Note from Newsletter Editor:
Friends! It's been waaay too long since we have seen your beautiful faces!
We sure miss you all but hope that this time in isolation has given you time to regenerate, rejuvenate and get some time to do the things that you have not had time for.
Summer is upon us here in the Mountains of NM and the days are longer and much hotter. We have been enjoying our time creating new content for you, working on our programs, and learning new skills.
I am currently taking a Graphic Design Specialization Course from CalArts which I have been enjoying so much and can't wait to share what I have been learning with you!
I'd love to hear what you've been doing or working on...
As we get back into the flow of things and people return to their "regularly scheduled programming"... the arts will now be more valuable than ever! They will be so important for kids to process all they have been through, they will be so important for adults to reconnect to each other and just to release and express.
This month we have a guest writer - Sophia Mitchell. I hope you enjoy her perspective on how important the Arts have been in her life.
Life is an ongoing discovery process that presents many joys, fears, and opportunities along the way. Throughout my journey, art has remained a constant companion.
I was immersed in the arts from a young age: I was enrolled in piano lessons at the age of four until grade twelve, along with guitar lessons, vocal lessons, and playing saxophone in my school band. I enrolled in visual art classes every summer, and from the ages of ten to sixteen I had a private painting teacher who taught me watercolor, acrylic, and art theory. I took sewing for four years in high school. Both my mother and grandmother were musicians behind closed doors and my father was a carpenter and fine woodworker. This culminated in me receiving my BFA in Studio Art after five years of study at Concordia University in Montreal. Fortunately, I discovered Artrageous where I get to combine all of my experiences today!
My artistic journey has imparted many lessons. Here are some I would like to share with you:
1. Art taught me to believe in myself
I will never forget the moment when I was twelve, asleep in my bed when my dad rushed into my room shouting “You won!” I had entered a national contest called ‘Get to Know’ produced by the artist Robert Bateman for which twelve student paintings and poems are reproduced in a national calendar to raise awareness for endangered animals. This was a formative experience in gaining confidence as an artist and as an individual. Whether winning a national award or merely attaining a new technical skill, art showed me I could imagine something and bring it into reality. This imparted in me a deep sense of accomplishment. Being creative has given me a feeling of empowerment that has carried into every aspect of my existence.
2. Art instilled perseverance in me
We have all witnessed how children make a mess when learning something new. I was no exception. As a teenager, I practiced piano for an hour every day (minimum) in order to prepare for my exams. I would have to fumble and repeat one section of the music at a time until I could play it. Then I had to memorize it. All the while a metronome was ticking incessantly as if the crocodile in Peter Pan was hunting me. In turn, I embraced repeated failure as an inevitable part of growth. I now appreciate that it takes hours, if not years of devotion, discipline, and consistency to hone your skills. You must crawl before you walk, then walk before you run, and once you’re steady on your feet the eureka moment is worth every effort.
3. Art reminds me to have a beginner’s mindset
Art invites you to be a lifelong learner. When beginning university I dove into the unknown by focusing on realistic portraiture - a subject I had never pursued before. We as humans are wired to know when a portrait is not accurate, and so this seemed like the ultimate challenge. I had to keep an open mind, remain curious, and learn to observe without judgment, expectations, or preconceived notions of someone’s appearance. I had to explore. Today, I maintain my sense of curiosity. When approaching a blank canvas, microphone, stage, or instrument, it is always a new experience. Maintaining this endless sense of novelty is invigorating and has taught me to treat every moment as a blessing.
4. Art made me smarter
In creating art, many different regions of the brain are engaged. (You don't believe me? Check out this 2017 study conducted by De Pisapia et al..) It has been shown in other research that the arts help improve math skills, problem-solving, and even SAT scores (as Kathryn Vaughn and Ellen Winner found in this 2013 study). I have no doubt this is true. Personally, music taught me fractions and division. For instance how to play a quintuplet (five notes) in my right hand while playing two notes in my left. Visual art sharpened my spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination skills. Performing with Artrageous taught me to split my attention between what I’m doing with my body, face, and paintbrushes while paying attention to the other performers, audience, and environment. Not many activities can engage so many different areas of the brain simultaneously, whereas the arts demand it.
5. Art showed me how to accept feedback and criticism
Interspersed in the trial and error of producing art is an assessment from others and your own inner critic. In art school, you go through regular ‘critiques’ - when you display your work in front of your class in order to receive their feedback. It can feel like bearing your soul to twenty-five people as you expect their commentary to be ruthlessly fair. We had to toughen up, not take it personally, and accept criticism gracefully. Perhaps more importantly, you learn to discern which opinions are useful for your project and evolution. Change, after all, is necessary.
6. Art helped me work through life’s challenges
When words fail me there is art. Art taps into the subconscious and provides a safe space to explore our inner world in the external. When I was in university my dad passed away from cancer. Art helped me unravel the emotional consequences of that experience. Wood sculpture helped connect me to my father’s passion for carpentry and for one project I carved two hands. They were displayed with a plaque engraved with the quote “Whenever you miss me just look into your hands and you will see me immediately” by Thich Nhat Hanh. This project brought me solace in a way words would not satisfy. With the rise of art therapy, it is clear that many people believe in the healing effects of art.
7. Art gave me empathy
Perspective has not only given depth to my paintings, it has also created depth in my personal relationships. While in art school, I witnessed that when given the same model to draw everyone produces unique work. Some create images that feel soft or fragile, while others use bold colours or frantic brush strokes. The art others make becomes a window into their pain or pleasure and remind us that we are working through the human experience together. We all view the world in our own subjective way and can learn from each other.
I would not be who I am today without the arts. Now I see the world around me as art unfolding, with potential for creativity everywhere. Still, I eagerly await what the arts will show me next. Picasso said “Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working,” so I’ll see you in the studio!
- Sophia Mitchell