Archive for the ‘education’ Category

The Conference Workshop with the three amigas…

January 23, 2010

We were as ready to lead the workshop for teachers as any oveprepared presenters might be. In fact, we were so nervous in anticipation we thought we should arrive at the conference venue two hours before our stint was to begin. Then, we found out we could only arrive just an hour prior to star time.
The evening before we went over our materials and equipment checklists, trial ran CDRs on the laptop we were to use and almost added to our burgeoning boxes items we deemed essential for workshop participants to have.
Lee conjectured, “Should we take pencils and pens for the people?”
“Are you kidding me?” I snapped back. “We are not dealing with high school students here. Surely to God no self-respecting teacher would dare turn out to a workshop sans writing equipment!”
I did think having rice-powder on hand for the participants to try out making Kolams and Rangoli was essential, so I busied myself with the trusty Braun coffee grinder and ground up a whack of rancid rice that was about to be heaved into garbage. The jar of rancid rice-powder was large enough to provide coverage of Kolams over a large area of pavement. I didn’t think people would be overwhelmed by the smell of it. Besides which, “waste not, want not” is my motto. Rice Powder, check!
Meanwhile Louise was pasting labels on all items to remain in the teaching kits, and double checking contents. Lee was reorganizing the workshop handouts and making sure all was in order. We did this in the kitchen. Rumpole came home to find the place a disaster zone and kicked his way to the bedroom to change into his grubbies. We finished our labours, drank one more cup of cold tea, loaded our stuff into two cars and parted company with plans to meet up at the Conference place with all our stuff the following morning at 7am. Lee was to pick me up at quarter of seven, practically the crack of dawn.
The morning of, I scrambled around half-asleep after a largely sleepless night, washed, dressed, got the kinks out of my hair and bolted back a couple of cups of coffee. Waited beside Rumpole’s snoozing Hyundai as I waited for Lee to arrive in her red Mustang. Bless that youngster, she had brought me a Starbucks latte. As we drove toward the Conference place Dawn broke over the horizon in a milky iridescent pearl-grey band. The day promised to be mild and dry.
When we arrived at the parking lot, Lee nipped into the building to find a dolly to haul our gear, leaving me to call Louise and let her know exactly where we were parked. Louise arrived just as I was unloading the stuff from the Mustang’s trunk. Soon, Lee returned with the dolly in tow and we loaded the containers on to it and went to find our workshop room.
Luck was on our side. We were booked into a science lab with many electric outlets, a big screen and gererous white-boards as well as two sinks. Perfect for an art workshop.
Lee proceeded to set up the electronic equipment, and much to our relief it all promised to work as required. Louise set out the handout material and placed printed visuals onto the whiteboard with stick-um. I set out art materials into stations adequate for a large group to work at without a hitch. We were so organized we had a half- hour to spare before deadline for start. We went in search of muffins to feed on. These two gals were an absolute joy to work alongside!
When teachers straggled in, with no one late ( they are so conditioned to time dictates) I was surprised to note there were no men in the group. All women, mostly young ones who looked so very young. Just three retirement-age ladies in a group of 19 souls. I suddenly felt like a creaky antique.

Lee opened up the workshop with having everyone introduce themselves. She looked glamorous in her Punjabi suit outfit of Royal blue with gold embroidery.. On her wrists she wore Indian bangles with bells attached – so whenever she needed to call people to attention she only had to shake her arms. Louise overlooked proceedings like a fond aunt. I sat by the side as grannie types are wont to.
I had prepared the lesson plans on Kolams and Rangoli and figured if someone else could present and lead the lesson, any teacher attending the workshop could also follow the information for successful presentation. The workshop participants got right down to work, experimented, made permanent examples with chalk on black paper for themselves and experimented with rice-powder Kolams on the floor. They got so involved that they worked right through the half-hour rest period. I helped with making Kolams on the floor, showing how to hold the powder in the palm and trickle it to the ground and make gestures whilst doing so. Participants made amazing patterns and expressed eagerness to show the process to students. Lee glowed with pleasure. Louise went around the room documenting people at work, so much so she went through two sets of batteries. We all had great fun, largely in silence.
We were all so occupied with making Kolams we ran out of time for the presentation of the second half of the workshop. The keeners wanted us to carry on, so we showed CDRs on Navajo sandpainting, discussed similarities and differences for those two types of imagemaking, emphasizing the ritual differences, showed the sand which to use in making sandpaintings and discussed techniques for making permanent examples with students. It helped to have two permanent sandpaintings Lee had brought back at Christmastime from Arizona. The principle of Symmetry exemplified in both types of images was a huge topic of discussion, as was the abstraction inherent in both. The teachers expressed that they could use both to teach mathematical concepts, and also to have students use symmetry in their expressions of beauty and story telling.
They also stated that since we had made teaching kits using the internet for much of our research, they could further have students continue to research and compare information found on the net.
Overall the workshop was a success. We packed up our supplies and headed back to my kitchen to decompress over a couple of pots of tea. Louise planned to take out one of the kits for high schools and use the information for teaching art during the next semester. She also decided to extend the scope of the kit by designing further lesson plans and units. She has much to work with from the kit – on Contemporary Ephemeral Art and its practitioners – with DVDs added to explore in depth the work and its underlying concepts.
Lee called me this afternoon while I had my head down for a nap. She had begun to teach the unit on Kolams and Rangoli and reported her kids were tremedously excited by the potential for making ephemeral art in public spaces. Maybe the future grafitti taggers ( taggers give such pain to the maintenance crews in our town) will make practice of leaving their mark using ephemeral materials which disappear in short time.
It feels terrific to have brough this project of ours to such a succesful conclusion. I am anticipating seeing concrete results from our project by school year’s end. The project has been a form of therapy for me, useful, encouraging, engaging. Being part of it reassured me that I still have the “stuffing” left in me with which to contribute in my small way to my community, vision problems be damned.

An ending of sorts…

January 19, 2010

Details, details, details,…always those damned details. This morning I trekked to the Art Gallery to have a meeting with the curator and the programmer regarding the status of that darned project that seems to want not to be complete. The rest of this entry is to be an extended whine, although Rumpole has repeatedly cautioned me that volunteers usually get little respect, so what was I expecting?

The curator has had our documents for a week, and as of this morning “hadn’t had the time to go through it”. Three of us have expended over 300+ hours of volunteer hours to get the project to this stage, as unpaid volunteers, yet she had not been able to make the time, say an hour, to peruse the binders, even if merely to familiarize herself with the contents in a casual way.

Tha gallery needs this project ready in order to be able to meet its “fee for service” requirements by the municipality. Three of us volunteers are delivering the project at a District in-service workshop on January 21, and yet, we have not been given clear direction from the paid powers-that-be as to how the teaching kits are going to be booked by district teachers. The curator suggested I be responsible for the bookings. I demurred, saying that the utilization of the teaching kits were to benefit the Gallery’s desire to mount a theme show of student work, and they should be responsible for the clerical duties involved. And of course, there should also be a whiff of officaldom attached to the project.
I am more than done. My work-mates are also more than exhausted after making sure all details have been looked after as closely as possible, and that trouble-shooting for potential areas of difficulty has been done.

We feel pleased at how the work has come together and that we have been of useful service in our community. We have worked hard, and wish not to be given more chores to fulfill. Let the paid workers roll up their sleeves now, and see to the successful implementation of this project.

This particular volunteer needs to read, write, walk about looking a the increasingly brighter days, and the beginnings of late winter/early spring growth. Plus, I have to sign up for ball-room dancing lessons with my young, fun, gay friend ( the only one Rumpole will allow me to take dance lessons with!) and swing this crone-like body all over the dance floor.

Late winter, dancing lessons, movement, rhythm, beat – that’s what my old body craves.

Typing (ugh)… not writing…

December 11, 2009

I have neglected my blog for the last couple of months. It seems the project I have undertaken in September has taken precedence over most of my activities. It is an educational project for the Local art gallery’s educational arm, worked on with two teachers from our local school district and funded by two public bodies – the school District and the Art Gallery.

Initially we were to come up with a kit of lesson plans on Environmental Art – a topic of huge scope. In my usual capacity of “loose cannon”, I interpreted this topic as exploring Ephemeral Arts. My rationale for this was, “Does the world need to document and compile more examples of art in a museum, when art -making can be a largely personal, communal and ephemoral activity which can be passed on through common practice repeated over and over again, and allowed to be replaced and extended by future practices?”

So, I thought and thought – about works made only for a temporary purpose, of importance in the culture within which they were made and which gave expressive colour to to lives and belief systems. Enter the notion of Kolams as made in India’s Tamil Nadu, mandalas as made by Buddhist monks as a form of contemplative practice, and of Navajo sand-painting as ritual practice in one of North America’s larges indigenous tribes. Much research followed on the heels of this notion.

And, of course, there are contemporary practitioners of the ephemeral arts – Andy Goldsworthy, Rikrit Taravanija, Diana Lynn Thompson, Alan Sonfist and others who place process above product and life cycle above permanence. How to relate contemporary practice with historic practices? There is a relationship. As always no contemporary practice is without historical antecedents. How to relate the continuum?

Three of us sat down over wine and dinner and hashed out the congruities and continuities. It is good to have several good minds working together. One of us, a young High School art teacher worked out the mechanics of relating contemporary to historical practices. man, I envy her her energy, and her ability to directly narrow down relationships. Also her ability to negotiate the, to me, complexities of computer programs and mechanisms. I have been relegated to being typist, a task to which I am definitely not well suited, and to the work of coming up with lesson plans appropriate to grades K to 7.

So I have been typing up background information as well, collated from a variety of sources. Have also played with materials to see about their suitability to the various grade groups. Lots of typing; lots of frustration with my brand new Windows program. To take a break today, I ground up a bunch of rice in my Braun grinder and made a Kolam on the threshold to my studio.

This afternoon, two of us are to make a presentation of the kits we have prepared for K – 3, Gr. 4 -7, Gr. 8 – 12 – complete with visuals and CDRs and DVDs. I have sets of dominoes, side-walk chalks, rice flour and coloured sand packed with binders full of lesson plans and visuals. We also have beautiful reproductions of a Tibetan Thangka to share with the people coming to the unveiling meeting.

Mu forefingers have grown calluses from all the typing over the past two+ months. The bound documents need layout help – I am beyond incompetent at this. My two cohorts have heavy vocational committments. WE NEED HELP! Yes, we are going to beg for help.

Now mind – we are doing this as volunteers – and as such have racked up a respectable 30+ hours on this project – and that is a conservative estimate. But if all goes well, and we get the clerical help we so desperately need, we shalll have a really fine program to lend out to busy public school teachers.

Still typing, not writing, in suburbia….G

First solo ‘white cane’ outing…

January 19, 2009

The morning started out foggy; the suburban streetscape softened and made mysterious seeming by the enveloping haze. The huge cedars across the street loomed a half-tone grey in the pearly atmosphere. The bus stop sign, directly across from my house, was a marginally visible standard. It was to be my destination upon making my first foray, alone and without companions, into the streets. The objective was to travel the few miles by bus, downtown, and run some errands with a hopeful and uneventful return home within a couple of hours.

At breakfast, Rumpole gave me my marching instructions. These were to move slowly, cross streets with great care paying especial attention to my blind left side and to deploy my brand new cane while doing so. “Give drivers exta time to spot you, before crossing a street,” he cautioned, “and, brandish that cane to make yourself noticed.” Then, he added, “for Heaven’s sake, don’t get yourself run over!”

“Yassuh, boss-man,” I growled at him while unsnapping my cane and taking an “en Garde” position to skewer him, if my depth perception might allow. I made a feint to my left and promptly knocked my sunglasses off the table. “You know very well I am not completely blind.”

“Yeah, right.” He shrugged into his winter coat and braved his way over to plant a kiss on my lips. ” Take care, but enjoy yourself,” he said, smiling, as he let himself out the back door.

I began making preparations for my outing. Dug out the bus tickets from my purse; detached a chit, and put it into my coat pocket. Retrieved my sunglasses from the kitchen floor; double checked the bus schedule; downed half a cup of coldish coffee; readied my carry-all; shrugged into my coat; grabbed my purse and keys and took a final look at the kitchen clock. Only ten minutes to go before the bus would stop across the street. But wait! That allowed just enough time to nip into the bedroom and blast myself over thoroughly with my Elizabeth Arden perfume. Even if I am one of the invisible group of ageing women, people might as well smell me from a mile away! (Lookingforbeauty, whenever she drives me downtown makes hideous gagging noises and covers her nose if I have been the slightest bit spritzer happy with the perfume bottle, or, rather if I had forgotten she cannot breathe in the presence of perfume) I figured by the time the bus arrived, the miasma of Elizabeth Arden within which I moved might be somewhat dissipated by the foggy air outside, so the bus driver would not be overcome by my olfactory splendour.

I left the house and locked up. made my way gingerly across the road at the corner and took up position by the bus sign. To busy myself while waiting for the bus to arrive, I carved little animal footprints into the nearby snowbank with the tip of my cane, and then to leave permanent mark of my passage carved in my initials. This activity occupied me until the bus arrived. It slid to a stop on the icy road; the door sighed open and I clambered aboard. Had a bit of difficulty remembering which end of the bus ticket to feed into the reader. The driver, tiring of my attempts to turn the blasted card this way and that in a confusing and idecisive manner, smartly plucked the ticket from my fingers and fed it in. He grabbed it from the machine and read off for me for how long the ticket might be effective. I had 90 minutes to do my stuff downtown. I sat down behind the driver, figuring that he might appreciate the wafting of delicious smell from behind him; after all, he did not pass out while I was fooling around at the ticket reader. He did not gag, but then maybe he was holding his breath, because he was kind of surly and quiet when I attempted to engage him in small talk. Maybe he was deaf?

Since my last trip by bus downtown, the vehicles have been equipped with a system whereby a woman, who sounds suspiciously like the woman they have on recorded messages for all local utility companies, read out the names of all stops. Very irritating, this. She sounds a bit like a breathless radio announcer. Maybe all the bus drivers in the Bus Drivers Union demanded that a recording spare them from using their voices; or at least maybe this installed system allows the bus company to interchange drivers at will – they won’t have to know where they are if unfamiliar with the routes. Sally tells them where they are.

This driver was in somewhat of a hurry because he took turns as if in the LeMans car race – with great verve and insouciance. It was a fun, but brief, trip to town centre and I felt as if I had survived a wee bit of adventure. I clambered down from the bus at the end of the line and took my bearings. Still the fog; not too many cars going by; not many persons on the street. I pitter pattered my way south in the direction of the mall where I had to do some business. Played with my cane, tapping and testing all and any surfaces along my passage to learn their characteristic sounds – ping, for metal; thunk, for wood; swish, for shrubbery; crisp scrunch, for frozen snow-banks; and finger-nail-file scraping for concrete. The place where crossing became necessary I misguaged the depth of the sidewalk and came down hard and short. Stood there craning my neck in all directions to spot moving cars and waited for them to roll to stop and let me make passage across. The left side vision is problematic for me, so I held out the cane and waited before proceeding. What a bother. No more nipping and skipping across the streets for me. Aargh! I hated feeling so vulnerable.

The walk was not the usual brisk one; it was more of a cautious creeping. The terrain was not familiar, and like all unfamiliar terrain must be learned to negotiate from scratch. No more automatic pilot for this old Gal! The walk, slow as it was, did feel good though, especially since I was independent and alone. The air felt moist and cool on my face; my hands were warm inside gloves; and I was snugly buttoned up in my wool coat.

I did my errands in the mall. Dropped in on a shop-keeping acquaintance, checked out her new shipment of beautiful spring clothes and gossiped a bit with her. Her shop dog, a spoiled Bichon Frise, bared her fangs at me and snarled. Nothing has changed there! Checked out a big sale of discontinued foot-wear, which did not tempt. Went into the childrens’ shop and browsed for books for Mousey. Nothing caught my interest there. I decided to retrace my steps back to the bus loop, if indeed I would be able to return home on my ticket before it expired.

I tap-tapped my way back and noted the metal grating around the trunks of decorative trees planted in the middle of the side-walk. Explored the pattern of the grating with my cane and the music that could be made by riffling the cane tip across the patterns. Very charming sounds! The tree trunks were smoothish, and I dragged the cane around the girths to hear the texture. This way of moving about intentionally gives rise to new and different sense experiences. One’s passage is accompanied by novel (to me) soundscape. The walk took me back to where the bus had ejected me. The time it took to take the walk was immeasurable. For one, I do not wear a watch. For another, I was happily occupied with new sensations.

The bus ride home was more leisurely; the driver more amenable to chatting. We exchanged sightings of Julia Major, a local woman who parades around topless as soon as the weather turns springish, and who is the bane of all public utilities which have to provide service for people with all kinds of ability and disability. She is litiginous in the extreme, and I told the driver of a Julia sighting where she threatened to sue Translink, when the bus’s ramp for wheelchairs broke at the stop she was insisting on getting off via the ramp, rather than walking off as she had walked on. The driver joked, that had Julia been on the bus with me this day, she would have given him an earful of diatribe for him allowing me to climb solo on to the bus without him helping me. We had a good chuckle.

The driver stopped the bus next to my driveway, so I wouldn’t have to stroll across any snow or ice. I thanked him and waved my cane in good-by, let myself in through the back door, hung up my coat and made myself a cup of coffee. It had been a satisfactory first outing with my white cane, and I had enjoyed myself.

Plum tree…

August 17, 2008

It is always at this time of year that I’m on the lookout for Italian plums, or, prune plums, at the fruit and vegetable stands. Forever, August is imprinted in my memory as the season of plums, for which fruit I had early developed a passionate favoritism. It may have been because Anyu always took care to partake of this seasonal delight. During Augusts in early years in Hungary, plum soup and plum dumplings were favourite family meal items. For sure, Ildiko and I were very aware of seasonal ripening of our favourite fruits and vegetables, mainly because we coursed freely through the local countryside and kept a keen eye out for the setting and ripening of various fruits. These we would forage from freely, when the appropriate time came, climbing into trees, and settling on branches to chow down on fruit like our primate forebears. It seems that, if memory serves me at all, most of what we ate then were fruits and vegetables. Whether the offering grew in ditches, abandoned or manicured orchards, it did not escape our rapacious and experimental appetites.

When we first bought this house seven years ago, our immediate neighbour had a small prune plum tree which struggled to stay alive on our fence line. It generously bent its branches into our side yard, and I delighted in taking from it several handfuls of ripe plums. From these I’d make plum dumplings for a treat for Rumpole and Renaissance Man. I had no accurate recipe for the dumpling dough, but had watched how over the years Anyu had made the dough by combining handfuls of ingredients – mashed potatoes, flour, salt and beaten eggs. She had wrapped halves of prune plum in discs of the dough, added a sprinkle of sugar and then sealed the little packages, which she would cook in a cauldron of boiling water. When the dough globes rose to the surface, they were cooked through. Drained, then smothered in fired breadcrumbs then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, these made a heavenly feast. No August is complete, without several occasions of feasting on prune-plum dumplings, even if the plums come from a farm stand. My neighbour took out his plum tree three years ago, and since then I have been purchasing the plums rather than pulling them, warm and dusty from their stems on the tree.

Last week, I decided to remedy this situation and bought a gangly, juvenile, Italian plum tree from a local nursery. It is a spindly, leggy tree and won’t bear fruit for at least four more years. I don’t care; the idea of being able to harvest at least some fruit from my own tree is so satisfying. In four or so years, Mousey will be six years old and just getting her tree-climbing legs. She will probably also love to harvest the plums. Lord knows as a suburban child she is isolated from the sources of the food she eats. Even having the two small blueberry shrubs we do , she is able to gather the fruit by herself, and know directly where the fruit she so adores comes from – not the grocery store, but from spindly bushes in grandma’s back yard and other such places.

As soon as prune plums become locally available, I shall prepare a feast of Hungarian plum dumplings for all of us – and then show her that the young tree in my front yard will soon be providing the delicious fruit, year in, year out, God and the weather willing.

The saga continues…

July 5, 2008

The fifth operation on my left eye, which was a mere three weeks ago, is now merely another installment in the saga of attempts to restore some of my failing vision. The eye is starting to resemble a desiccated bloodshot raisin. Its surface is pocked with craters somewhat like the surface of the moon. I now sport a permanent squint, much like Popeye, not a good look for a woman, but heck, it gives me character of sorts.

The last operation, #4, was to remove the oil bubble that had been inserted in my eye to help seat the retina which was becoming detached by scar tissue removed during the previous one. It is quite something to be able to see the pipette inserted into the eye’s globe and watch the viscuous oil  stretch toward the pipette’s tip and gradually diminish in size. I am glad to report that my complaints to the surgeon about the background elevator-music of Soft Rock in the OR had resulted in blessed unmusical silence which helped me concentrate on ‘observing’ as best I could the procedure. This operation was a slam dunk, or so it seemed. A really quick and painless recovery, only made irritating by my having to lie on my left side all the time for ten days.

Last Thursday, Rumpole drove us for a follow-up appointment with the surgeon. Even the rigmarole in the overcrowded office seemed less onerous this time. Enter Dr. Seemore’s sidekick, an efficient Chinese gentleman with a cultured British Accent. Dr. Seemore, it seems, was on a scant week’s holiday, which given his insane working schedule he truly deserves. This nice surgeon peered this way and that into my eye, shone lights into it and announced that some of the oil had been left in from the last operation and had to come out, during yet another operation. I had an unbearable urge to ask him if, perhaps, removing my eye for good and replacing it with a lovely shiny and smooth glass one might not be a better option. With gracious restraint but gritted teeth, I asked him how many more of this cutting and hacking I still had to anticipate and endure.

“I can’t say,…. maybe a couple more,” he dead-panned, “it all depends what happens during the next operation.”

Ookayy!!! An human eye is not so big an organ that it can take numerous invasions of scalpels and resewings. By now, my eye looks like a badly designed smocking, by a deranged seamstress, one who practises free-form smocking. I am rapidly losing patience with the whole scenario.

On the drive home, Rumpole commiserated with me about the whole deal. I told him how cheesed off and impatient I was feeling, and also that I’d have to suck it up and just get over it.

I came home, poured myself a big glass of red wine, and sat with my journal, writing out my feelings and ideas about what next? and how to adjust to the situation. So I have decided to get back to drawing and painting and and not be daunted by having to learn new ways and means to do these things. So onward to an adventure of an old dog learning new tricks. To Life!

The keys to the Kingdom…

March 10, 2008

He was a sage man, Mr. S.. I trusted him to be honest with me, especially since he had been the adjudicator of my entrance portfolio at my interview seeking admission to the Art School. At that time he hadn’t pulled his punches. He had asked me, then, how my parents viewed my desire to attend art school. Since it was in my best interest to be candid with him, if he would be a reliable supportive person for my poorly-formed goals as art student, I had admitted to him that my parents were full of dispair as to what was going to become of me, if I persisted in following my desire to learn intensively about “Art”.

Mr. S. encouraged me to wholly immerse myself in the art school experience. He did say that at the green age of 17 years, and relatively untested, I would come to have conflicting feelings about what all might happen to me during these formative early years. “Come and talk to me, whenever you have difficulties or have reactions which confuse you. My door is always open.”

During those four years, whenever I had doubts and questions, I’d tap on his office door and promise to bring him a coffee if he would spare me a few minutes of his time. He was always most generous and patient. He was my “eminence grise”. My parents had no inkling that there was such a trusted advisor whose opinion I welcomed and valued and weighted far more than their own. Come to think of it, he was indeed a grey, silvery presence. He was small and wiry, pale in complexion with tarnished pewter hair and beard. He seemed to be everywhere; like escaped beads of spilled mercury he could be glimpsed doing his rounds in the art school hallways and studios.

By the end of third year at school, I had paid my tuition and supply costs with a series of low-paying jobs – usherette, cleaning-woman, waitress. Still living at my parental home, I began agonizing over how, in the future after graduation I would maintain my art practice, move out into my own digs and sustain a life beyond mere existence. My parents exhorted me to give up all ideas of pursuing a life-long involvement with art. They considered my four years of art school as an early, but doomed, love affair which held out little hope for a lifetime of sustaining joy. Ildiko had gone on to university, to follow the family plan for her to become a doctor. Surely, now, the penny would drop for me, and I’d realize the fruitlessness of a life in the arts and would bend to the family plan for me to become a pharmacist. At every available opportunity, my parents would attempt to engage me in conversation about going to the U to take a degree in science. They completely and conveniently forgot those angst-ridden nights of my struggles with chemistry and math in high school and my sudden blossoming with joy whenever taken up with studies in the arts and humanities.

In the quiet working hours in the print-making studio, while engaged in preparing plates, applying grounds, working the plates in the acid baths and inking, wiping and pulling prints, I mulled over possibilities  facing me in the future. I realized that making art takes materials, equipment, space and working at low-paying jobs would not afford me the means to do more than just keep a roof of sorts over my head and a few squares to sustain me. Advice from an experienced and trusted mentor was in order. I turned to Mr. S.

One morning, I nipped over to the coffe shop across the street from the art school, ordered two mugs of coffee, slices of cheese and carrots and carried them on a bakelite tray back to the school offices. “Morning goodies, for Mr. S.” I told Mrs Trevelyan, his secretary, breezing by her to tap on his door. Luckily he was peckish and glad for refreshments. He waved me into his office.

“I need your help.” I said, and launched into an agonizing and detailed account of my ruminations about my uncertain future.

He listened and ate his carrot and cheese slices; nodded between sips of the now tepid coffee. He swiveled on his oak teacher’s chair and gazed out the window; turned back and beaded me with his perceptive pale blue eyes. “You are the child of the upper Middle Class; you have learned to expect certain comforts from life. Your experience with people is mostly from that class – that is where you operate most comfortably. You need to attain the keys to that Kingdom, so you can enter it at will. It is only through further education that you will achieve the freedom to do this.” He said this without a trace of pressure. He was simply asking me to think along with him and go down that particular road of thinking. “How can you turn the knowledge and information you have gained so far to your advantage?” he asked.

“I could go and seek a position as an artist’s printer in a workshop,” I conjectured. “Although, there is no possibility of this here as there are no working ateliers. I’d have to research this. Maybe further afield. But maybe I’d not be too content labouring over other printmaker’s images. But of course, this might provide me access to a studio with presses.”

“Have you considered any other possibilities?” he asked.

“I have flirted with the idea of teaching. Am not too sure I have the patience and whatever else it takes to teach.”

“There is a way you can find out if you like teaching, or have an inclination in that direction. You can sign up as a teacher with the School Board and try your hand at teaching an adult night school course in Drawing. You’ll find out very quickly if you have the aptitude for teaching.”

He sent me on my way. As his suggestion made great sense to me, I followed up and engaged to teach a night school course at one of the recreation centres. Eight sessions. Not a huge, long-term committment, so even if I was fearful of being pathetic at this job, people’s  limited exposure to my green inept methods would not harm them in the long term.

A couple of months later, after a wonderful experience with teaching and thorough enjoyment of the persons with whom I shared a limited number of hours working, I bounced into Mr. S’s office and announced my pleasure with the outcome. “It sure is hard work but, man, the expressions of pleasure in accomplishment from people in the class makes the process worthwhile. And working to help someone overcome their frustrations with a process or to unearth an untapped potential is so invigorating.”

“You know, if you have had such an good experience, maybe you might consider taking teacher training at UBC. If you do so, your parents will probably be amenable, and you will have chance to obtain one of the keys to the Kingdom. Think about it, at least.”

I went off and thought about it all. Continued to work in the studio and made the work for my graduation show. My mind was at ease, I had decided on a sense of future direction – to take my degree in teaching and train as an art teacher. Went through the application process at the university, and only when formally accepted did I make the announcement of my intentions to my parents.

“We expected you to follow up in a more worthy discipline,” argued Apu. “To be a teacher is not good enough career for someone from our family.”

“Apu. I need to work at something which provides me with personal satisfaction as well as a way to make some kind of living. I am not at all interested in studying in the sciences. Besides which, having an education degree, will provide me with a little key to the Kingdom.”

“What on earth are you babbling on about?” complained Apu. “What’s this Kingdom ?”