Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Roadrunner Art Walk

The article for today's post was written by Thom Knab, whose bio appears at the bottom of this post. 

Advocating for your program can require creativity on your part. Let me share what I called the Roadrunner Art Walk.  The event received its name from my school’s mascot, the roadrunner.  I created an art show, showcasing my students’ art work along the main street of my district.  I contacted businesses regarding allowing me to display the works, facing out to the street, from their storefront windows.  Families and community members could walk along the street enjoying the student work displayed. The steps I used to organize this event follow. 

 First, I composed a letter inviting businesses to take part.  I actually walked up and down Main Street to hand deliver them to make that personal connection and get any immediate feedback.  I found that I received a variety of responses… some businesses absolutely loved the idea, some agreed with less excitement, others decided late, and some did not respond to my invitation at all.  It all worked out well as many businesses agreed to participate.  I even communicated with the local newspaper which was so enthusiastic that the editor sent a photographer to take pictures of students hanging their work and published an article advertising the event.  He was also very helpful in spreading the word to other businesses through the town’s Chamber of Commerce.  Next, I had to organize the show. 
  • I took photos of store fronts to determine size and number of pieces each could accommodate.  
  • I framed the art works to honor each student’s work and to make the best possible impression. 
  • I created a spreadsheet of businesses and the work to be displayed at each along with business hours so I knew when I could hang pieces.
  • The biggest challenge, or so I thought, was going to be to hang all the art work.  It actually progressed rather quickly and several businesses required or offered to hang the work themselves.  Those 3M clips work quite well for hanging, where necessary, as they come off cleanly after the exhibit.  Many store fronts have existing hooks and nails to hang their own displays or in some instances I just set the art work on the window sill when that worked best.  Again, I just had to be creative. 
I planned and communicated an end date (about two weeks later) to come back and pick-up the art works.  The Roadrunner Art Walk was quite the success.  Families and especially students were excited and proud.  Many made an event of locating their child’s art work and then finding lunch somewhere in town afterwards. The community was able to view the type of quality art work students had been creating and in turn what my art program was facilitating the creation of.  The newspaper’s coverage reached a far greater number in the community and helped educate them on the art program.  I wish you all the best if you should try this for your school and community.  Start out small, and if it is successful, it can grow.

Today's guest post author is Thom Knab, who has been teaching at Dodge Elementary School in the Williamsville Central School District here in NY State for 27 years. His name may seem familiar to some of you, because Thom has been serving as NAEA Elementary Division Director from 2015-2017.  He also served as NYSATA Host State Committee Chair for the 2017 NYC NAEA Convention, and was NYSATA President from 2013-2015, and was Vice President from 2012-2013. Thank you,  Thom, for giving us a wonderful idea that could be easily adapted for many communities.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Banner of Peace and the Universal Protection of Cultural Values

Up until my recent travels to NYC, I had never heard of Russian artist Nicholas Roerich or the Roerich Peace Pact.  But my visit with my husband to the Nicholas Roerich Museum, on the upper west side of Manhattan, changed that.  (All paintings in this post are paintings by Roerich).

You may wonder why I'm writing about a visit to an art museum on an advocacy blog.  I hope I can make the association clear in this post.

Roerich was much more than an artist; he was a painter,  a costumer and set designer, a writer/poet, an archaeologist, and a philosopher, and an advocate for peace and the preservation of cultural institutions, and art and architecture during wartime, regardless of geographical borders and boundaries.

Cultural preservation was very important to Nicholas Roerich throughout his career. Roerich believed that "the best products of humanity's creative genius were almost always neglected, or even destroyed, by humanity itself" (All quotes in this paragraph are  from the Nicholas Roerich Museum website.)  He composed a treaty known as The Roerich Pact, which "declared the necessity for protection of the cultural product and activity of the world—both during war and peace—and prescribed the method by which all sites of cultural value would be declared neutral and protected, just as the Red Cross does with hospitals."   He designed The Banner of Peace (below) based on ancient symbols.  "This Banner, flown at all sites of cultural activity and historical value, would declare them neutral, independent of combatant forces."

Quoting again from the Nicholas Roerich Museum website, "In so many countries we see a deterioration of cultural values and a disregard for the right of all cultural treasures to have their own continued existence, forever protected and unimpeded. We see destruction of life, property, and the inheritance of the creative genius of the nations. One can only hope that a greater awareness of the importance of humanity’s cultural heritage will increase, rather than deteriorate. There is no greater value to a nation than its culture."

That statement was not written recently, but it seems significantly relevant today.  When the protection of our cultural institutions is no longer seen as a priority, it becomes our responsibility to advocate strongly for the arts and make sure that the arts continue to be recognized and valued.  I believe, as our art programs are often ranked low in priority, we need to become more visible than ever before. 

I suggest you search through previous blog posts and keep reading future blog posts here on The Artful Advocate for ways to make your art program visible and ways to stress the importance of visual arts education.  And to learn more information on Nicholas Roerich, the Nicholas Roerich Museum, and the Roerich Peace Pact, check the museum's website HERE for more detailed information. 

And while you are visiting the website to learn more about the Peace Pact, don't forget to explore Roerich's beautiful artwork.  You will find many possibilities for lesson inspiration based on his artwork and his philosophy.  And if you find yourself in NYC with a few hours to spare, hop a subway to the upper west side and visit this hidden gem!