I am not a “teacher”
Not in the traditional way of thinking at least…
I don’t punch a clock, I don’t deal with unions, don’t deal with administrators, don’t deal with politics. I get invited, I show up, I share what I know, with the people who want to know. Pretty simple, yet complex at the same time.
In this case, I was invited to Mount Pleasant High School, in San Jose CA.
I was going to do a simple talk, for a few minutes, maybe ten minutes maximum, then field a few questions, and go outside and do a graffiti art demo on canvas. I was to do two class sessions, each with around 28 students. The premise for the presentation was “Having a Vision”… it was a bit autobiographical, a bit anecdotal, a bit of GRAFF knowledge, and I hope to some, a whole lot of motivational, not to sound too pompous. I basically spoke on the transformative power of art and creativity, and how graffiti art played a role in my life. Both transforming, turning it upside down and in the end righting it back up.
Once done talking we all stepped outside, to the parking lot, where we had two large canvases on easels… I made my approach with sketch in hand, and a bag full of Montana Gold cans… 10 cans to be precise… I painted for what appeared to be just 10 minutes, but actually was more like 40 minutes as the bell rang to end the class period. During my brief painting spell, questions were asked, and the students were very engaged. Me myself, I wonder how or why anyone would have interest in watching another person paint. For me it’s like watching grass grow… but to the students, they were enthralled, so that works for me. So on to the next…
We had a ten minute break until the next class session… during that break, a young man walked up to me and said “Mr. Scape, I texted my homeboy a picture of you painting, and he said that you’re hella sick with the colors..”… hmmm interesting I muttered… I said “cool”… the art teacher grinned.
Now the next class comes in and I press repeat… I do the dog and pony show, a bit more animated I was, as I was “feeling it” now… the morning rust wore off, I had more bang zoom, as I got to make my points that yes you can overcome, and yes you can live off of your artwork, and yes you can get to that next level, no matter what “the haters” say or do. So we step out of the class and back to the parking lot. I poke my head out of the class and look down the corridor…
“WHO ARE ALL OF THESE PEOPLE?!.. and where did they come from?!”…
It seems that as I was holding court in the parking lot during the first class, the teens were busy texting, and sending messages to everyone on campus, that “That guy” was here… so the crowd of 28 kids had grown to a mass of almost 100 kids!… I picked up my cans and started doing my thing, and a few interesting things happened. As I was painting, one of the art teachers began to talk about color, as I picked a shock red to work with she explained it’s place on the color wheel, and as I worked with white, she discussed contrast and form, another art teacher chimed in and discussed organic and inorganic forms within the piece. For me it was almost a transcendent moment, because it was a narrative that was happening.
I turned around, and I saw this teenage sea of humanity, everyone with their cell phones out texting, taking pics, video and such, and for a brief second time stood still. I stood there and scanned the audience and wondered “what is it that you all are seeing?”… it’s not just me, something is going on here. Is it the medium, is it the message, is it the messenger, or a combination of all the above?
I put my hands up and said “It’s done… any questions?!”… none came, and if they did quite frankly I don’t remember. I do remember the positive vibes and energy that was in that air. That atmosphere was different, it was changed, I thought, “Now that the atmosphere is changed, NOW we can get busy, and NOW these guys can create something special”. The bell rang and everyone begrudgingly headed back to their classes. The canvases will be auctioned off to raise money to buy art supplies for the class, I may end up buying them myself to keep!
This little journey, raised a few questions for me, the most notable is how can I put this lightning in a bottle?
On a tangent.
The funny part of all this, is that I used to go to this high school. It was one of many I attended, as we bounced around town, in what seemed an endless movement from neighborhood to neighborhood, but that is another story for another place.
But who would have thought, that when I went to the high school, back in the day, back then as a freshman, as I used to turn my notebook into a brick wall. I was drawing tags in the margins of my schoolwork, and having markers, and Orchard Supply Hardware spraycans in my locker, being told by many that my form of expression had no innate value, to now coming back and discussing the merits of what back then was denied.
Things do go in circles…