Tag Archives: purpose of art

Ice Cream Faces

I ran into a former student this morning at my community garden. She was there for a school-related program; I was just there to water and weed and hope a little as I surveyed the puny seedlings just beginning to emerge from the little patch I cultivate.

She was wandering around the garden in a state of apparent bliss, eating from a styrofoam cup.  I called her by name and said hello.  She smiled and said hello back to me.

“Do you have ice cream in that cup?” I asked her.

“Mmmm-hmmmm!” she affirmed, tilting the cup so I could see.

“Do you know how I knew that?” I asked.

She scraped her plastic spoon against the inside of her cup, getting every last bite.   “How?”

“You had on an ‘I’ve got ice cream’  face .  .  . ” I explained.

She grinned even more broadly than she had been doing.

” .  .  .  Like you were just going to bust out giggling at any second!”  I continued.

She did.   Giggle.

Whenever I wonder why I spend so much time teaching, I think of faces like that.   Beaming, blissful faces.  Faces like that of one student who, earnestly, seriously, and with the concentration of a brain surgeon, played two solo measures of “Turkey in the Straw” on the violin in one of our public performances and, looking to me for approval, brightened and beamed as I gave her the “thumbs up” and the audience applauded.

Faces like the ones I witnessed this week when I told some new students that yes, they had been accepted into our Summer Musical Theatre Workshop.   Faces of students who just plain were too timid to speak, but who screwed up their courage, delivered a line, realized that they had not died, and, in fact, that the audience was enjoying themselves. Faces of parents watching their children doing something new.

I’m going to have some ice cream now and compare my face to theirs.   And then hone our curriculum a wee bit more.

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© William B. Watkins and “William Weighs In”, 2014-2015. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction. This blog and all its content and components, including but not limited to photographs, videos, music, and text entries, are fully protected by all copyright laws of the United States of America and by international covenants. This work may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any form. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Wild Beasts at Work

“The artist should call forth all his energy, his sincerity, and his greatest possible modesty in order to push aside during his work the old clichés that come so ready to his hand and can suffocate the small flower that itself never turns out as one expected.”

— Henri Matisse1

Isn’t it wonderful how things sometimes “line up”?   I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the mission and activities of The Earl Wentz and William Watkins Foundation, how to explain succinctly our educational approaches, and what our next steps will be.   Right now, of course, our Summer Musical Theatre Workshop looms large on the horizon.   But then there are the other initiatives on the schedule, too, including performances of some of Earl Wentz’s musical works.

How to do it all?   How to gain additional support beyond what the foundation can contribute from its own resources?   How to keep growing and not just repeating what we already know and have done?   How to keep moving towards fulfilling our goals?

I get restless as I ponder and so I roam.

And it works.  For me.

In the last week, I’ve visited the fabulous new Crystal Bridges Museum of Art in Arkansas, seen architect Fay Jones’s stirring masterpiece Thorncrown Chapel, hiked over rushing river waters via marvels of engineering, and just today attended an exhibition of the art books of Henri Matisse at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.

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L’art Pour L’art

The photograph above, “Balance”, © 2015 by William B. Watkins, can be viewed in a larger format in the Chiaroscuro section of the Image Gallery. On that page, just double-click on the image to view it in a large, slideshow mode.

L’art pour l’art is a French phrase that translates to English as “Art for art[‘s sake]” and may be more familiar, particularly to movie aficionados, in its Latin rendering Ars gratia artis (more on that later).

However it’s presented, this is a mighty motto, noble in scope, affirming that art stands on its own, with its own intrinsic value. That is to say, “art” isn’t just a vehicle for sentimentality, religion, commerce, morals, or politics.

I doubt that this would have ever developed as anyone’s motto, though, had there not been a widespread conflict about the purpose of art to begin. Otherwise, why defend art’s higher end?

When I speak to college students, I often quote from a play that I first encountered as a young college student myself. The words were spoken by a powerful character in a generally cheerless play called Kennedy’s Children, written by Robert Patrick in the 1970s. At the top of Act II, the character Sparger, an actor, comes forward and finally begins to speak his truth, which begins (as he contemplates the room around him), “I used to know a place that was better . . . .”  He continues to describe the wonderland he had stepped into years earlier, “a hole-in-the-wall West Village coffeehouse . . . . [where] We did plays. We — I was one of “us” . . . .

For the character, it was a life-changing experience the night as a young man he first encountered that place and it was holy ground that he spoke of:

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