Friday, June 27, 2008

Ann McCauley on DIY Knitty Gritty Saturday!

Ann of will be on air in the Knitty Gritty episode entitled Delightful Details which is 6/28 on DIY network at 5:30 am EDT.
Don't miss it!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mel Edwards' Votre Vray - Where I've Been, and Where We're Going

Since I've begun the interview process (thank you, Ladies!) many people have been asking about what my artistic focus is and what I intend to do with the interviews. Because this project is multi-faceted, so is my answer. Let's begin with the questions I ask those I interview.

1. How do you feel when someone calls you an artist?
For a long time, I have had difficulty with the term artist, mostly because the images I associate with the term do not match my self image. Do I create? Absolutely! What is my modality of choice? I'm a word wrangler with a theatre bent. My earliest memories were of standing on the hassock in the middle of the living room belting out nonsense words to entertain my mother. So, when someone says, after a performance, "You're such an artist. You have a gift. You're so talented. I could never..." I tend to bristle. Sometimes I'm bold enough to ask, "Is brushing your hair a talent?" When they look at me like I've lost my mind, I explain that for me, telling a story or creating print media is an extension of the way I think. My mother says, "It just flows out of you." My father calls me a wordsmith. I say, I'm a woman who loves words and showbiz. If that means artist to you, then feel free to call me an artist.

2. When you create a show or a story how is that emotionally empowering for you?
Storytelling isn't the same as theatre. I get to interact with the audience as I lay out the bones of a story. It is incredible to be able to stand up, say what I came to say and interact with those I'm sharing with. Nothing is more validating for me.

3. Who in your life or what in your life encouraged you to keep going forward in your path to be a creator of your own work?
I have a master's degree in storytelling, but that didn't empower me or encourage me, except it did motivate me to get the damned thesis done and graduate before I lost my mind. I would say those who have been my friends have always let me be me, even if my best pal of 35+ years rolls her eyes each time I start a new project, she still says, "Of course!" when I describe what I'm going to do and why.
That's not to say my folks didn't want me to be happy with a teaching career. They did. They wanted me to have more of a regular income than an artist has, but in the end, the sadness in my heart because I had no time to create and live my dreams cost me more than any low-paying performance gig could have.

4. Is it still scary for you -- ever, often, always -- to put yourself out there?
You mean, do I sweat, get weak in the knees and all that? Sure, sometimes. It depends upon the audience and the personal connection to the work I'm sharing. This Votre Vray project, even though I'll be sharing stories of dozens and dozens of women, will be my most personal project yet. If someone I've never met hates it, it will be their problem. If one of the women I profile hates her section of the story, I'll feel badly because my whole goal is to make her look and feel good about who she is and what she has accomplished.

5. Can you envision yourself doing anything else with your life?
That's one of my biggest problems. I can so easily teach or work at an editing desk or do something else related to words that when I worry about my financial future, I tend to grab at the first opportunity that comes my way. I have to learn to honor my own voice, my truth, enough that I can say, "No thank you. That is not what I do anymore," and mean it. Even if I fear being divorced, hungry and homeless. I just have to truth if I follow my truth, I will find my way. Each time I have done so, it works.

6. What is the best advice you have been given or can give in regards to following a creative path?
Do whatever it takes to find your truth, and don't be a weenie about it like I was. I quit my degree program in theatre in 1990 and have paid dearly to get back in that direction. I've wasted a good portion of my lifetime doing what other people thought was a wise career move, and even if I am National Board of Professional Teaching Standards certified to teach English, I'm not going to do it if it costs me my creative spark. I love kids, and love to teach, but I will do it on my terms. Otherwise, it simply isn't worth it to me anymore.

Goals of Votre Vray:
1. That by September 2008, I'll have stories completed of over 100 women artists following their dreams.
2. By October 2008, I'll have created my one-woman show of these stories to take on the road. A percentage of box office receipts will go directly to offering small scholarships to women who want to take classes or workshops in the artistic modality of their choice.
3. The stories of these 100+ women will be published in a book, hopefully with at least one image page of their work per participant, and at least will have contact information or web links to them and their work.
4. To build a strong web community where artists can come for news about others in their field and find inspiration to do their work.
5. To help artists find their truth, and with that, their way in life.

Whew! That's a tall order, but that's what this gal is all about (even if I'm only 5' tall)!

Until next time, keep creating!

Janice Johnson Smith – An Artist Who Rocks

Today I had the opportunity to interview Indiana artist, Janice Johnson Smith.
Artistic Focus: Drawing and Painting

Mel: How do you feel when someone calls you an artist?
Janice: Well…um…good. It feels right. It fits me, but it isn’t like most things you do. No one calls a restaurant owner a restaurant. They say you have a business. Art is a business too.

Mel: When you create a drawing or painting how is that emotionally empowering for you?Janice: Art connects head, to heart, to hand, to paper, to eyes and back to head and heart again. Because you begin with the artist and then the work is viewed, enjoyed and interpreted.

Mel: Who in your life or what in your life encouraged you to keep going forward in your path to be a creator of your own work?
Janice: I was active in art as a young girl and a bit in college, and every now and then since. My husband all along said, “Do it.” About give years ago of friend of mine encouraged me to paint something for her. Then another friend did, and she said, “I love it!” The support has been there all along, to pushing me to create, to “I love it.”Now I get my support through a networking group. I met a house designer who installed my work in a home. It has been great.

Mel: Is it still scary for you -- ever, often, always -- to put yourself out there?
Janice: You know what? I’ve moved past some of that. There always is scrutiny when you’re showing your work to others, but it depends upon the context. It is normal to feel a little sting if someone hates your work, but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t believe in it.

Mel: Can you envision yourself doing anything else with your life?
Janice: Possibly, but not full-time.

Mel: What is the best advice you have been given or can give in regards to following a creative path?
Janice: The Best Advice Given? Stay inspired. Best Advice I Can Give? Follow it to the end. Just do it, and see. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

What is coming up for Janice?
She’s helping coordinate a First Friday art event through called the Elegant Funk group art show; slated for August 1st in Indianapolis. Admission is free with complimentary food and wine tasting. A cash bar will also be present.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Participate in Votre Vray Projects!

Still on the fence about participating in the sensational Votre Vray creative women project?

Not sure if you're "enough" to be included?
Don't be! Everyone has someone in the world they can connect to. Do you need to be differently-abled to appreciate that someone who is blind can paint? Must you be frustrated with depression to know that it is a terrible road travel? Of course not.

Please join us!

Below are the interview launch questions. Send your answers in the body of an e-mail (to: MelEdwardsConnect [at] Yahoo [dot] com) along with the release form below, and I'll be in touch to set a follow-up interview. Your experience can be exactly what another woman needs to hear! Don't judge yourself, let the world decide when they learn your personal story.

1. How do you feel when someone calls you an artist?
2. When you create (insert art modality of your choice) how is that emotionally empowering for you?
3. Who in your life or what in your life encouraged you to keep going forward in your path to be a creator of your own work?
4. Is it still scary for you -- ever, often, always -- to put yourself out there?
5. Can you envision yourself doing anything else with your life?
6. What is the best advice you have been given or can give in regards to following a creative path?

RELEASE for Votre Vray Interviews

DATE: ­­­­­­­­­­____________ Via: Phone or E-mail (circle or highlight one)

Name: ____________________________

Art/Business: ________________________


Phone: _______________________

E-mail: _____________________________

Phone: _______________________

Web/Blog: __________________________

E-mail with consent to participate: YES

Date of Sent (to Mel): _________________

By signing below I, ____________________________, acknowledge and agree/give consent for my interview with Mel Edwards for Votre Vray to be used to promote women in creativity. In doing so, my interview:

*May appear in part or whole in her blog or website.

*May appear in part or whole in her one woman show.

*May appear in part or whole in the book Votre Vray: Found My Truth, My Way, Volume 1 (working title).

*May be used as an example for other creative people in Mel’s related workshops, coaching or teaching.

Furthermore, I acknowledge that I will receive no remuneration for my participation but Mel will make every effort to give me full credit for all of my work, promote my art and business of creating art. This may be done by naming me in any works I am included in and/or naming my business and/or artistic medium.

I will be able to access updates to all Votre Vray projects via Mel’s blog: or via her website:

Additionally, when any materials are released I will receive notification to include in my press kit, and when the book is released I will be able to purchase a copy at a small discount with a personalized inscription from Mel. for my participation in the Votre Vray project, to empower women in the arts.

Signed: ________________________________ Date: ________________

(For electronic signatures, only) Time of Day: ________________________________

(highlight one) Signed via: Personal computer or Business Computer

Please save signed copy for your records.

Alive? Then, it is NEVER too late, No Acceptable Excuse

In the past 90 hours or so, I've been given more proof that there is never a time that is too late to begin a creative life, and that no excuse you can come up with can't be overcome. Women I'll be interviewing have overcome homelessness, prejudice of all kinds, physical barriers, and religious expectations to allow their creative selves to soar at all stages of life. I look forward to sharing their inspirational stories.

Until then, if you haven't read the memoir, or at least watched the film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, do so! It is the story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, former editor of Elle in France. The entire memoir was dictated by Bauby blinking one eye while an assistant read off the letters of the alphabet because Bauby was unable to speak or move any other part of his body after a severe stroke.

More about Bauby's memoir can be found at: or the film version:

Until next time, keep creating!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Overwhelming Response for Creative Women

Ladies and Gentlemen, I declare that every woman I've gotten to know in the last 48 hours is a unique powerhouse of inspiration that you're going to LOVE getting to know.
As of this morning, I've had over 100 women write and say they're interested in being interviewed for inclusion in this blog, the Votre Vray play and/or the Votre Vray Vol. 1!

I have several interviews lined up this week with a variety of creatives. They all inspire me, so I'm sure at least one will speak your creative language.
Some of the fab ladies I'll be speaking with are:
Connie Logan, Impressionist painter, of
Kim Santini, painter, at
Nicole B. Schmidt, Graphic artist, at
Linda Seger, Screenwiter, author and teacher at

I can't wait!
Until next time, keep creating!

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Celebration of African-American & Caribbean Arts

Want an excuse to go to the beach this autumn?
Attend the MOJA arts festival in Charleston, SC September 25-October 5, 2008!

Featured performances will include classic pianists, jazz musicians, dance theatre and a R & B concert. There will also a theatrical production of "We Be Gullah/Geechee Anointed People" by Carlie Towne Productions, and Author Pearl Cleage will be on hand at the Literary Corner. Don't miss the Community Tribute Luncheon at Lowndes Grove Plantation, 'cause you know southerners know good eatin'! (Luncheon requires advanced reservations.)

All events require individual admission. Tickets go on sale July 1st and may be purchased via Ticketmaster by calling 843-554-6060 or online via

Additional information about the time of events and artists' offerings may be found at:

(Information provided in this announcement was provided by the MOJA Arts Festival.)

Women ROCK!

Today I had my query for creative women interviewees go out via Peter Shankman's Help a Reporter Out service and my mailbox has already been slammed with 35 women who want to be interviewed or know someone I should interview. People are wondrously amazing at sharing their stories to inspire others.

Thank you to everyone who has responded so far. Keep 'em coming and spread the word. If you belong to an online community that might have people interested, and won't upset anyone by cross-posting, please send them my way. I'd love to have so many interviews lined up that I can do an annual edition of Votre Vray: Women of Creative Truth! in addition to many, many more women featured in my blog.

Until later, keep creating!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Women, Wymyn, Womoon Artists Sought for Interviews

Hear ye, hear ye! Wanted: Women, Wymyn, Womoon to share stories of how you've found your mode of artistic expression and use it in your daily life or work.

Some of the questions I'll be asking:

1. How do you feel when someone calls you an artist?
2. When you create (insert art modality of your choice) how is that emotionally empowering for you?
3. Who in your life or what in your life encouraged you to keep going forward in your path to be a creator of your own work?
4. Is it still scary for you -- ever, often, always -- to put yourself out there?
5. Can you envision yourself doing anything else with your life?
6. What is the best advice you have been given or can give in regards to following a creative path?

Naturally, you will be encouraged and invited to share where you're headed in your work, promote anything you've done and give any additional information you think readers/listeners may want to know about you or your art.

It is my intention to share interviews via a one woman show, much like Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues, through this blog, and one day, in a book.

Not a female artist? That's okay. Share how your support women in their art, creative expression in general and your hopes for equal recognition for all in artistic arenas. Or recommend an artist I should be speaking with!

Anyone willing to be interviewed should e-mail me at Mel Edwards Connect [at] Yahoo [dot] com.

Until next time, keep creating!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution

Just before school was out, a female colleague and I had a chat about how women often feel like we don’t fit in. We’re the only ones who…(insert life factor of difference here). The truth is, we’re not the only ones, just a decent percentage of those who have been fed a concoction of what we should look like, want to do with our lives, and how to behave. Sure, men get the same bill of goods, but in this country, under Anglo-law, white men have always been in charge of nearly every political-social-cultural-religious-economic institution we can name and no one else has been able to catch up.

As a teacher and creativity coach, I’ve seen black boys dress like TV thugs, and music stars as they try to find an identity they can connect with. I’ve watched girls starve themselves, and do a variety of things (many harmful and irreversible) to get attention for their appearance (and that school up north that is surprised girls made a pact to get pregnant better wake up, ‘cause that’s not news to any teacher who takes time to know their students). I have listened to adult women tell me countless times they’re not “right” for me to profile in my creative work because they’re not good/smart/talented/young/wise/established enough in their art or otherwise.

What’s a person to do? How does one constructively change the way people view each other, treat themselves and strangers, and learn to find their truth without apology?

If you like slam and performance poetry, are a feminist, are pro-LBGT rights, or just anti-oppression in general (and who besides an oppressor would not be?), Word Warriors: 35 Women leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution, edited by Alix Olson, will certainly open your horizons and perhaps give you some answers to these questions that you can live with.

Will you be surprised by what you read? Find caustic venom within? Or finally feel normal because of what you have read within these pages? Only you can answer that.

You may recognize some of the names on the cover including Michelle Tea and Patricia Smith. However, to overlook the others, and miss the words of the trans-gender, intersex, queer, lesbian, and male authors, would be to miss the whole point of their work. These people have voices and they’re ready to be heard.

In the end, I learned a bit about walking in someone else’s skin and found several new poets I find fabulous. Check it out.

Have you read Word Warriors? Share your insight by placing comments here!

[Word Warriors is published by Seal Press. Edited by Alix Olson. Forward by Eve Enlser (creator of The Vagina Monologues and V-Day).]

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Gail Blanke, LifeDesigns CEO - Dealing with Change

Gail Blanke's first book In My Wildest Dreams: Living the Life You Longed For has competition!
It is entitled Between Trapezes, also written by Gail, CEO and President of LifeDesigns. It includes six steps for thriving on change.

I don't know what you think of when you jump into a new project, but I get excited for days. Then, reality hits. What if I fail? What if I stink at this? What if I lose my friends, end up in debtors prison and the IRS wants me to tax evasion? Okay, most of that isn't likely, but the rabbit hole has a spiral that leads the way, and all it takes is one negative mental step and into the hole I go!

I haven't read Gail's latest book, but after completing In My Wildest Dreams, you can betcha it is on my "must read" list. Gail's also on my dream list of creative women to interview.

What do you do to handle the challenges of launching your dreams?
Where do you go to ground yourself and keep from slipping into that rabbit hole?
Let me know.

Laughing Rembrant worth $40 million

Above the the URL to an AP story of a Rembrant self-portrait that went up for auction. The purchaser paid a over $4million for it, but since experts have verified that Rembrant really did paint the portrait of himself, it is worth at least 9 times that.

Which brings me to a fun creative question. What are your artistic wildest dreams? Do you want to have a self-portrait worth millions of dollars (while you're still alive)? Perform at Lincoln Center?

I'll admit I want to make my Votre Vray play of women's creative lives into an HBO special, with Eve Ensler as my MC. I'll perform in front of a sold out crowd, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, NOW and...and....
Okay. I'll breathe. This is pretty heady stuff.

So? Share already! I would love to know where your creative vibes are headed.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

One Great Deal and One Raw Deal...

If you're like most people, you're on the lookout for deals to help you enjoy your creative lifestyle. Recently, I came across two "deals" but only one worked for me.

1. The first deal was for a local brewery. They ran a full page ad in a local publication stating you can get a 22oz. "Ugly Mug" which they'll fill for you and you'll have one great story to bring home with you.

2. A colleague sent us all this link (at work...which I think was probably a no-no):
She then went on to explain you'll have to spend some time signing up for offers and it would cost you about $100 out of pocket and you might decide to cancel some (if not most) of the offers you sign up for, but in the long-run, you get the laptop you wanted. (She's gotten TWO Macs this way in the past two years.

Now, at first glance, offer #1 sounded like the best deal. I like hand-thrown pottery and "ugly" jugs and mugs are part of South Carolina art history. Even if I didn't love the beer, I thought I'd get the mug and have it to savor the memory of the night my sweetie and I went there.

The second offer sounded like a spam-filter nightmare, but since the notification came from a colleague who was upfront enough to let us know what work it would take to earn the laptop, and that two other people would also have to go through the process for it to ship, I thought I'd look at it as well.

The Raw Deal: Offer #1
Why? The advertisement for the brewery never said a few key facts: a. the price for a mug ($75!); b. that you can't pick up a mug there, but you must design it yourself, then wait for someone to make it; c. that all the mugs in the place, belonged to customers who had designed them for themselves (and that the mugs were supposed to remain at the pub). I was crushed. So much for making memories. The only good news for the night is the pint I did have was pretty good, as was the burger with homemade ketchup and pickle.

The Great Deal:
Why? Because everything is spelled out up front. I know how much work it will take me to earn my laptop of choice and I know if I can't get two others to do this whole set of offers that I'll lose out...but there is no false advertisement, no omission of relevant facts, and I know where I stand up front. Maybe when I get my laptop I'll go to a potter who won't charge $75 for a cool mug, bring it to the public bench outside that pub, and drink sweet tea as I write my heart out on my new 'puter.

Until next time, keep being creative!
(And if you're looking for a colleague was right about the investment, offers, etc. but I know $100 and some effort is a lot cheaper than a new Mac!)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Money, Money, Money!!!

Let's consider the reality that artists need to make an income and that financial flow can come from a variety of resources: a "day job," selling your art/skills as an artist, wealthy benefactors, grants and stipends. The "where" often is not as difficult a concept for most of my artist friends as "how much," as in what amount is a respectable going rate for sale of artist works. Unfortunately, that depends on the skill of the artist, what the market will bear, and what other artists are earning doing the same type of work.

Where can you turn for solutions?

  • Ask a peer what she believes is the normal going rate for someone with your level of expertise.
  • Visit professional organizations' websites for details and related information.
  • Figure out what you need to be solvent, and divide by the number of hours you can/will be willing to work.

The first option may require asking several peers and feeling out an average you believe the market will bear based upon your product.

The second option usually involves at least a web search and may require membership in professional organizations. Here's an example, Editorial Freelancers Association's website states, "Common rates reported to us by our members fall within the ranges indicated below. They should be used only as a rough guideline; rates vary considerably depending on the nature of the work, the time frame of the assignment, the degree of special expertise required, and other factors. The industry standard for a page is 250 words." Then they have a chart of the type of work a freelancer might get contracted to do.

That last option is what throws most of us for a loop because it requires self-evaluation, and as artists, we rarely trust our own opinions of our value. For example, as an educator, with a Master's plus 30 credits, but no PhD, I know what my former employer paid everyone with the same length experience. However, I also know not every state pays the same amount for the same work. Also, that income has to be adjusted for benefits that I cannot earn as a freelance storyteller, and I have to remember to take out Uncle Sam's portion of the pot. Additionally, every state requires different amounts and spectrum of duties for their teachers. It can be dizzying!

In the end, you have to decide what you value the most: doing your art not matter what income it gives you, following your creative path while living an adequate lifestyle or heading to the top of your class and earning every penny you can out of it while you can. Follow your internal comfort meter. You'll know when you're displease, happy or embarrassed by the income you hope to earn.

Sologig It!

Looking for a new creative career but don't consider yourself a master or mistress of fine arts? CareerBuilder has a division called Sologig that may just be up your tightrope! You can subscribe to e-mail notification of creative jobs in your area. I registered as freelancer, as that is one of the many hats I wear, and today's message looks like this:

"Bored? Get Creative! It is easy to get stuck in an uninspired rut by taking on projects that are similar in nature. With the help of, there is no need to bang your head against a wall. Following your passion is an important aspect of having an enjoyable career. For new project ideas to keep your creative juices flowing, check out some new trends.
Top 10 Creative Freelance Careers:
1. Scrapbook Design Consultant
2. Specialty Freelance Writer
3. Color Consultant for Interior Design
4. Waterscapes Design Consultant
5. Real Estate Marketing Consultant
6. Social Media Consultant
7. Event Coordinator
8. Jewelry Designer and Buying Consultant
9. Graphic Artist
10. Play Consultant"

Even though the second entry is the one I had in mind when I signed up, the other nine sounded pretty exciting as well, especially number 10, since I have been trained as an English teacher since 1991.

Check out Sologig today!

Until next time,
get creative!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Can everyone count on you?

"For most of my adult life, I'd prided myself in my competence and sense of responsibility. I was always the one people could count on to get the job done. I'd been sabotaging myself with my own sense of duty, pushing my needs aside to take care of everything else." - Diane Dreher, author of The Tau of Womanhood (p. 32).

Sound familiar? It was so familiar I not only underlined and put several asterisks next to it on my personal copy of the book, I called my mother and read it to her. My mother is a great woman in many ways, but she's very old fashioned in giving more of herself than she should and having nothing left to give others. After forty years of marriage she feels guilty if she calls dad at work and tells him to pick up dinner on the way home because she doesn't feel like cooking. Now, I'm not saying this to put down my mother, but to illustrate that we all have our limits, but when we reach them, because so many have depended upon us to do so much for them for so very long, people balk at our changes. Then, feeling guilty, we back off. That's no way to lead a creative life.

I am very lucky in that I live in a time and place that allows me to walk away from one of my vocations in order to follow my dreams. You may not have that luxury. You can still take baby steps. Diane Dreher went to a doctor who asked her three simple questions:
1. How much sleep are you getting (Not enough.)
2. How much exercise are you getting? (Not enough.)
3. How much vegetables are in your diet? (You guessed it....)
Diane's doctor prescribed two activity sessions per day of 15 minutes, and it didn't need to be some harsh butt kicking aerobic exercise that was beyond her energy level.

So, my challenge to myself, and to you is this:
Get 15 minutes of creative activity into your day.

It can be five minutes at a time, three times a day, or 15 minutes all at once. You decide. Don't make excuses. Don't start doing chores that "have to be done" and promise to get back to yourself later. It won't work and you'll keep falling into the same trap I do, my mom does, and Diane did.

If you do that for yourself, you might also have the energy to follow the three directives from Diane's doctor: 1. Get enough sleep. 2. Exercise 15 minutes at a clip, twice a day. 3. Each several serving of fresh vegetables per day. It can only help you. Why not try it?

Also, if you're looking for inspiration and fellowship, pick up a copy of Diane's book, The Tao of Womanhood, published by Quill (and imprint of HarperCollins), and read how she "combines the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching with straightforward advice." I read my copy in one day, just picking it up between other activities. It is now part of my recommended reading library for creative women!

Until later, keep striving to be your most authentic creative self!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Time to Say Good-bye, Hello

Well, the magic day has arrived. My classroom is cleared out, keys turned in, report cards placed in the mail, etc. The difficult part was not saying farewell to my peers, because we have numerous options for keeping in touch, and I plan return and do a brief residency for one colleague in the fall when she's out on maternity leave. No, what killed me was the moment one of the last students in the building walked up to me and said, "I now know what I wanted to say to you. I know what I want to do in high school and it is because of you. You have been an inspiration." I choked out a, "Thank you, Sweetie. I needed that today. Take care of yourself and have a good summer." Then I turned away as he walked down the hall, so he wouldn't see the tears in my eyes.

You see, I coach and I teach, solely because I love people and I want people to love themselves and follow their dreams. If nothing else, I can say this year that at least one boy "got it" and believes in his future today.

Now, I said it "killed me" to live through his farewell, and I want to explain that comment. Being motivated in the moment is very different from holding onto that feeling long-term. It can be a terrible struggle to do the things in life we don't want to do while trying to keep our dreams alive. If you focus on the dream, all will be well, but if the struggle reigns supreme, you're sunk, at least temporarily. I wish I could be in that child's mind whenever he begins to feel sunk. I'd throw him a life buoy and yell, "Hang on! Help is on the way!"

So, as I say "good-bye" to my former students, I also ask them to say "hello" to their future, their hopes, their dreams. May they become close allies and may the darkness fade away.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Education vs. Experience

Our school principal gave us the following quote, from my personal favorite front porch philosopher, Pete Seeger:

"Education is when you read the fine print. Experience is what you get if you don't."

I am living that this week, with my students (and their parents) who didn't read the fine print on their exam exemptions. It stated, "Understand that the exemption status may change if assignments are not completed during the next few days of school. Only the current average reflected exemption privileges." We also have a policy that students in the 8th grade must earn an A every quarter all year to be exempt, even if the student's yearly average is an A. That said, seven out of my 85 students did not show for their exam yesterday that they were not exempted from.

What I have learned:
Even though I posted exemptions outside the classroom, posted them on my teacher website, announced them in class, and every teacher has reminded the students of the all A's all year to be exempt rule, seven students who had yearly averages of an A, stopped listening when I said they had an A for the year.

What I would do differently in the future:
Make the students sign stating they knew they were not exempt and send a NEW notification home stating so.

In the end, we only hear what we want to hear and bite back at anyone who goes against our deepest wishes. The experience we gain is often full of bitterness and turmoil, but we do remember. Those of us who learn, do so and let it go. Those of us who carry it around the rest of our lives poison ourselves in the process.

So, today will you read the fine print or gain experience?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Earn an Art Degree! (or not...)

So often when we're yearning to learn something new, we look to books about the topic or check into taking a course, or the ultra-motivated consider earning a degree. Then our next hurdle is to select a resource or plan that is best for our personal needs. This task can seem daunting. Where can you turn for help?

Naturally, you can ask those who have been down the same path for advice. However, know we each perceive differently and something that bores a friend to tears might keep you hopping with excitement.

Last year, when I began researching PhD programs I might want to enter, I decided to rely upon general marketing information from a university system expert: Princeton review. I joined the e-mail newsletter notification system from Princeton Review Recruiter Service. I've pasted one of their messages below so you can have an idea of what to expect from this resource. I honestly do not know anything about the program listed, nor do I endorse it over any other program. I simply want you to know what might be of interest to you as you move forward in your creative path.

If you like what appears below, sign up for a e-notifications from the Princeton Review and receive similar notifications personalized to your criterion! In the end, the decision on what step you're ready to take next is solely up to you.

Until next time!
- Mel. (p.s. Just three more days until I'm free to follow my creative path full-time! Sure hope you'll join the journey.)

Maine College of Art (MECA) delivers a demanding and enlivening education in visual art and design within an intimate learning community. Each student learns how to transform aspirations and values into a creative practice that serves as the foundation for a lifelong pursuit of personal and professional goals. Founded in 1882 and fully accredited, MECA offers both the Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts degrees as well as a Post-Baccalaureate certificate in Art Education. The College gallery, the Institute of Contemporary Art at MECA, has been hailed as one of the finest art spaces in the Northeast for the exhibition of leading edge contemporary art
Request a brochure from Maine College of Art
MFA Program Overview
The Master of Fine Arts in Studio Arts program at Maine College of Art (MECA) is a two-year low-residency program designed for emerging artists. The MFA in Studio Arts is based upon an open interdisciplinary approach that encourages students to think across boundaries and integrate studio practice with conceptual and interdisciplinary theory. With an intimate class size of 30 students, each MFA student pursues an individualized studio curriculum in their chosen area of concentration.
The MFA low-residency program is based around two eight-week summer intensives in Portland, two ten-day winter residencies in Portland and New York, a five-day May intensive in Portland for graduating students, and the 14-week fall and spring semesters in a home studio setting with supervised instruction from non-resident as well as resident faculty. An extensive roster of internationally recognized visiting artists and scholars supports the curriculum.
The summer intensives allow students to work on-site in state-of-the-art studios, (many students have multiple studios), attend seminars, discussions, and lectures by artists, critics, curators, historians, and theorists, participate in individual and group critiques, and help to develop a community through dinners, dialogues planned and unplanned, and various excursions.
Off-site during the non-residency fall and spring semesters, students in their home studios are partnered with a renowned faculty of Non-Resident Studio Instructors (NRSI) for one-on-one meetings that allow for a flexible, individualized, student-centered learning and year-round resident faculty contact.
The program travels to New York City during the winter intensives to visit artists' studios and important cultural sites. Graduating students return to Portland in the spring of the second year to hang their studio thesis exhibition and defend their written and studio theses.
The MECA Community and Campus is located in the center of Portland's Arts District, MECA's campus is comprised of five buildings all located within a four-square-block. The main studio building is a 150,000 square foot renovated department store. Cosmopolitan and comfortable, Portland offers all the advantages of a small city with close proximity to nature and recreation. It has an urban sensibility and energy that draw an eclectic population from artists to entrepreneurs.
The College gallery, the Institute of Contemporary Art at MECA, has been hailed as one of the finest art spaces in the Northeast for the exhibition of leading edge contemporary art.