Tag Archives: Art

“Griffin & Sabine”: believe in magic

Remember the joy of pop-up books? The books that were tactile and interactive? What a wonderful way to connect with what you’re reading! This is why I am so glad that one of my good friends recommended that I read Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock. It had envelopes and letters you could actually touch! I loved it.

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Source: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/381102.Griffin_and_Sabine

Bantock writes and illustrates a creative idea: a woman writes postcards (which she creates) to a man in a completely different country and they begin a beautiful friendship. There is romance. There is mystery. There is despair. There is magic. There is hope.

Griffin and Sabine write letters and postcards back and forth, exploring their extraordinary relationship. As a reader, it’s so lovely to slow down and read mail. You have to actually open the envelopes in the book to read the handwritten (cursive) letters. I found it such a beautiful and intimate experience that let me be a nosy neighbour and eavesdrop on someone else’s conversations. Griffin creates postcards in a shop in London. He is an artist, but didn’t fully agree with the art school’s ‘art for art’s sake’ philosophy. In fact, at one point in the book Sabine encourages Griffin to explore his darkness. She almost gives him permission to explore his depression through his art, that he sells on postcards.

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Source: http://www.geocities.ws/kimkronk/SBA1/nickbantockart.htm

Sabine is an interesting character, and she knows it. She lives on the island Katie in the Sicmon Islands in the South Pacific. Yet she doesn’t always exist there. She has a strange and mysterious connection to Griffin: she can see when he draws. She can’t see Griffin, but she sees his art as he creates it. Weird, right?! But so fun!
Sabine is an artist of her own and also creates postcards and stamps.

gekoprint
Source: http://www.geocities.ws/kimkronk/SBA1/nickbantockart.htm

I am so grateful for the experience that Bantock created in this book. You have mystery, you have magic, you have beautiful art, you have intimacy. Reading the letters and thinking about that ‘what if’ scenario: what if there was someone you had a connection with, but had no way to express that connection or make that connection a reality? What if we are all alone because we aren’t able to accept that life might not be reasonable and might in fact be magical?

The hope for the unexpected is something that is hard at times. We get run down by life and we become emotionally and spiritually exhausted. I think it is during these dark times that we miss the joy and the magic of simple connections. In those moments we are hoping for something big and dramatic to come into our lives (as Sabine enters into Griffin’s life), yet I don’t think it needs to be that dramatic.

What if a life-changing, life-altering, life-affirming moment and expression happens in the smallest way, to nudge us and remind us that life is worth the living. Maybe these small, daily miracles (a butterfly, a great memory, a delicious tasting meat, a smile from a passer-by) are the ones we need to be looking for and appreciating. I suppose that is why depression is so brutal: you can’t take the miracles for miracles because you don’t have the energy or the hope to believe that things will get better or that life is beautiful.

So hold on to those small miracles when you are able to see them for what they are! And hope for magic!

magic
Source: https://www.behance.net/gallery/24293989/Believe-in-Magic

“Out of Our Minds”: sci-art-ence

We must learn to be creative.  Innovation comes from creativity which is sparked by imagination.  In his book Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, Sir Ken Robinson builds a powerful argument for the need in our society to shift how we see the role of creativity in education and in the workplace.

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Source: http://www.amazon.com/Out-Our-Minds-Learning-Creative/dp/1907312471

I started to type some of the key points I read in the book and ended up with a large list (which is might just keep at the end of this post, sorry!).  As a relatively new teacher (ending my 6th year) I am very aware of the tension happening in education right now.  The Government and other are realizing that collaborative work and innovation are essential for our learners.  Yet many educators and parents are holding back, desperate to keep the old model and tradition (reading, writing, ‘rithmetic).  As Robinson says, they are “Far from looking to the future, too often they are facing stubbornly towards the past” (Pg 47).  Yet as a classroom teacher I notice that my students are not able to creatively problem solve, even simple everyday problems, on their own.  They are having trouble transferring their skills to new projects.  They want yes or no answers and can’t handle ambiguity.  Sounds to me like they need more work with creativity!!

I am about to meet one of my professional goals of learning how to encourage creativity in my classroom and I am excited about the opportunity I have to work with Learning Through the Arts.  It is a collaboration between the school board, artists, and schools where artists help teachers to infuse creativity and the arts into any area of curriculum possible!  I know that arts are seen as an add-on that isn’t truly respected, yet I know that the arts are essential to our experiences as humans.  Sadly, “The arts are seen as disposable extras in education; something optional to do with self-expression, relaxation and leisure” (63).  Yet why can’t self-expression, relaxation, and leisure be part of Math, Science, ELA, Social??  Why are we separating students from making personal connections?

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Source: http://www.stockphotos.ro/mural-art-classroom-image15732739.html

I also appreciate Robinson’s discussion about the importance and value that our society has placed on traditional post-secondary education.  He states that “The narrow focus on academic ability and particular disciplines in schools inevitably marginalizes students whose real interests and abilities lie in other domains” (250).  Not ever human is meant to study at university.  Not every student is meant to study at college.  Yet as a society we look down on those who had the creativity and know-how to make it and be successful without being educated.

I am encouraged by some of the advances that I see within my own school system.  They have a Career and Technology centre where students can explore and get involved in all kinds of different areas of learning.  Also, in the CTF courses in Jr High, the curriculum is all about adapting to and creating in the midst of challenges.  I believe that if teachers can get on-board with this kind of planning and teaching then it will influence the core subjects as well.  Robinson writes that “If we fail to promote a full sense of people’s abilities through education and training, some, perhaps most, will never discover what their real capacities are” (123).  Yes the basic are important, yet how do we teach to humans instead of vessels that need filling?

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Source: http://meebal.com/the-great-us-education-scam/

Yes I believe that education is important.  Yet I also believe that we are doing a disservice to some of our students by not catching up with culture: we need to teach kids how to use imagination and innovation to create solutions to complex problems using skills they learn.  There needs to be engagement, buy-in, and a connection to what we teach.  Indeed, “Creativity is not about a lack of constraints; often it is about working within them and overcoming them” (266).  So let’s change together for the better: teachers, parents, Governments, and businesses!

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Source: https://thesnagel.wordpress.com/tag/creativity/

“David was dancing before the Lord with all his might” (2 Samuel 6: 14).

My Reading Notes:

“everyone has huge creative capacities as a natural result of being a human being.  The challenge is to develop them.  A culture of creativity has to involved everybody not just a select few” (4).

“Current approaches to education and training are hobbled by assumptions about intelligence and creativity that have squandered the talents and stifled the creative confidence of untold numbers of people” (8).

“education is meant to guide us from childhood to maturity.  It should be high among the ways in which we realize our creative abilities.  More often it is why we lose sight of them” (16).

“our best resource is to cultivate our singular abilities of imagination, creativity, and innovation.  Our greatest peril would be to face the future without investing fully in those abilities” (47).

Education systems: “Far from looking to the future, too often they are facing stubbornly towards the past” (47).

“If creativity is to become central to our futures, it first has to move to the heart of education” (49).

“The arts are seen as disposable extras in education; something optional to do with self-expression, relaxation and leisure” (63).

“The requirements of university entrance have had a direct influence on the nature of the school curriculum and on forms of assessment and public examination..Those who go to university rather than straight into work or vocational training programs are always seen as the real successes of the system” (65-66).

“I know artists, business leaders, dancers, sportspeople, and many others, whose accomplishments, intelligence and humanity are as substantial as anyone I have met with a post-doctoral degree” (66).

“The creative capacities of generations of people have been sacrificed needlessly to an academic illusion” (79).

Enlightenment thinking (technology and medicine advancements): “There has been a heavy price too, not least in the schism of the arts and sciences and the domination of the rationalist attitude, especially in the forms of education to which it has given rise” (98).

“The modern world view is still dominated by the ideology that came to replace medievalism: the ideology of rationalism, objectivity, and propositional knowledge.  These ideas frame our attitudes and theories every bit as much as myth and superstition underpinned the painstaking calculations of the medieval astronomers” (107).

“The creative process is not a single ability that lives in one or other region of the body.  It thrives on the dynamism between different ways of thinking and being” (122).

“If we fail to promote a full sense of people’s abilities through education and training, some, perhaps most, will never discover what their real capacities are” (123).

For Robinson, creativity is “The process of having original ideas that have value” (151).

“Facilitating creative development is a sophisticated process that must find a balance between learning skills and stimulating the imagination to explore new ideas” (161).

“The intellect cannot work at its best without emotional intelligence” (186).

“It is through feelings as well as through reason that we find our real creative power.  It is through both that we connect with each other and create the complex, shifting worlds of human culture” (196).

“Creativity is about making connections and more often than not…it is driven by collaboration as much as, if not more than, by solo efforts” (212).

“The narrow focus on academic ability and particular disciplines in schools inevitably marginalizes students whose real interests and abilities lie in other domains.  Cultivating the full range of students’ talents calls for a broader curriculum and a flexible range of teaching styles…One of the roles of education is to broaden and stretch the interests of students, into areas for which they many not have a natural affinity: it is equally important that they feel their own natural abilities are properly engaged and valued” (250).

“Schools can no longer be academic ghettoes” (264).

“Creativity is not about a lack of constraints; often it is about working within them and overcoming them” (266).

“There are many good teachers whose creative instincts are curbed by standardized education and whose effectiveness is diminished as a result.  A creative culture in schools depends on re-energizing the creative abilities of teachers” (267).

“Teaching for creativity involves asking open-ended questions where there may be multiple solutions; working in groups on collaborative connections between different ways of seeing; and exploring the ambiguities and tensions that may lie between them” (269).

“Assessment should support students’ learning and achievements.  In practice, it tends to dominate the priorities and general ethos of education” (275).

“We must learn to be creative” (286).

 

“On Thin Ice”: ancient and modern

Recently I had the opportunity to take part in some Inuit culture traditions. Through a program called CONNECTIONS, attended through the school I work at, I was able to go out to see what the program was all about and the day I went was devoted to Canada’s first peoples: First Nations, Metis, Inuit. Zinour Fathoullin (pictured leading drumming and dancing below) lead us in several different Inuit arts. We learned how to drum using a Qilauti (a traditional Inuit drum). We learned how to dance some Inuit dances, including a walrus (where you lay on your back, fling your feet over your left shoulder, lay on your stomach, flip over, and start again). The dancing and the drumming allowed me to understand a lot more about Inuit culture. Seeing Inuit culture and traditions together allowed me to have a better appreciation for those who live up North. When I came home, I stumbled upon this fabulous video from the North West Territories with video and interviews.

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Source: http://blackandlightimages.smugmug.com/Connections/Presenters/Zinor-Fanouth/i-Bfr7r9N/A

At this same presentation, Zinour Fathoullin got the students throat singing. I had already heard throat singing because of Tanya Tagaq coming onto my music radar during the Canadian Polaris Music prize. I found it so interesting to learn the history behind the singing: throat singing was a competition between women to see who could come up with the most animal noises. Also, Zinour shared with the students an ajai jaa (a personal song or chant that tells a person’s life story). As he sang, he drummed and danced and it was so powerful and beautiful.

While leaving school for Spring Break, I came across Jamie Bastedo’s book On Thin Ice at the school library and I knew I had to read it. Bastedo is, according to his publishing company, a biologist turned story teller. The novel centres around a teenager, Ashley, who lives in Canada’s North, and is the daughter of an Inuit man and a French/Irish mother. Bastedo’s novel tells the story of Ashley’s vivid dreams about polar bears, her artistic ability to draw polar bears, the polar bear hunts of her community, and the magical and mysterious connection she has to the polar bear. From the perspective of Ashley’s dream journal, the story of her every day life, and the perspective of a mystical polar bear, readers are able to get an amazing glimpse into a culture that is both beautiful and powerful.

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Source: http://www.amazon.ca/On-Thin-Ice-Jamie-Bastedo/dp/0889953376

Throughout the novel, Ashley is both terrified and memorized by the polar bear. Her dreams turn from nightmares into something more mystic and magical, leading her to develop a new relationships with her mysterious Great Uncle Jonah. As she dreams, she draws her visions of the polar bears and becomes known in the community for her art work. In fact, at the end of the novel, she is honored and respected by her community as they recognize the power of her artwork. She learned that her Great Uncle Jonah has carved several polar bears from the soap stone found under their town. She learns that her father is a gifted polar bear hunter. She learns that her Aana (Grandmother) is able to interpret her drawings. Ashley also finds meaning, healing, and belonging as she learns to drum, sing, and dance. At the end of the novel she realizes the importance of the stories and traditions of those who came before her and she allows herself to take on a role that at first, seems to not fit. At the beginning of the novel her mother and Aana find an old, fur, patchwork coat in the dump and continue to patch it and add on to it until at the end, the coat represents who she is: a mix-match of blood, generations, and cultures.

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Source: https://www.pinterest.com/marciamacd/aboriginal-art/

Overall, I loved Bastedo’s novel. I found the stories of the changing climate and its affect on the land (permafrost melting), the ice (the ice becoming unpredictable), and the animals (the seals and polar bears running out of traditional habitats) disturbing and I realize the passion with which Bastedo writes. He shows the dangers and the unpredictability of the future, yet he also ends with hope. He ends with the new generation of Inuits taking over from their elders and being able to blend science/technology and tradition in a way that celebrates and continues an ancient culture.

As with many First Nations, Metis, and Inuit tribes/nations, the hope rests in the people and in the youth.

youth
Source: http://www.nunatsiaqonline.ca/stories/article/65674photo_inuit_youth_take_their_message_to_durban/

“And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)

“For the first time visitor to the north, these first impressions imply that Inuit have thoroughly embraced the benefits of modern life. This is true but it is important to note that in doing so they have not left their complex and ancient culture behind.” (http://www.uqar.ca/files/boreas/inuitway_e.pdf)

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Source: http://hamaariihindii.wikispaces.com/%E0%A4%85%E0%A4%B2%E0%A4%BE%E0%A4%B8%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%95%E0%A4%BE