microbus, and a plate of (hash) brownies. The other was under the word “Reality,” and showed images of a yuppie, a sports car, and a pint of Haagen-Dazs.
This particular campaign made the “perception : reality” juxtaposition an enduring cultural artifact. While I have personally analyzed the data from convention evaluations and member needs assessments, I can only imagine your perception of the annual convention and NAEA. But I know the reality is that our convention, like our Association, is evolving—becoming more diverse, more adventurous, more stimulating, and more flexible—ready to meet the opportunities and responsibilities as we live in our moment! I encourage you to join us in April and help create an even more powerful reality—for yourself, and for the critical work that we do together in developing the human potential of our nation’s next generation. Wishing you a vibrant and creative 2009! See you in Minneapolis!
Deborah B. Reeve, EdD
NAEA, 1916 Association Drive, Reston, VA 20191-1590
National Art Education Association (NAEA)
1806 Robert Fulton Drive
Reston, Virginia 20191
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