The following column originally was published by ECM Publications:
Amazing, entertaining art
Amusing, entertaining, inspiring – a recent trip to Florida reminded me that art can be all that, and so much more. I had a chance to experience some of the most creative, amazing pictures and sculptures I’ve seen anywhere in the world at the Baker Museum in Naples. A few days later I spent two hours watching a stirring musical production, “Motown the Musical.”
As schools and districts set their budgets and plans for next year, I hope they’ll remember the enormous value of the arts – not as a frill, but as a vital, central part of education.
I’d love to hear from you, column readers, both youngsters and adults, about how art and music – including what you learned in school – have affected your life.
Fortunately, it rained the first few days my wife and I were in Florida – so we looked for things to do indoors. One of the recommended rainy day activities was visiting the Baker Museum, online at http://bit.ly/1isFHJe. Its exhibits are incredible.
Among other things the museum features several pieces by Dale Chihuly, who is a master with glass. The ceiling of one hallway is made up entirely of about 600 pieces of colorful glass. It’s stirring and stunning, almost overwhelming in the profusion of color. What a happy hallway! Its ceiling is unlike anything I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world.
The museum also features two large, multistory Chihuly glass sculptures. Fortunately, photographer and videographer Harry Forsdick has created a brief YouTube video that includes the ceiling and the two multi-story glass sculptures. Go to http://bit.ly/1X2VfC3 to watch the video.
There’s so much more at the Baker showing vast creativity. Some of the art pieces are just fun – like the sculpture “Snufflegator” by Lothar Nickel.
Before visiting the Baker, I had never heard of the Spanish painter Paco Pomet. The museum describes his art as “original, quirky and always created with an underlying wit.” That’s for sure. I’m not sure how to interpret his paintings.
But they feature incredible contrasts in the way we express ourselves. One painting depicts a group of armed men holding rifles. In the center of the group is one of the characters from “Sesame Street.” Another portrays a space ship on a desolate planet, with youngsters and ordinary people in helmets. A third is a scene from a western town with four men walking down the street. In the center, holding hands with two of the men, is a pink cartoonish character. To learn more about the artist and see these pieces of art, visit http://bit.ly/1PRgZQh.
The Baker’s exhibits included an exhibit of two noted clothing designers, Yves Saint Laurent and Roy Halston Frowick, aka Halston, (see their fashions at http://bit.ly/1GjZwxo). Dozens of the dresses that they created were displayed, along with a discussion of their careers.
And in May, the Baker will feature approximately 600 works – in painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, textiles and photography – by students in prekindergarten through 12th grade.
A few days later, next door to the museum, in Hayes Hall, my wife and I rocked, laughed and sang with more than 1,000 others as we watched “Motown the Musical.”
This features about 50 of the most popular songs produced by African-American artists, coordinated by the remarkable founder of Motown, Barry Gordy. They include, for example: “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “My Girl,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Dancing in the Street.” The dancing, singing and acting produced a lengthy, well-deserved standing ovation at the end. Learn more about the production at http://www.motownthemusical.com.
Over the years, I’ve witnessed and written about several superb student musical productions. Most of us have favorite songs. They comfort, encourage, inspire and amuse us.
Along with countless others, I’ve been encouraged, amused and inspired by artwork produced by students. Music, painting, sculpture and other art can enrich our lives.
Art can allow us to express who we are, what we know, as well as to learn from the creativity and insights of others. I hope school boards remember this as they set their priorities.
Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, is a former director and now senior fellow at the Center for School Change. Reactions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.