Friday, May 24, 2013

Things Ahead

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind
C.S. Lewis

I've struggled to write this post.  Part of the delay is because I don't know exactly what to say.  Another part of it is because as soon as I hit publish I feel like there's no going back.  It's not that I haven't told anyone.  The major players all know.  But making it public, universal, well, that's a big deal.  That feels definite.  And real.

See, I've decided to move to Nashville.

The end.  Goodbye.

OK, maybe some explanation is required.

A few months ago I had a door open that started stirring something in my heart.  I got an internship at this amazing little museum and botanical garden called Cheekwood.  I actually fell in love with the place last summer when I was visiting my sister.  It's really beautiful and they have some very exciting projects underway.  This summer the whole grounds have been taken over by Bruce Munro's Light exhibit.  If you're in the area, you should definitely check it out.

I felt inspired being on those grounds and started daydreaming about working there.  So I decided to go out on a limb and apply for a summer internship.  To my surprise, I got it.  I will be teaching art in their summer camps as an assistant.  Essentially I will be doing what I've been doing for the last five years but with the bonus of having access to the gardens.  As I was talking to the woman interviewing me she mentioned that several of the people working in the arts education department had interned for several seasons before they were hired. I knew that this was definitely a place that I could see myself working long term.  So this information set off a trigger in my mind:  if I could get to Nashville I could continue interning through the next year while I finish school.  I decided to begin the process of transferring to Belmont University. I wasn't sure if I'd get in.  I'm half way through my junior year.  I decided that if I didn't get in, then it wasn't meant to be. Well, I got in.  Then I had a problem.

I think a part of me was hoping that I wouldn't be accepted.  Then I wouldn't be faced with making this monumental decision.  I now had two doors open in a city where I would have family and friends nearby.  And even if Cheekwood doesn't work out, Nashville is full of opportunities in the arts.  So being there would give me a year to network before starting an active job search.   But our life is here, in Matthews.  My kids go to school here.  I currently have a job that I love here.  The kids friends are here, good friends who they love.  My boy is thriving in band and in his middle school.  We love our elementary school.  Sicily's gym is here.  The girls dance here.  We love our church here.  Everything is here.  And a major factor: their dad is here.  Even as I type all of this I know that it seems crazy to leave an established life and complicate a already complicated situation.

I struggled for weeks to make this decision. I prayed hard.  I sought advice from dear friends.  In the end, everything and everyone said it was time to go.  Even the major factor I mentioned above, Steven, gave his support and encouragement.  All arrows were pointing West.  In my heart I knew it was time. It's the scariest decision I've ever made because it doesn't just affect me.  This decision will have a major impact on the three people I care most about in this world.  If I'm making the wrong decision here, then I'm taking them down with me.   I've never made a major life decision like this on my own.  I've had a partner to help make these decisions since I was 18.  If we failed, we failed together.  This time, if I fail, I fail alone.  There's something incredibly terrifying about that.

Everyone's first question is how did the kids take the news.  The short answer is that they all responded differently.  Sicily laughed, because that's what she does in awkward situations.  She did the same thing when Steven and I told her we were getting a divorce. Analiese threw herself on the ground and cried.  She fits into theater naturally.  Chris retreated into himself because that's what he does in difficult situations.  Over the course of the weeks after I told them,though, they've become supportive.  They are still sad to leave behind their lives here, but they seem to understand why we're going.   The boy in particular has been encouraging.  Oh he's definitely mad some days and he doesn't want to go.  But he has said things that let me know that he sees the bigger picture.  He's an old soul.  I don't doubt that the transition will be hard for them.  I think I'll see their real responses when we get there, but I think they'll be OK.  I hope.

I've nearly chickened out several times this week.  I've shed a lot of tears and had a few meltdowns as I pack.  I'm coming off of a great performance with the studio.  If I could pack up the studio and bring it with me I would.  I knew it would be the hardest thing to let go of.  I have had immense creative freedom there.  I don't know that I'll ever have that again.  We're also coming to the end of the year.  The kids are preparing for end of the year traditions at their schools, traditions that we've come to love.  We have two weeks left here.  I'm starting to say good-bye to dear friends who I don't want to leave.  But it's time to go.  Not only are doors opening presenting new, exciting opportunities.  Not only do I have family there who I'm very excited to be close to.  But this is my fresh start.  I need that more than I often admit.  The last three years have been a personal nightmare.  I've lost a lot.  I've cried a lot.  I've had my heart broken.   And I can't seem to move on here.  So I'm literally moving on.  Is it the right move?  Honestly?  I don't know for sure, but it feels right.  It's a leap of faith.

And so we begin a new chapter in this book.  I'm going to call it Nashville.  Stay with me.  A new story is beginning.  Let's turn the page, shall we?....

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Masterpiece Performance and Gallery Show

I have had the privilege of teaching art at Masterpiece Studios for the last five years.  My girls dance at the studio and all of my children take art classes.  My kids have grown up at the studio.  Sicily started dancing there when she was just two, Analiese was four, and Chris was seven.  Masterpiece is our home away from home.  My co-workers (there are only three of us)  and their children have become a part of my extended family.  I'm incredibly blessed to love my job.

As much as I love teaching year round, my favorite part of the year is our Performance and Gallery Show.  It truly gets better every year.  I love the creative energy of preparing for it.  I love the adrenaline of the last week.  And I love that moment when I'm near tears backstage watching my students, who I'm so proud of.  It's the culmination of a year's worth of hard work.  We all pour ourselves into this show.  Not only is it rewarding for me, it's also an incredible experience for my children.  They get to see the complete process of putting on a show.  They help with sets and props.  They rehearse for hours.  They help backstage.  They have their own dressing room for their many costume changes.  They help with set up and tear down.  They see the sweat and tears and laughter and joy of it all.  Not many kids can say they've been a part of the whole process.  I'm not going to lie.  There are days when we are all exhausted and never want to go back and I wonder why I do this.  Being a part of the arts is hard and tiring (and penniless).  But the payoff comes every time.  It's that moment after it's all over when a student walks up to you and gives you a hug and you can see the pride in their parent's eyes.  You were a part of that child's moment.  It's worth it every time.

This year our theme was Kicking It Old School.  We took a tour through the decades.  It was so much fun!  In fact, it was hard to limit ourselves.  There's so much we wanted to represent.  I feel like we hit the highlights though and ended up with some very fun pieces.  This show stretched me technically.  Chris put together 30 second videos for each decade.  I learned that my computer skills aren't as advanced as I'd like to think they are.  Formatting a video montage may be outside of my skill set.  But we all learned something. (And that's a good thing, right?)  This show also had more sets and props than we've ever had in a show.  It made backstage a bit of a mad house as my stage hands and I ran from one side of the stage to the other.  My feet have never hurt so bad after a show!  This was also the most performance art we've had in the show.  It made it a creatively challenging show for me and my art students.  All in all, it was a great show.  Despite many hiccups in rehearsal, the show itself went smoothly.  It was fun and I think the audience loved it because they knew all of the songs.  Most importantly,  I think the students had fun.  Everyone was wonderful.

representing the 1940s :  USO girls dancing to Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy by the Andrews Sisters

This is my favorite recital costume that my girls have ever worn.  So cute!

representing the 1940s:  My USO girl saluted the audience and then bowed her head in tears at the memory of her fallen friends and the horrors of WWII

As the music starts (Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson)  the artist begin building her wings

This moment got me right in the heart.  He gently takes her hand and leads her  

She is a live sculpture representing hope and love

representing the 1950s:  The dancers showed the lighter side of the 50s so I felt that artists should show the edgier side. The boys represented Abstract Expressionist, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.  Analiese is representing the Beat generation by reciting a poem about the deeper meaning of abstract art.  I'm seriously so proud of this girl!

representing the 1960s civil rights movement:  the female artists demonstrated and sit in and protest for civil rights.  On one side of their signs was negative qualities sometimes given to girls.  Instead of accepting those labels, they rose in protest to proclaim the positive attributes they have to offer.  All to the tune of Aretha Franklin's Respect!

representing the 1960s:  What the World Needs Now Is Love

these embroidered costumed fit the period so well.  And they were so pretty as the girls flitted around hippy style
Our finale represented today.  Performed to Hall of Fame by the Script and
Our beautiful pointe ballerinas danced around the back alley set as the boys graffitied our studio motto.
Dream *Create* Inspire

these photos were taken during rehearsal.  So you have to picture it without the practice paper up.  It looked really cool

It was a wonderful juxtaposition between what's seen as beautiful and what's seen as gritty.  It also spoke to the struggles of being an artist of any kind.  The determination and strength, the risk and inspiration.  It was really beautiful.

Gallery Show

I had some amazing artists this year.  I'm really proud of all of them

My older students focused on concept and individual style.  Their work reflected it.  They presented real gallery quality work this year.  I'm really proud of them.

I'm especially proud of this kid.  In a few weeks you will be able to see this piece hanging over my couch.  I think it's awesome

We did a unit on Andean Textiles and Installations.  This is part of that unit.  I really like the way this turned out.  The two to the right are my girls.  These will also be hanging in my house soon.

This was my favorite show to help produce and display.  I poured my heart into it.  I know that my children poured their heart into it.  This will be one of those things that sticks with us all forever.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Finishing Season

It's that time of year again.  The finishing season.  In the past two weeks we've had a band concert, gymnastics finals, school finals, end of grade testing, and our big Masterpiece performance and gallery show!  It has been a crazy few weeks as we prepared for all of that!  So you'll have to excuse the lack of posting around here.  If I haven't lost everyone, stick with me.  The next few posts are going to be big. Ending with a big announcement.

Let's start with band...

Earlier this spring, the boy auditioned and was moved up to bass clarinet from clarinet.  It was a pretty big deal around here!  He worked really hard for it and was rewarded for the hard work.  (Life lesson? Check!)  He started this school year not even knowing what a clarinet looked like.  He walked into his first band class not knowing how to play an instrument or read music or even how to really keep a beat.  As I watched him at this concert, it struck me just how far he had come.  He has not only learned how to play one instrument, he has learned to play two by the end of the year!  I'm so proud of him.  (And props to his teacher!  Teaching that many students to play such a wide range of instruments is no easy feat.  Seriously. That woman deserves a raise.  Or a box of chocolate, since we all know teachers are under paid. Can I get an Amen?!)

And now on to gymnastics...

My little gymnast.  She's awesome!  This year she was at the gym for over two hours every week (and in the dance studio for an hour and a half each week.  She's in amazing shape!)  Her final assessments happened over the course of two days.  Day one was for gymnastics.  That means she went through a series of exercises on the equipment such as the bars and the balance beam.  Her biggest achievement this year was learning to do a one armed  round off dismount on the balance beam.  She still needs a spot but it's still impressive.  I'm pretty sure that if I attempted that move I would crack my head open!  Day two was for tumbling.  This was the first year that she was in a tumbling specific class.  She wasn't a big fan.  She definitely prefers the bars and the beam.  However, I can see the benefits of the class in her overall performance.  She's stronger and tumbling helped with her flexibility.  I'm so proud of this girl.  She's a born athlete.

Dance and Art classes at the studio also ended....

The girls have danced at Masterpiece for the last five years.  This is the first year that they were in the same class.  It was fun for me to watch them dance together.  They both have such different strengths and weaknesses. And they have grown so much in the last five years.  Sicily started at the studio when she was two!  Both of them have developed into lovely young ladies in our time at the studio. They are both beautiful dancers.  We owe that to their teacher of the last five years, Jackie.  She is so great with them and loves them like they're her own.  I love her for that.

This was my strongest teaching year yet.  Each year I feel like I figure out how to do this whole teaching thing a little bit more.  This year I took a completely different approach with my older students.  I spent the first half of the year introducing them to the technical elements of art, such as color theory, composition, line, and form.  The second half of the year I introduced them to conceptual art and encouraged them to develop their own unique concepts and styles.  The art work out of that class reflects the change.  Their art is edgy, unique, and conceptually intelligent.  They amazed me!  I will definitely be trying this approach again.  I loved watching their mind's work.  Children are able to see so much more in the world than we give them credit for.  The piece above is my boy's.  It' s a deconstructed clock representing the decay of time.  The pieces get smaller and more deformed as your eye moves across the piece.  I love it!  I think it's brilliant.  He's a great artist....

but more on that later.  I'll save the big show for tomorrow.  As a teaser though I'll say this:  It was our best show yet.  We took the theme and the artistry to a whole new level!