New to the city and looking for enriching things to do, I came across the site Connect Savannah. On its home page, it has an events calendar of music, arts, and culture. Last night was the kick-off of deFINE Art, a weeklong event of lectures and exhibitions featuring contemporary art. We attended the Jack Whitten lecture at the SCAD Museum of Art and then attended the reception afterwards and viewed his exhibit "Erasures" in one of the museum galleries.
Where do I see myself in five years? Ten years? What am I looking for in a Masters program? What do I want to do with that Masters degree? These are questions I need to start answering. It's time to seriously look into Masters programs and continue my education. Not just because my five year window after earning my provisional teaching certificate is closing but also because I'm feeling the pull of wanting to be "on the other side of the desk" again. I miss being a student.
Originally, I expected to go for a Masters in curriculum or reading - as those are two of the most typical and respected Masters degree programs for educators - but I'm realizing my passions lie elsewhere. I blame my participation in Art21 Educators. What I really want to pursue is integration, bringing the humanities together and exploring a single idea through a study of literature, history, visual art, current events, civics, etc. Developing the Freshmen Seminar and Symposium programs at school added fuel to the fire. I love those classes: Seminar because it integrates English and Social Studies into an exploration of urgent global issues and Symposium because we investigate interesting themes like gender, protest, and insanity through all of the humanities. They're engaging classes. Fun to teach. Fun to be a student in. They foster creating thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, quality research, synthesis, evaluation. They pull all of the humanities – all of the subjects I love – together into a cohesive whole. I want to design more classes like them. To push integration. To immerse myself and my students in ideas and to tackle those ideas for every subject area angle.
As I've been thinking about integration and my future as a teacher and my potential Masters program, strange, coincidental (?), fated (?) things have been happening, more kindling for the fire, so-to-speak. A few weeks ago, one of my fellow Art21 alumni recommended a book to me: Roberto Bolano's 2666. The prospect of having someone to chat about literature with – a two person book club – was quite tempting and I ordered the book immediately. The brick of a book – 900 pages – arrived two days later. I'm only 20 pages in. It's dense. And I can tell it will be a romance already. Four literary scholars, a shared love of author Archimboldi, traveling the world lecturing and participating in panel discussions, writing critical essays, immersed in the literary world. These are all things I romanticize about as well. A life I might live in a parallel universe. Or a life I might live in five years. Ten years. After I complete my Masters program.
And I thought it was funny, strange, coincidental, fated, that a colleague would hand me a book about characters living the life I too have been thinking about living at some point in the future. And this realization reminded me of a TED Talk from Amy Tan on where creativity comes from.
In the video, Tan talks about the idea of an idea. How it develops. And she talks about the seed of an idea. Not fully formulated, not clear, no idea of where it's going to go. But then life starts sending you funny, strange, coincidental, fated signs that grow your idea. The stars seem to align. Seemingly unrelated things start fitting together and your idea starts to take form. I think that my future, my mission as an educator, my Masters thesis – my “idea” - is starting to take form. 2666 is one star, aligned. One drop of water, one ray of sun, growing my idea.
And then on my drive home today, another star, drop, ray. NPR playing low in the background as I reflected on my day. The name “Klimt” caught my interest – my favorite artist – and so I turned up the radio. The story featured Eric Kandel's new book,The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain. Kandel talked about the integration of the sciences, particularly psychiatry, in the study of art history. Amazon's description of the book is as follows:
A brilliant book by Nobel Prize winner Eric R. Kandel, The Age of Insight takes us to Vienna 1900, where leaders in science, medicine, and art began a revolution that changed forever how we think about the human mind—our conscious and unconscious thoughts and emotions—and how mind and brain relate to art.
At the turn of the century, Vienna was the cultural capital of Europe. Artists and scientists met in glittering salons, where they freely exchanged ideas that led to revolutionary breakthroughs in psychology, brain science, literature, and art. Kandel takes us into the world of Vienna to trace, in rich and rewarding detail, the ideas and advances made then, and their enduring influence today.
The Vienna School of Medicine led the way with its realization that truth lies hidden beneath the surface. That principle infused Viennese culture and strongly influenced the other pioneers of Vienna 1900. Sigmund Freud shocked the world with his insights into how our everyday unconscious aggressive and erotic desires are repressed and disguised in symbols, dreams, and behavior. Arthur Schnitzler revealed women’s unconscious sexuality in his novels through his innovative use of the interior monologue. Gustav Klimt, Oscar Kokoschka, and Egon Schiele created startlingly evocative and honest portraits that expressed unconscious lust, desire, anxiety, and the fear of death.
Kandel tells the story of how these pioneers—Freud, Schnitzler, Klimt, Kokoschka, and Schiele—inspired by the Vienna School of Medicine, in turn influenced the founders of the Vienna School of Art History to ask pivotal questions such as What does the viewer bring to a work of art? How does the beholder respond to it? These questions prompted new and ongoing discoveries in psychology and brain biology, leading to revelations about how we see and perceive, how we think and feel, and how we respond to and create works of art. Kandel, one of the leading scientific thinkers of our time, places these five innovators in the context of today’s cutting-edge science and gives us a new understanding of the modernist art of Klimt, Kokoschka, and Schiele, as well as the school of thought of Freud and Schnitzler. Reinvigorating the intellectual enquiry that began in Vienna 1900, The Age of Insight is a wonderfully written, superbly researched, and beautifully illustrated book that also provides a foundation for future work in neuroscience and the humanities. It is an extraordinary book from an international leader in neuroscience and intellectual history.
So I ordered it. How it relates to my idea, my future, my mission, my Masters, I'm not sure yet. But it felt like a star/drop/ray.
Earlier this month, I attended an ITL (Integrated Teaching & Learning) conference in Holland. Most of the other teachers there have participated in a series of ITL workshops, whereas this one I attended was the last in a series. It was the culminating event where teachers showcased their students' work. I first learned about ITL form our school's art teacher who had attended their last workshop. She came back from that workshop with information about "The Great Lakes Project: Celebrative Tall Sails." For this project, Michigan teachers were encouraged to teach a unit somehow connected to the theme of the Great Lakes. They were given kits including the following for students to create projects: 12' white tall sails, sharpies of various colors, and drawing paper. Our art teacher came back to school with several of these kits and encouraged the staff to brainstorm ways to incorporate the sails into their classes. I love projects and integrating visual art into my English and Social Studies classes, so I welcomed the challenge. I pondered what to do for weeks, which class to bring the project into, how the Great Lakes or sailing would have any relevance in my classes, etc. It wasn't until I was wrapping up my AP English unit on "Reaching the Horizon" that it hit me. We'd spent the whole unit talking about the metaphor of "the horizon" and all of a sudden "sailing" didn't seem like such a stretch. For my "Celebrative Tall Sails" project, I had students explore the work of literature that most spoke to them, that said something real and compelling and powerful about the human condition, that really spoke to "what blows the sails" of human purpose and progress. And so we embarked on a 4-week journey with our favorite piece of Canonical literature. And it culminated with the Black River Art Show on Friday, February 17th where I proudly displayed their sails and artist statements.