"Education is not a product: mark, diploma, job, money; It is a process, a never-ending one." -bel kaufman

Sunday, September 26, 2004


what a difference a day can hold (dedicated to michael genovese)

i began this afternoon in a spiraling depression, my head on my desk and my motivation plummeting as i thought about the many, many things i have to do for school just to catch up. i decided to call emily, my best friend who was traveling to minneapolis to find a new place to live. her cell phone was dead (not surprising) and i began an email message to her immediately:
sunday 4:13pm
i tried calling your phone. it is out of service. i wanted to leave you a message, let you hear my voice and how it shakes. maybe you could hear my heart beating.

i am scared of teaching. it is growing to be very difficult and i am scared that i am failing. i know that if i concentrate and focus and put more time into it, i can do it, but i can't concentrate. i can't focus. i can't seem to get myself to put in any time because i dread the work it takes to prepare, thinking that the lesson won't do any good. the students won't want to listen. they won't want to work.

these past two weeks have been hard. the school isn't getting much better because it's overcrowded and the teachers are overworked. i get home and i sleep and now i am behind in my work. on the weekends, i avoid catching up because i don't like to think about it.

the students are becoming bored and they see that i am not prepared for class. my lessons have been short and aren't strong enough to really help them digest the information. they have a hard time paying attention, too, so i often have to fight for their attention. this is tiring.

i am not going to give up, i'm just worried that i am dragging along and becoming a poor teacher like what most of these kids have always known: the teacher who hasn't planned enough. the teacher who is uninspired because of so much paperwork. etc, etc.

this is my message to you. i hope you can take some time to think about everything and maybe we will get together this week and talk. i miss you. see you soon,

at six o'clock, i biked to earwax cafe and ordered a mug of coffee. i pretended to read a magazine. i was anxious to meet the person i had come here to see. michael genovese is a chicago artist who i had stumbled across in a local newspaper not long ago. among many things, he does public art work and was/is a graffiti artist, something easily seen in his painting style. i wrote him a couple weeks ago to see if he was interested in working with my visual art class in school. once i saw some of his work on his web site, i knew that my students would appreciate his talent. i could see him bringing some of his paintings to class and talking about his process, influences, inspirations, life... everything. i didn't know if he would dig this idea, but he wrote back in a day and responded with enthusiasm. we decided to meet.

over a week later, we finally coordinated our busy lives to find each other in wicker park on a sunday evening. he was more down to earth than i could have imagined. he had lived the life some of my students live today. michael grew up in chicago sketching graffiti in his art book as a teenager and later let his talent take him across the nation as a sign painter in a carnival. a few years pass and life takes him to Ecuador where he worked as an educator in ESL (english as a second language). the experiences opened up doors for michael as an instructor, and without any formal degrees, he worked on teaching and curriculum in South America. he eventually came back to chicago and has been working as an artist here, slowly establishing himself and working towards fulfilling his passions in art, both indoor and outdoor. after so many years doing graffiti, public art is still in his blood. michael works with the chicago public art group and other individuals to create public art pieces around chicago, as well as doing studio painting. we talked and talked over coffee in that cafe, and my spirits rose. i told him i was stuck in my art class, running short on ideas, and he threw some thoughts my way. the students can create found-object sculptures, develop sketches, create structures to eventually be displayed in a gallery and... hey, who knows... maybe even be sold and have the money go straight back into the hands of the students. public art work would be something within reach, perhaps nearby on abandoned buildings with boarded-up windows. paintings, murals, mixed-media. i can see it now: right on pulaski avenue where students and passersby-ers would see everyday. as a class, i can assign roles to the students--planning teams, painters, photographers. teacher about composition, line, unity, balance. teach the importance of documenting each step and use our two cameras strategically. thank you, michael, for your quick ideas, putting together my disarray and providing some inspiration and experience. you don't know how much this means.

have i told you lately that i love you nick? i really do.
barcelona is a wonderful place for public art. the entire city is like an outdoor art gallery. not only does the city promote public art by world recognized artists - for example, in the 1980's before the olympics, nearly 72 large scale works were comissioned by the city - there is also an enormous wealth of some of the best graffiti i have ever seen, especially in my neighborhood of poblenou. It is a very well accepted and well developed art form here. but i fear that progress and the redevelopment of older districts will remove alot of the old industrial buildings that act as canvases for the artwork. but grafitti by its nature is very temporal, is it not? constantly changing, disappearing and reappearing.
its a photo project i have been meaning to do ever since i got here, i think you will appreciate it.
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