Saturday, June 15, 2013

On being an artist and an arts educator...

by Sue Lemmo, a 22 year veteran visuals arts teacher
in Pennsylvania, a member of the PSEA Board of Directors,
the NEA Fine Arts Caucus Executive Board and a vibrant,
energetic and insightful  NEA leader for an arts education
for all of America's students.
Arts educators face many challenges the political climate we live in, just keeping our fine arts programs alive and funded can be a monumental task. In Pennsylvania, after three years of draconian budget cuts many school districts are once again cutting or completely eliminating fine arts programs. And those of us who still remain on the job find ourselves doing more and more with fewer resources. Throw in the demands of our day to day lives and being an arts educator can be just plain exhausting.

Don't get me wrong, I just finished my 22nd year as a visual arts teacher in a small rural Pennsylvania school district. And I love what I do. There is nothing like the feeling I get when one of my students accomplishes a challenging task, creates a stunningly beautiful piece of art, or just feels stronger about their place in the world because of the work we do together in my classroom. Did I mention that I still love what I do?

But maintaining a classroom environment with that kind of drive and energy can sometimes make me forget about my own creative self. Between my  advocacy as a local and region union president, my work with
It is appropriate that this original post
celebrates our 300th post on the NEA
Fine Arts Caucus blogsite.  WTG Sue!
other labor organizations through my position as treasurer of my Central Labor Council, raising two daughters (one in high school and one in college), taking care of two sets of elderly parents (the youngest being 87 years old) and making sure our house doesn't look like an episode of "Hoarders" (Did I mention that I don't love cleaning?) actually making art just seems to get pushed aside.

Over the years I have recognized that my art making energies seem to experience peaks and valleys. So I allow myself to have those times when I am not as actively engaged in creating in-depth time consuming pieces. I have learned that just because I am not in the studio cranking out art doesn't mean that I am letting my creative mind rust away. On the contrary, those times are often when I am generating ideas, doing research, or allowing myself time for creative play. If I don't allow myself those down times I am actually less productive in the studio.

That said, I have been in this valley too long! I have decided that over the next two months, I am going to do my warm ups. So every day, I plan to spend at least 15 minutes doing something that is entirely selfish and productively creative...either getting my hands a little messy in the studio or working on those rough drafts of the stories for books that sometimes wake me up in the middle of the night in the hopes that getting back in the habit will push towards a peak and out of this valley. This post, is Day 1.

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