Art in Action

Here are some photos I took of the children’s art from last night’s One Brick volunteer project at Art in Action (yeah, elementary schoolkids did these! They hang on bulletin boards in AiA‘s offices).

Inspirations: Georgia O’Keeffe and Wayne Thiebaud.

A study of Piet Mondrian’s Composition #2 beneath
a student production of a Byzantine-style mosaic

That’s an impressive take on Kandinsky, if you ask me! The work inspired
by Hokusai’s
The Great Wave got cut off, natch.

Just think of how all this is planting the seed. You may be starting the art history education of future artists and scholars, or at the very least instilling in future lawyers and software engineers and auto mechanics and restaurant owners a knowledge of and appreciation for artistic technique and the ability to identify the painterly signature of a particular artist.

And, for fun, check out this slice of Mondrian cake (actual cake, not frosting) by Caitlin Freeman.

(Top three photos taken with Instagram; bottom photo via Kate Spade New York)

Related: Mondrian for kids, via Brain Pickings.

Julia on cooking

Whenever I start lamenting to myself just how far I have to go in mastering cooking skills (um, even some basic ones), I think of this quote from Julia Child.

“I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.” –Julia Child

So there you go: It’s never too late to learn!

I like her relaxed, contemplative attitude in this next photo of her kneading bread by an open kitchen window. She seems to be in a complete reverie. And the breeze must’ve felt cool on her skin.

Incidentally, if you haven’t read Child’s autobiography My Life in France or As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto—DO. They’re both wonderfully intimate and bubble over with enthusiasm and intelligence as well as insight into just what a behemoth of a project Mastering the Art of French Cooking was. Plus, with regard to As Always, how cool is it to listen in on the vivacious exchange of letters between two pen pals who became such close friends?

I also like rereading Judith Jones‘s book The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food for Jones’s insight into discovering and working with Julia Child, as well as the life events that led to her (Jones’s) love of food and French cooking. Makes me realize anew that when you know your own heart and interests and have the luxury of following where those inner voices beckon, what at first seems to have no practical purpose will all make sense looking back.

(via Matchbook Magazine; top two photos via The Coop | Harvard/M.I.T.; bottom photo by Marc Riboud/Magnum for The New York Times)

More on kids and music

On its 100th anniversary in December 2011, the San Francisco Symphony posted on its Facebook page this photo of kids enjoying an early symphony concert at the War Memorial Opera House, juxtaposed with a more recent shot of kiddos attending a concert at Davies Symphony Hall.

Immediately I thought of The Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prizewinning story “Pearls Before Breakfast,” about famed violinist Joshua Bell busking in a D.C. metro and the people who did or didn’t stop to take in the gorgeous sound of his playing for pennies during a typical morning rush hour.

The poet Billy Collins once laughingly observed that all babies are born with a knowledge of poetry, because the lub-dub of the mother’s heart is in iambic meter. Then, Collins said, life slowly starts to choke the poetry out of us. It may be true with music, too.

There was no ethnic or demographic pattern to distinguish the people who stayed to watch Bell, or the ones who gave money, from that vast majority who hurried on past, unheeding. Whites, blacks and Asians, young and old, men and women, were represented in all three groups. But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.

It also reminded me of Aiden, the 9-year-old kid on KQED’s Perspectives series who seriously loves opera. When I first read the piece, I had two thoughts: 1) That’s awesome! and 2) Is this kid for real?

“A lot of kids misunderstand opera. Once I told a friend the plot of ‘Die Walkure.’ I knew it was the kind of thing he might enjoy. As soon as I told him it was an opera, he stopped listening and tried to change the subject. That’s what has happened with everyone else.

“There are so many reasons why I like opera: the complex plots, the amazing music, the interesting characters, the battle scenes and just the stories themselves. I really don’t understand why other kids don’t like it. What idiot came up with the idea that operas were boring for children?

“It doesn’t matter to me, I like what I like. But some day, I hope to meet another kid who has the same feelings about opera as me.”

I have to say that Aiden’s a lot more self-assured than I was as an undergrad. I remember attending a harpsichord recital in the beautiful Powell Library rotunda at UCLA one Friday night and thinking ruefully to myself, My gosh, what am I doing here?! I should be out clubbing or something. :] Nope, instead, I’m listening to a harpsichord recital. (But it was really cool to sit in that Romanesque-style space and listen that close to the performer.)

(Photos: San Francisco Symphony and Online College)

Kids and the arts

Do you remember the first time you became aware of art and classical music? I think I was about 11 years old when I first begged my mom to buy me a calendar of Impressionist art and a 10-pack box of classical music CDs from Costco.

It was probably because Anne Frank was my hero at that age (I’d read her Diary of a Young Girl over and over), and if she said she loved and found solace in art and classical music, then I wanted to too.

Monet’s 1873 Poppy Field in Argenteuil—from that same Impressionist calendar, I’m sure—is one of the first artworks I remember ever registering. Probably because I grew up near the countryside and the feel of the wind rippling over the poppies resonated with me.

Of course, my first exposure to opera came from Looney Tunes, like “The Rabbit of Seville” and “What’s Opera, Doc?” (I still can’t hear Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries without hearing Elmer Fudd echo, “Kill da wabbit! Kill da wabbit!” in my head. Or the overture from The Barber of Seville without picturing Bugs and that mini lawn mower he uses to shave Elmer Fudd’s sprouting dome.)

That way of making a potentially stuffy subject enjoyable reminds me of how in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Francie’s warm and vibrant music teacher Mr. Morton “taught [the kids] good music without letting them know it was good.”

“He set his own words to the great classics and gave them simple names like ‘Lullaby’ and ‘Serenade’ and ‘Street Song’ and ‘Song for a Sunshine Day.’ Their baby voices shrilled out in Handel’s ‘Largo’ and  they knew it merely by the title of ‘Hymn.’ Little boys whistled part of Dvořák’s New World Symphony as they played marbles. When asked the name of the song, they’d reply, ‘Oh, “Going Home.”‘ They played potsy, humming ‘The Soldiers’ Chorus’ from Faust which they called ‘Glory.'”

I’m convinced that kids have a natural affinity for fine and performing arts when you know how to play it to them. Consider Amelia Newcomb’s 2002 editorial “At 10, Hungry for the Masterpieces” for The Christian Science Monitor. Newcomb’s third-grade teacher, Miss Crankshaw,

“apparently saw no reasons her third-graders shouldn’t be conversant in European art of the 16th to 19th-century. Each Monday, she’d post a copy of a painting in a corner of our classroom, along with some notes. Our instructions were to spend some time with both before Friday afternoon, when she would stop the clock and draw us into an end-of-week art history chat that not one kid ever said was boring.”

Third grade! I just think that’s awesome. There’s so much fascinating storytelling there, so much opportunity for creativity and interpretation and self-expression for the kids.

That’s why I like volunteering at Art in Action, which brings visual arts to the elementary school classroom by putting together art projects inspired by famous painters and encouraging students and teachers to use their right brain and experiment with modeling what they see. (Below is bagged yarn put together by One Brick volunteers for a tapestry project.)

(Bottom photo: One Brick)

2012 bucket list

1. Finish my thesis and graduate from Stanford with my MLA.
2. Train for and run a half-marathon. The longest distance I’ve run is the Bridge to Bridge 12K, but that was more than a year ago and I’ve lost a lot of conditioning. I’m thinking the Jungle Run half would be a good event to shoot for.
3. Travel solo through Belgium and the Netherlands, specifically Amsterdam, Bruges, and Brussels, and maybe Haarlem and Edam. I haven’t taken an entire trip alone in a while and think it’s time to do it again.
4. Ride my new PUBLIC C7 bike on errands around town and on leisurely neighborhood or coastside rides, eventually working up to biking to and from work at least once a week by this summer.
5. Learn to put on eyeliner. (Heh.)
6. Begin the Basics series at Tante Marie’s Cooking School. Because really, how is it that I like to eat well but don’t really cook?
7. Visit my friend Shona in Minneapolis and photo-safari my favorite Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk.
8. Volunteer at least once a month at Art in Action or RAFT (Resource Area for Teaching). Also excited to see that Bring Me a Book is now hosting volunteer events again!

And I’m super-excited about watching and listening to the San Francisco Symphony perform Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos No. 2, 3, and 6 with my friend Bill in May! Snagged seats in the Center Terrace, which is directly behind the orchestra and supposed to be pretty stellar. Hoping to join my friend Andy to see Paco de Lucía perform for the L.A. Phil at Walt Disney Concert Hall too. Spanish guitar is so moving.