Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"I Can Do Things..."

In my last blog post, I wrote about valuing people's differences and the idea that all people have talents and abilities, that might be at odds with what our society and our educational system says everyone must do and achieve.

Although I have been thinking about this topic for a number of years, I was actually inspired to write about it two weeks ago after reading a blog article by mosaic artist Kim Wozniak about Fred Smith, who at 65 began creating an amazing environment of wood and concrete figures, often encrusted with glass, pebbles, bottles, etc. His homestead in Wisconsin with over 200 figures is now a public art park.

From Kim's blog:

Self taught Fred had no formal schooling, he was asked later in life if he had been hindered by his inability to read or write, and he replied, “Hell no, I can do things other people can’t do.”

I love that.

Everyone has something they can do, just as all children have a wonderful outlook toward the future and potential in them, if they can only find the encouragement they need, instead of being shamed for what they cannot do. All people do not have to achieve the same to be successful in their lives, and all people should not be the same.

As a child I was academically inclined, at least as far as ability; in truth, even though I loved reading and finding out things, I often hated school. I always tested very well, went to college, got my degree. So, according to what society says, I was on the right road to success. Am I using that degree? Not at all. Now, I did love some of my college courses, the ones with the great teachers, full of enthusiasm for their subjects, but right now I garden and cook, make mosaics, collages and jewelry. All things that I taught myself to do, and that anyone with that kind of interest could do, whether or not they finished high school or could even pass the state reading test for 5th grade. I am a great champion of literacy and worked in that field for years. I believe that every child should be given all the help they need to achieve what they can, but there should be alternatives for the kids that will never get into college, and those alternatives should be valued just as highly. Once young people went to apprentice with the local blacksmith or cheesemaker or stained glass window maker. They learned to do skilled work and did important jobs. I think that system has a lot of merit.

This beautiful museum in Baltimore was started by a former nurse. It is the American Visionary Art Museum and it is devoted to self taught artists and totally ignores the well-established art world. The museum's educational goals are:

Expand the definition of a worthwhile life.
Increase awareness of the wide variety of choices available in life- particularly students.
Engender respect for and delight in the gift of others.
Encourage each individual to build upon his or her own special knowledge and inner strengths.
Promote the use of innate intelligence, intuition, self-exploration and creative self-reliance.
Confirm the great hunger for finding out just what each of us can do best, in our own voice, at any age.
Empower the individual
to choose to do
that something really,
really well.

It has 55,000 square feet of exhibit space full of visionary art created by self-taught individuals, and enough supporters who believed in this vision to privately fund it, to make it a reality.


Jan said...

This is a WONDERFUL article! Great Job!

13moons said...

Thanks Jan, I really appreciate it. It's great to know there are more people out there that understand and agree with this.