Numerology Art Show in Norfolk, VA

This coming saturday I will have artwork displayed in a local art show hosted by Alchemy NFK in the proposed arts district section of downtown Norfolk.

The Pilotonline did a little preview write up of the show and interview with me. Read it here.

Saturday, July 13, 2013
7:00pm

FREE & OPEN TO EVERYONE between 7pm-9pm but a $5 donation is suggested. Refreshments and Food will be available.
————————————————————–
+ HAUNTING IN DAYLIGHT + MIKE CANN + ELIZABETH LEVESQUE + MARTIN JENKINS + JACK VANDYKE + DZAET + NICK JUBLOU + MSYiii + BEN & CANDACE + ARIA MAISEY + ALEX BRANNIN + SCOT CLARK + FABIAN’S FINEST 

Musical Selections by SHANDROID x WESLEY BUNCH x
K\/DET plus an interactive set by Logan Laurent & Rex Bonney

Live Performance Art by
BESTIAL MOUTHS (Los Angeles)
LITTLE BLACK RAIN CLOUDS (Richmond)
ARMS BIZARRE (Norfolk)
SCOUGHS (Uranus)
ALICIA LUMA as “OUR LADY OF VARIOUS SORROWS”
————————————————————–
Man’s insistent captivation with spiritualism and the incorporeal determinations of our fate are explored in this group artistic endeavor. 13 selected pieces each by a different artist on 7.13.13 explore our infatuation with the spiritual world and it’s anthropomorphic manifestation of the forces for good and evil in our mythology and every day lives.

ALL AGES // 9pm-2am // $7

HEADER/FLYER PHOTOGRAPHY by José Alberto Martinez 

Brought to you by
TIDEWATER ARTS OUTREACH // ALCHEMY NFK // LAFAYETTE PRINTING COMPANY
and Generous Help from our Community Sponsors
Folk City Tattoo
757 Creative Space
Ten ToP
Anthems of the Undesirable 

Sound by BEARD Audio https://www.facebook.com/BeardAudio
Lights & Visuals by IRONCLAD

Flow and Ebb – Life on the French Broad

Life is different. Life is interesting. Life is a bit hard to keep up with.

I’m on my last month of officially studying with Angela Cunningham at Marshall High Studios. It’s time to find a full time job and figure out a schedule to allow me to continue self study. I believe I will stay in Marshall for the time being. I like the quiet and slower pace. Things aren’t frantic here. I feel myself slowing down as well. A sense of urgency will always be part of me, but it is nice living somewhere that doesn’t exacerbate it. This place is full of quiet moments of meaning. Or maybe it’s just helping me focus on the moments that are already there but that I usually miss.

I love the sound of the French Broad river always rushing within ear shot. I’ve never lived somewhere that has smelled so sweet. The spring flowers have melted like heated sugar, but now summer blooms like orange lilies and trumpet flowers are replacing them. I may be alone much of the time, but there are always lightening bugs to keep me company.

I’ve met good people. My studio mate Dan has been a great comfort and an easy friend. My roommates, Frank(another amazing artist) and Zane, have been a wonderful surprise. Having Chelsey, a friend from Norfolk, here eased my transition.

To help fund good times and my coffee needs I’ve been posing for drawing groups in the evenings, specifically for Lawter Studios and Ben Long’s drawing group. It’s been an interesting experience being on the other side of the canvas. It’s a valuable lesson. I have found figure modeling easy in surprising ways and extremely hard in others. My feelings of exposure disappeared almost immediately. I came to realize that modeling for a drawing group is not about me at all. It’s the parts, not the sum of them. 

I’ve learned a lot, and very quickly, drawing with Angela. I have learned to appreciate and maybe even like graphite when before I avoided it in favor of charcoal. In the past I have been very heavy handed while drawing. I always seemed to be scoring the surface of my paper. While here I have grown more delicate with the pressure I use while drawing. My perception of value has always been a big source of frustration for me. I have by no means fixed this problem, but have made the steps towards increasing my sensitivity to it. I’m physically stronger as well. In the past I haven’t made myself stand while drawing. I’m required to now. At first the pain in my back and legs was distracting, but it eventually eased off. I’m stronger. I see more clearly. I translate. I’ve taken painful steps in the right direction.

I wasn’t sure how I would handle drawing bargue plates and doing cast drawings. They seemed inaccessible before coming here. I didn’t understand the process. Now, while not terribly skilled yet, I feel like I have the tools and vocabulary to unlock this mysterious method of learning. There is nothing magic about it. Just like most things, it’s hard work and discipline, but possible. Feeling that it’s possible makes all the difference. I have less fear.

I miss my friends in Norfolk and Philly. I miss my step children and life in Virginia, but I am also happy.

June Art Shows 2013

I’m proud to announce my step son and his girlfriend’s two person show to be held Saturday June 1st at Grow Interactive. It is their senior art show for the Governor’s School of the Arts. Virginia will have her paintings and illustrations displayed and Ian will be showing his animated movies.

I am also going to have my piece Psychic Device on display at the second Speaking in Tongues show at Black Vulture Gallery in Philadelphia this June 7th.

SPEAKING IN TONGUES II

Black Vulture Gallery proudly hosts the Opening Reception of “Speaking in Tongues II”, a group show of the wicked and the weird in a terrifyingly tasteful display of some of the best artists in Philly as well as from afar. Curated by BUDDY NESTOR!!

live music by::

KRACKASS 

and 

DECAP ATTAK
^^ https://www.facebook.com/pages/DECAP-ATTAK/109494529099561

A raging good time with killer artwork, kicking off summer right!!

Refreshments by the ever delicious and creative brewers at Barry’s Homebrew Outlet!!!!

Preparing to say goodbye to Norfolk PT. 3

What does it mean when you never feel like you fit in where you live? Is everyone supposed to be able to fit in to every place or situation? Is it because the place is lacking or the person? Does there really need to be blame? I find myself asking these questions a lot this last week in Virginia. I’ve lived in VA for about 12 years now and have never felt completely at ease, but I’m not sure whether that is just a part of me or partially locational.

And even if it is all self created, perhaps it will be easier to escape this feeling within myself as I move around this coming year. Different situations and scenes will probably help me learn more about myself and develop new coping strategies. 

This is my last week here and still I find myself avoiding large social situations. I have a hard time being at loud, mingling events, and this is going to be a problem that I can’t move away from. While not diagnosed with any specific condition, I know I have difficulty sorting through sounds coming at me. Very quickly it all begins to mush together into one roar, and I am essentially alone in a very crowded room, unable to understand or respond to others polite attempts at conversation with me.

Norfolk is not a bad place. As I walk around Ghent lately I find myself realizing that if I was just a visitor I’d find it very charming. Specifically during Spring.

Wisteria and fast growing passion flower vines crawl up fences and hang over walkways. The air smells of dirt from freshly planted gardens and dinner being cooked in kitchens with windows wide open to let in temperate air. The Hague hasn’t started stinking from cooking in the summer heat yet…it will eventually, but right now it’s lovely.

And the pets! While I may have a hard time getting to know people here, I sure do know the names of all the dogs in my neighborhood. It feels good to live somewhere that openly loves their fur friends. It tickles me to see the restaurants up and down Colley Avev offer bowls of water to dogs or allowing patrons to enjoy their dinner while their dog rests at their feet.

Another thing I’ve realized I have taken for granted is that Norfolk has good food! This may sound small, but it’s so important. On road trips I find myself seeking local restaurants, not chains, to eat at in an effort to support small businesses and get a more authentic experience of a place, and I’m usually disappointed by freezer burned fries and some typical form of hotted up chicken. And then I wish I could walk down the street and eat at Luna Maya, Ten Top, Pasha or any of the other excellent restaurants Ghent can boast. Even getting a good cup of coffee can be an ordeal elsewhere. If only I could put a mini Fair Grounds barista in my pocket while traveling.

While Ghent and downtown Norfolk are very walkable, I still find myself wishing I could take the city and rearrange it as if playing The Sims. There are a lot of interesting shops, restaurants, lovely houses and views. Sometimes I feel like they are all hiding from each other. Shops and galleries that would pull in lots of foot traffic if clustered together are tucked here and there out of each others, and customers, sight. 

With Lavender and Lace was a last minute discovery and there I was able to turn some of my vintage clothing into road trip cash. And I’m sure everyone can agree that Kitsch is a welcome addition to Ghent’s main strip(and you can buy ginger ale scented perfume there).

I’m rambling and vacillating between being relieved to leave and regretful. Oh Norfolk, I’m confused by you, but that is very likely my fault.

I’ve met and become friends with many wonderful people here. There is a lot of creativity and ambition around Norfolk, and I’m proud to know many of the best people in this town, but still, I find myself unable to interact with the people here as a group/town/culture. I keep them all in individual friendship slots.

I’ll end this wobbly post by quoting Tolkien’s Bilbo Baggins –

I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
– Bilbo Baggins

PREPARING TO SAY GOODBYE TO NORFOLK PT. 2

As I prepare to depart from Norfolk I’ve decided to try to attend as many local events as possible, which sounds easy and simple but with all the errands and chores I need to accomplish before leaving for NC, combined with my shyness, it has been a bit of a task.

This past weekend Norfolk embraced Team Better Block and decided to transform a dilapidated section of Downtown Norfolk into a temporary arts district, an important move while the proposed Norfolk Arts District is being reviewed by the powers that be.

Read more about the event at AltDaily. There is a lot more to see and talk about then my little snippet here.

One of the more promising exhibits was Alchemy NFK. The hope is that the building will become a permanent facility, housing gallery/shop space and working studios. This is important because while as fun Better Block was and appeared, it is temporary. The test is to see what sticks, what Norfolk will allow to flower, what will receive consistent support from the city and citizens. Part of me feels a bit wistful about leaving at a time when things suddenly seem to be happening…but honestly, I’m not sure what will happen with Norfolk, and I am solitary, therefore making me not even likely to be much of a help to the community even if I did remain. I hope this next year will make me a better and more useful person. Perhaps I can return in the future and be a better part of the community.

Wall of Litho Prints by Heather Bryant, Sculpture by Diana Caramat, Paintings by Kelly Herring.

Check out the food trucks in the background!

I’ve been walking a lot, hoping to find things I’ve been too busy or self absorbed to notice or appreciate. I’m sad to be leaving Norfolk during Spring. I love the way Ghent residents live on their porches and let their gardens run wild. I love the variety of buildings and walkability of the neighborhood.

On my walk home from the Better Block event I found a hidden gallery full of early 19th century paintings, very much mariner themed, but it was nice to find something new very close to the proposed arts district. There is going to have to be variety to maintain sustainability…

Kellam Galleries was a neat secret space. I took some photos while inside, but the only thing that matters is this painting of a mermaid fighting a black belt in karate. It is called Karate-do, by Ralph Eugene Cahoon Jr. and can be yours for $14,000.00!

PREPARING TO SAY GOODBYE TO NORFOLK PT. 1

As I prepare for my trip to Asheville I’ve been working to create a cache of reference material for me to draw in my fresh new moleskine…the whole point of this year is to draw, refine my drafting skills, refrain from painting till my foundations are stronger and hope that in the end I learn more than I already know and can become a better painter as a result.

I’ve been setting up still life compositions in my shadow box and photographing those, hoping to come up with something interesting, dynamic and steps beyond my past paintings while still building on a theme.

But my main love is portraiture, so I’ve enlisted some local artists into posing for me. Of course, drawing from life would be ideal, but currently not convenient. I’m just glad I have such interesting friends willing to pose for me, and it’s been a nice way to see people before leaving while still getting tasks taken care of.

I first fetched metal smith and ODU instructor Jane Ritchie from her studio in Norfolk, then was lucky to have Mallory Jarrell stop by my place after hanging a show at local boutique Kitsch. You should definitely click on their names and check out their work. It’s nice to see such diverse work being done around here.

I then actually made the effort(I am a recluse) to go check out a show happening at Fawn Street Studios and was glad I did. I hadn’t known about the studios and warehouse till recently. I hope they have more shows there and put the space to good use. Below are pictures from the event, Peanut Butter Fluxxx. I especially liked the work in the second from the bottoms photo, all done by artist Will Clark.

Asheville Adventuring Around

I had a super awesome time last week visiting North Carolina’s Asheville area as a fact finding mission. I was put up by artist and designer Chelsey Barnes and her boyfriend(and their pug, Fig Newton)for the week. Staying with friends makes trips so much easier on the psyche and wallet!

I visited my future instructor, artist Angela Cunningham at Marshall High Studios, a renovated and repurposed former high school building in Marshall NC in the middle of a river, divided into studio spaces for artists of all kinds. I took photos but did a terrible job due to my lack of picture taking skills and the gloomy skies. Visit the above link to learn more about the space.

River Arts District

I feel like I only skimmed the surface. The combination of my horrible sense of direction and the dismal weather kept me to cozy cafes, darting out here and there in order to lurk the many open studios in the reclaimed industrial section of the mountain town. On my way out of Asheville I was sad to realize I was driving by several other working studios that I hadn’t discovered during my visit…next time I suppose, and that won’t be too far in the future. Asheville is not a perfect place, but there is something very appealing about it. There is a lot of art being made there, not all of it great, but more importantly there is a centralized community. At least I think there is. It felt that way. In general the spaces were very walkable, the people were interested and there was a distinct feeling I came upon again and again. There wasn’t a cagey sense of competition when speaking to other artists. There seemed to be an understanding that not everyone was vying for the same audience and dollars, or even if that was the case, it didn’t feel like it mattered. 

Please forgive my sad iphone photo skills.

Daniel Mcclendon at Lift Studios was a pleasure to talk to. The space was beautiful and completely full of his paintings, both complete and in progress. 

Wedge Studios was a fun space to explore. It was a hive and I liked that. Below are pictures from that section of building. I am not able to identify every artist represented, but will edit as I discover who did what and so on.

Pictured below is the entrance to artist Julie Armbruster‘s work space. She was also kind enough to chat with me.

I really dug the airy feeling of Melanie Norris‘ section of the building.

Curve Studios, another cluster of buildings seemingly dedicated to ceramicists, metal smiths and fiber artists.

Phil Mechanics Studios was pretty much deserted when I visited, but I was still able to wander around the building’s floors and cement stairwells.

I traipsed through a few open studios on Clingman street, shown below…

Odyssey Ceramic

I stopped into the Pink Dog Creative stretch of buildings and talked a while with artist Mary Webster who was kind enough to tell me about her experience in the area since moving there. 

Not much further down the street I met artist Richard Christian Nelson. Again I was amazed at the willingness of the people I met to put aside their work for the moment in order to talk with me. He was especially enjoyable to talk to considering his work was closer to what I’m hoping to learn while studying with Angela in Marshall NC. He also teaches workshops in Asheville, emphasizing anatomy and observational skills.

I popped into Cotton Mill Studios. I appreciated the atmosphere in Studio G. Below are pictures of what appears to be a life drawing class set up and master copies by Bill George.

Downtown Co-Ops and Galleries

Downtown I enjoyed how clustered the local galleries were together and near the Asheville Art Museum. They all shared space and together most likely pull crowds from place to place…which is how it should be! I was impressed with how pulled together the co-op galleries were. None felt like a flea market. The work was diverse, hung well on clean modular white walls. They felt inviting and professional without being sterile.

Blue Spiral Gallery was beautiful inside. It was a three floor gallery full of contemporary work and what appeared to be a traveling collection. The lady at the front desk informed me the gallery was designed with the help of a local architect. My favorite pieces seen there were the lil’ organic sculptures created by Amy Gross and paintings by Charles Ladson.

The Satellite Gallery was another space I am happy I got to explore. It’s a smaller space but efficiently used. I popped my head in late last Thursday to find the owner busy hanging a show, but he was kind enough to allow me to look around.

I am eager to go back this coming May. There is a lot more for me to see and knowing that is exciting and gives me hope. It was especially interesting considering all the effort to create an artist district here in Downtown Norfolk. You can read about the project efforts on it’s facebook page, Norfolk Arts District. Being essentially art tourist in Asheville has made me want to approach Norfolk as one as well for another photo blog post. Asheville’s arts district has a working grittiness to it that I’m not sure Norfolk would embrace, but that I think isn’t something they’ll be able to avoid if in fact they want it to work here. Painting, sculpting, glass blowing, et cetera doesn’t happen in pristine spaces. It’s work and messes are made. It’s those messes that make the spaces relatable and appealing, at least it does to me. I hope Norfolk at large doesn’t remain afraid.

influences and inspiration – historical to contemporary

Below are examples of artwork from the past and present, antique and contemporary, that especially appeal to me. I think it’s important to have influences, and even more important to be aware of what they are.

Above from left to right – Death the Bride by Thomas Cooper GotchMemento Mori by Tom Bagshaw. Bagshaw’s halo in the above piece reminds me of details from Paul Delaroche’s paintings dealing with the subject of death. Bagshaw’s work is an example of what painterly effects can be achieved through digital media.

Drained by Lori EarleyThe Sleepwalker by Maxmilián Pirner.

Daphne by Hubert von HerkomerYou Don’t Sing to Me Anymore by Caryn Drexl. Caryn is a very talented contemporary photographer who I wished lived near me so I could collaborate with her!

La nuit by Auguste Raynaud, Evening Mood by Bougereau, The Morning Star and the Moon by Carl Schweininger. It’s pretty clear that I am a sucker for floating bodies and gauzy vapor and/or fabric.

Below are some links to some sites that sustain me a bit, especially when it comes to breaking down the process and solving technical issues. Though I have to be careful not to let myself get too sucked into reading about painting and drawing rather than actually doing it.

Underpaintings

Paintings Stuff to Look Like Stuff

Portraits of Painters

DG Oil Painting Techniques

David Kassan

Art of the Scam

The topic of art theft has come up A LOT lately. This past Art Basel in Miami Jason Levesque walked into a gallery space in the SCOPE tent and came face to face with artwork straight up traced from old photographs of his and North Carolina photographer Marie Killen, by ‘painter’ Josafat Miranda.

In Jason’s own words…

Walking around Art Basel, this weekend I came across a few pieces in the Scope show that looked pretty familiar. There was a sampling of 3 pieces presented by the Robert Fontaine Gallery all by the same artist. I recognized my photography in two of them and the third was a copy of my good friend Marie Killen’s photo. When i got home a quick google search reveled that nearly his entire body of work was comprised of other peoples photography. No credits were given, though that wouldn’t have put the artist in the clear. Josafat Miranda hadn’t bothered to change the composition or content in any appreciable way, even though that too would not have put him in the clear.
For me, photography was a hobby, something I did for fun. But it was art. These weren’t candids, they were carefully composed, edited photos. The model traveled, did her makeup and helped style the shoot. Put simply, it was a collaborative artistic endeavor by me and the model Tracy P.

Marie Killen is a wildly talented photographer living in North Carolina. Photography is her passion and craft and she does it extremely well. In my opinion she’s one of the best photographers in her genre. Her shoots require far more work and planning than mine ever did. She’s developed, through hard work and practice, a recognizable style.
What Josafat Miranda has done here reveals a total disrespect for photography as an art form. He’s quickly and with very little creative alteration, harvested the yield of someone else’s hard work. What makes a painting strong, isn’t just the brush strokes and the rendering method, more, much more, than that is the composition, the subject matter and the hundreds of creative decisions that go into making an original piece of art.

Jason Levesque, Stuntkid.com

While the whole situation has been anxiety inducing, I’ve somewhat enjoyed the internet conversation this issue has generated Enjoyed AND been baffled by it. It hasn’t been a good experience for Jason, mainly because he didn’t wish to start a witch hunt, but at the same time it’s important to point out wrong actions. Especially if it can be turned into a teaching moment. 

Some may see it as free advertising for Jason, and I suppose to some degree that’s true, but it certainly wasn’t the best kind of exposure. Josafat Miranda traced Jason’s photographs…and that’s what the articles are about. Jason is mainly an illustrator, so he was receiving attention to work that he no longer makes.

He also is one of the most empathetic people I know, and he was concerned about the amount of angry attention Josafat Miranda was receiving. What Miranda did was wrong, but Jason had no desire for the man to suffer unreasonably…yet when you read Miranda’s response in the Daily Mail article you see the strain, but you also see the disconnect with reality. He doesn’t appear to be sorry for what he’s done.

You can read more about the incident at the below links. The below links also show the original works next to the copied versions.

Miami New Times

Daily Mail

HyperAllergic

You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice

The above incident happened in muggy Miami, but it was talked about a lot locally. I doubt that many in our local ‘art scene’ were completely unaware of it. So you’d think…you’d think that local ‘artist’ Rashidi Barrett would have watched that scenario unfold quietly, stealthily hide his own traced works and taken it as a lesson that he was luckily able to learn privately.
(edited to add that in the AltDaily article Barrett claims not to have known about the Miami incident, IMO that is possible but not probable considering the massive and local internet reaction)

Of course things didn’t work out that way. You can read more about the situation in the links below. They sum it up better than I can. The entire thing is incredibly awkward. It’s like an excruciatingly embarrassing episode of Parks & Recreation, and I need to run away from the television.

Old South High

Pilot Online

Alt Daily

Read the comments on all articles linked above. They range from rabid outrage to apologetic. It is amazing and often demoralizing to get a look at how others view this kind of grifting.

I feel that both incidents are a result of several things: the acclaim by those not visually literate, some success too soon, a need for attention and approval greater than the need for the basis being rooted in honesty and earned skill.

I also think art classes should talk about these issues more often, at the very least encouraging discussion about the differences between appropriation and theft or whether there is one at all. I certainly believe there is. An homage is not one if no one knows about it. The copying artist chooses not to reveal their sources or inspiration. I don’t believe school being better about talking about these subjects would prevent it. I don’t believe either Miranda or Barrett took art classes, but I think it would foster art scenes more capable of having an intelligent discussion about it or even more likely to spot possible fraud.

What I find interesting is that both Miranda and Barrett were able to find fans and patrons. I realize this part of my rant could be put down to taste, but I feel strongly about it. Neither, in my opinion, seem to display much skill. (There is a lot of work out in the world that I wouldn’t hang on my wall, but I can recognize the skill and creativity behind it and appreciate it.) There is a disconnect between their mark making, subjects and materials. I can’t explain it very well, but it confuses me when others claim that both are talented…projecting an image you never sketched on a canvas and tracing them awkwardly is not a display of technical skill or creativity. What others see as talent in working artists is the result of hundreds of hours of practice, anguish and struggle.

I realize it’s important to nurture and support fledgling artists, but that doesn’t mean treating them(I’m not excluding myself from this) as genius’ right out of the gate. 

The art world is huge, but the internet is making it smaller. Copying anothers work to learn is an accepted and admirable way to learn. Almost every artist has done it at some point. Representing it only as your own creation is not part of that path.

Whether the above issues are legal or not is not part of my point, and I’m not interested in arguing about that aspect. 

Just because something may be legal, or even normal, does not make those actions ethical or honorable.

Ugh, general overall ickiness!

Heads on Tables – Learning Classical Drawing Techniques

It’s over. I am done studying at TCC. Almost. I still need to take an algebra test…damn it.

This semester I took supervised study in drawing, hence all the photos of charcoal drawings, and to finish it up I spent the past week with Chicago artist(and former VA Beach resident) Brett Edenton. It was a valuable experience to study with someone, even if just for a week, with a specific goal. In many ways it made things more comfortable. He could tell me when I was doing something wrong and it not be open to interpretation. This wasn’t about creativity. It was about seeing and technical skill and it’s exactly what I wanted and made me eager to continue this path. That said, I didn’t do everything that was suggested. I tried to take advice and pick up tips and skill while not losing my own methods that seem to work for me.

I believe I’ve touched on it before, but I want representational skills. I want those skills to make my work, whether it be figurative or not, more convincing.

It was beneficial to not be able to dodge someone’s attention while drawing. At first I was self conscious, and while that feeling lingered, it was good for me not to disappear in a classroom of other students. Having someone watch you draw can be very scary. It reveals how you think…or how you don’t think.

This isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s a step in the right direction. I hope my touch and eye will grow more sensitive as time and practice pass. I enjoyed that the project was to draw more heads on tables, something I already seem to like to do.

I also stopped in at the Chrysler Museum of Art before it shuts down for renovations and met this painting I had never noticed before. I call it The Log Lady of Norfolk, but it’s really a painting by Hugues Merle French (1823-1881) called The Lunatic of Étretat (1871, oil on canvas).

I love it. It’s hard to see, but her eyes almost glow red and her hair is drifting away like smoke. Plus it reminds me of Twin Peaks and that’s always a plus.

Upper Darby, PA Education – Losing more than future Tina Fey’s

May 2, 2012

There wasn’t much I enjoyed about school as a child. I was a depressed, scaredy kid that spent most of my time in my own head, reading, writing or drawing, but my schools were able to break down my inclination to introversion and provide me with creative outlets.

I was lucky that I went to schools dedicated to providing a thorough education, not just the basics, to all of their students. My favorite memories from Garrettford Elementary and Drexel Hill Middle School school are my art classes, music(though I couldn’t sing a lick) and even gym class.

I played the saxophone and was terrible at it, but I was given the opportunity to find out if I liked it. My elementary school regularly put on concerts. I remember the principal, Mr. McAllister, dressing up as a mad scientist and dancing to the Monster Mash. I played the Hanukkah song on my sax while sporting a beehive…coifed especially for my later debut as a Supreme for our Golden Oldies medley. 

The Beehives! The Memories! Thank you Garrettford!
Gym class, including recess, was a chance to run, scream and be ridiculous. They made sure we weren’t cooped up in little boxes all day. Our schools bussed us to the local High School’s indoor swimming pool and taught us to swim.

They stressed creative writing and held yearly Young Author’s contests. Drexel Hill Middle School even developed a program for budding authors and theater kids called The Playwrights, which was perfect for preparing children to participate in a summer theater camp called Summer Stage. I wrote and directed a play all at the age of 14!

Even in high school, when I really went off the weird kid deep end, I looked forward to my art classes. When I couldn’t participate in my senior years advanced art class, my favorite art teacher, Elizabeth Harendza, sought me out and provided me with assignments she was giving her other students. She allowed me to find refuge in her class during my lunch period. I don’t know if I would have graduated without the solace of art class. I don’t know if I would have known to seek comfort in those classes if I hadn’t been exposed to the arts at a young age. I wouldn’t have known to seek it out in high school if my interest in art had not been recognized in elementary school. 

This may all go away…with the additional loss of foreign language, technology and the school libraries! 

Like many other schools across the country, Upper Darby is facing a budget crisis. There is no one reason this is happening. It is the result of inflation, property values decreasing, students outside of the district attending UD schools, No Child Left Behind and the funding of charter schools.

The result is practically all programs aside from math, science, history and english are being slashed from curriculums beneath the high school level.

The internet is buzzing with articles and movements to stop/fix this. I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t even live there anymore, but the possibility hurts my heart, especially because this isn’t something that’s just happening there. Public schools all over the country are being forced to make some hard decisions.

Here are some links to read up more on the issues, probably all more eloquent and informative than my blog post. 

PhillyMag.com article

Save Upper Darby’s Music Facebook page

Save UD Arts main page

Save Upper Darby Arts Facebook page

And yes…Tina Fey of 30 Rock graduated from Upper Darby High School. So did that girl from The Blair Witch Project…and more importantly to me, Lloyd Alexander, the fantasy children’s author who wrote the Vesper Holly book series and The Chronicles of Prydain.

And that’s cool and impressive and nice, but I think it’s sad to see articles and comments calling on their memories in an attempt to make people care, or worse, hoping for Tina Fey to somehow come to the rescue with her celebrity status. We should already care.

There are so many other alumni who are doing what they want/need/should be doing now because of the Upper Darby School District’s past dedication to providing a rich and varied eduction. They may not be famous or rich, but they matter. Below is a list of links to UDHS graduates visual arts portfolios. These are the people I remember from high school. I’m sure I’ve forgotten many. I’d be happy to add more as the information comes to me.

Kevin Wright – Film 

Shaun Kessler – Animation and Illustration

Mike Sheperd – Photography

Ron Cala – Design and Illustration

Mark Amadio – Graphic Design

Pat Woods – Fine Art and Education

James Ulmer – Fine Art and Illustration

Eric Hazlett – Art Director at Boco Digital Media

Matt Biller – Designer and Art DirectorReplyPosted in inspirationlifeschool| Tagged arteducationinspirationsaveudartsschooludhsupper darby school districtLeave a reply