That name kept hitting me, "Ronald E. McNair." That dude was a brilliant person: accomplished saxophonist; black belt in karate; BS in Engineering Physics from Greensboro's A&T; Ph.D in Physics from MIT; and the second African-American in space (he's got a moon crater named after him). I'm going to McNair Elementary in Greensboro to talk about visual art. Talk about feeling eclipsed.
But I get ahead of myself. The train tracks just before the school ceased the morning rush for a minute. Several minutes. Lots of minutes. Lots of cars. Each box had graffiti on it. Big, colorful images. I think to myself, "this is what I'll tell the students -- you too can grow up to find a creative safe haven on the side of a box car. Sure, many want to stop you from doing it; sure it's expensive to buy supplies with little chance to get paid; sure many in the public eye do not understand it and dismiss it; sure others paint over your success to claim their spot. All this is not much different than pursuing a career in the fine art world." Ah, but that thought flashes by as the train passes. I snap back to witness two trains traveling in opposite directions meet & greet for an air horn moment. The new perspective is a colorful locomotive high five. Today will be a good day.
|storming a head|
The sky was all was stormy that morning. I roll into the campus to see they have an artist-in-residence on the 14th on the marque. Oh. That's me. I laugh. Nice touch, McNair Elementary. Further up the drive students in yellow ponchos serve as valets for students arriving by auto. It was beautiful. Young people helping each other. In the rain. With smiles. It never ceases to get me right there. So much positivity we possess in youth. Then life can knock it right out of us. Because, you know, since rain is wet, it is sad. No -- with these students they were having a ball. Those lingering smiles do not lie -- they had a job to do. They had a poncho to wear. They got to open the doors for their peers. Hi fives and all. Smack that down, haters. Rain rocks.
|(from left) Harpy, student work, Mr. Mac, and Les III|
I meet McNair's art teacher, Ryan McInturff, in the school office. He's dressed in all black; is perceptive; and has an energetic ease to him. I bet his students make awesome projects (They do. See for yourself: twitter: McNairArt). He promptly grabs me a cuppa coffee and says the students call him "Mr. Mac." You got it. And thank you for the invite to come hang with the art students. I collect my visitor sticker and enter the frenzy that is an artful school visit. For forty minutes for four times I will talk to the fourth graders about being a professional visual artist; show them examples of my artwork; and lead an art project. All in forty minutes. Yeah. The questions fielded from the classroom alone can easily hit 20 minutes. But this is also my fifth year with the almost 40 year old "Artist-In-Schools" project sponsored by the Guilford County School System and GreenHill Museum. So I got a bit of a routine -- it includes playing "Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes", and well appointed high fives.
|creating exquisite corpses|
|I heart this.|