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Enter at your own risk an eclectic journey through a cluttered mind, streaming consciousness, not to be understood by all, but freed by me to you...

Monday, February 20, 2006

What is art? Art & Sports...Social Landscapes

Charlize, "North Country" portrays sex discrimination in the MN Iron Range. She represents ALL WOMEN (not just the feminists, think latent image) trying to get equality & the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) passed. Even black men got to vote before women (1920). Again, Black Male vs White Female.

My Title IX class action lawsuit in 1977 against SPPS & Principal Big Mac was a farce. First it was bogged down by making the mistake of filing it with the State Department of Human Rights, then naively thinking that the Federal Department of Health, Education, and Welfare would also consider it. Ha! Both buried it for years, never to be heard from again. $150 pay difference, but the world to me. The boys Black male assistant coach got the HEAD coach position of the new CO-ED track team; think: submerged, not merged, because he was an athlete in high school & college. The results of who got the head coach position was published before the interview even took place & even though we were the only 2 who applied in September for a March 1st opening, the interview took place on Feb 28th. I was advised to seek a job at a local college if I wanted to coach so badly, but no, I stayed with that program for five years. It was 1982, I was 33, 9 months pregnant, coaching 2 sports, working the finish line judge for state. I took a semester leave of teaching but continued coaching. I had a student baby sit in the locker room (she was only 2 months old, hate those indefinite articles, the baby not the babysitter); continued nursing for 6 months. No infections for that child, she got the first taste of food when Aunt Michele unknowingly gave her a banana. It was time for me to go back to work.

The Title IX lawsuit resulted in SPPS revamping the interview process for hiring coaches. I won the battle, but not the war. We had 9 high schools, 27 possible coaching positions and only 5 women got any of the positions, all asst coaches. Good ol Boys Club. Think: I was a product of SPPS, they didn't even offer girls athletics, nor did St. Kate's, my college. I did win the phy ed class timed races. I did the 50 yard dash in 6 sec at Hazel Park. What were they hiring, a person who had proved themselves as a coach or a jock. Who ever said jocks made good coaches? Yes their is a correlation but it isn't a given. Coaching was my expertise, not being an athlete. No matter what, we all remained friends to the end, each respecting each other. We agreed to disagree, no blackballing me for what I stood for. Well, maybe those character values weren't held by everyone. My volleyball history is even more exciting. My stellar performance as an athlete in intramural homeroom co-ed volleyball, all 9 players on the court at once. My homeroom won! Next chance was 1972. Saint Paul Public Schools were mandated to offer sports for women. They did, but they offered only ONE...volleyball. Rod Magnuson suggested that I apply. I was 3 years older than my students when I started teaching. I got my coaching certification, 30 quarter credits, completing USVBA Level I & II. Immediate success, City Champs were determined by end of season play offs, a Twin City Title in 1973, beating Minneapolis Roosevelt and glory for women in sports! 30 seasons later, City & Twin City titles in 1979 & 1995, and Cretin-Derham Hall's coach telling me he had a 77-1 record in St. Paul, Como being the only City school to beat CDH. I beamed with pride as my peers celebrated me. I walked out of the AP's office as he told me to teach & coach after I retired, walked 10 yards to the AD's office & Billy White Shoes tells me, "It's time for a change." I felt like I had been slapped & cried inside. He had told me that it was time for young blood, that there was too much grey hair on the bench. When questioned later about it, he said he couldn't remember saying it, but immediately added "But change is good." It was documented in the principal's file, but I chose not to invoke it. He was a former English teacher so I figured he knew the precise meaning of what he said. To be politically correct, he should have said, "You have the right to reapply for any coaching position." Mysteriously, I "lost my last hour prep." The new head football coach in the building got it, 2 special ed teacher's got it, a gymnastics coach got it who didn't even want it, the tennis coach got it, but not I, the only one who requested it, lost it, after having it since 1979. Maybe should have applied for Athletic Director instead since "it's time for a change" and "change is good."

What your student's produce reflects what you teach. Please don't hold me accountable for that anymore. I'd flunk, just kidding; they're are some who try, just not the ones I get in SWS, Read 180, Minority Encourgement Program MEP & Reg 9th grade English.

The bottom line: I was a white female coaching 33 girls at Washington with no track and no parking lot, either. I was the only coach because it was the "girls" team, the boys had 2 coaches and just a few athletes. We made it to state & placed, thanks to Sandy Strehlow for Fosbury flopping. I called our training Russian down hill sprinting as we raced up & down the hilly quadrangle of 4 inner city blocks, no paglio here, just my starter flags. Macalester's Roy Griak felt sorry for me and let us on the all weather tracks, God, we never trained on any track in those days, come to think of it, maybe that's why we made in in a field event: the high jump! Sorry, Sandy, that you lost your brother as he was cutting across the cemetery on Dale & Larpenteur. Stop by & visit Byron Dennis Jones, he's by the fence on Larp. They found him this summer in the Mississippi River. You did a good job sending him off at Morningstar Baptist Church even though no one recognized his art teacher from the Class of 1984. I love you, Byron, always did; thanks for being in my MAS, Mutual Admiration Society.

An artist works with HER/HIS HANDS, HEART, and MIND to arrange the elements of art: line, shape,...using the principles of design into an expression that is aesthetic. That was my written answer to my 7th grade art teacher when asked, "What is art?"

Now I know that only humans can make art, eliminating rainbows & sunsets. I know that the Native American vocabulary has no WORD for art, because art is inherent & ethereal in the work itself.

Art (or Beauty) as some would naively call it, is NOT superficial, the frosting on the cake, the frivolous arts & crafts projects, the first budget cut because it is non-essential, fun, anyone can produce. The mandatory art requirement to graduate frustrated the Internation Baccalaureate types, the Advance Placements, the Honors Only variety, the CIS College in the School types because it leveled the playing field. There were no honor points to be earned, and it was hard to find the juxtaposition. The camera is just a machine, a vehicle, like a pencil, computer, or potter's wheel, or paintbrush. There is no one correct answer, which bothered many of those high Green or Golds (True Colors Learning Style, me, a High Orange, 24/24 yes!) Random, spatial abstracts have difficulty teaching concrete, sequential linear learners.

So I compromised: develop lesson playersDevelop a pinhole camera photo. Use a Hypothesis, Collect data, Record results, Analyze, interpret using the vocab of art: Elements of art..color, line, shape Principles of design. Critique it. Mount it. Title it. Write your artistic vision statement. Exhibit. Prepare to defend. Autograph your work with excellence. Yes, you'll probably be like Ralph Ellison, "Invisible Man," but you won't need someone to notice you, because you will be satisfied in knowing yourself. Live life as if each day is a gift and that it might be your last. Be thankful you breathe.

Living wills, DNR? I want to be alive when I die, said Margaret Bourke-White to Erskine Caldwell in their 1937 collaboration "You have Seen Their Faces," my rare original edition which was "borrowed" from my art room, Bermuda Triangle Room 164, as were MANY things, too numerous to list, but I will name a few: my keys (taken by 9th grader and returned by same when a 12th grader, thank you, Billy Barthol); my keys (taken by L. but returned mysteriously by S. who really said that she was someone else, damn, I shouldn't have paid her the $25 cash but with a check made out to the ficticious name she had given me.). Everybody was going to Valley Fair on a field trip that day. L, I forgive you, I know you're in Irag today saving us; B, honesty will & social justice WILL make the world a better place. My keys, to the nth power... you see, the keys always had a lanyard & whistle on them, but I would trust everybody, and eventually pay to get my keys back, which was a good deal for me as school would charge me $20 @key to replace them, and God knows, having been there since the school opened in 1979, I had the keys to the kingdom. Another one who stole my keys, stole them except they took them for the wrong reason. We had mag locks on the exterior doors and I had a mag lock key so we could go outside and extend the perimeters of my art room. A mag lock key looks identical to a computer security key. It was one of the last days of my school career, the weather was gorgeous, my students had permission to go out of the room, but not out of the school to photograph. But they "borrowed" the wrong key. They thought by taking the mag lock key they could let themselves out of the building. Having my computer security key instead they discovered it would not work so they busted the fire alarm. The parent was a lawyer and I begged him to get back my keys as I couldn't secure the computer without it, but that didn't work. WHAT is the matter with SOME parents these days?

One day my cell phone was taken by K. NOT one of MY GOOD students but by a 9th grade earth science student of Gosse's who taught in my room. I rarely had the luxury of being in my class during my prep period. But I met great young teachers, like Gosse & Kate, who would float or travel to other classes to teach. This assignment was usually given to "new" teachers.
Gosse's K, takes my cell, makes a string of calls, & hands it off to another student when she knew I was looking for her. Well, I couldn't prove who had a taken it so I called all of the #'s
she had called and finally convinced a voice that this call was made from my stolen phone & I needed help to prove who took it. Turned out this voice was a former student, Washington Class of '74, and that he agreed to help me. It was not his daughter but she knew who had given it to her so she could make the call. Nailed her, but there's still a warrant out for her arrest as
said thief never showed up for the court appearance.

I often went to the local pawn shop to buy back the exact item which was taken. It was a fraction of its replacement cost. I used my own money. Cameras properly signed out would not be returned because there were never any consequences that could be enforced. My philosophy, you do the crime, you do the time. My personal supply diminished & so did those of all my friends who donated antiquated equipment, SLRs, Twin Lens Reflex, Principal Sorenson's Nikon, science teacher Kathy Kahn's Canon, sister Denise Ranelli's Canon, an underwater Canon, Charlie's Nikon equiment, the counselor's Zeiss, and numerous Gregory vintage collections including a Rolleicord, Leica, Polaroid, Panoramic, Pinhole & Dollar Dianas (it didn't matter what they were worth, they got stolen no matter what). It didn't matter that they were signed out, and that I knew who had them or destroyed them, the bottom line was they possession was 9/10ths of the law. I knew who stole my keys, except they took them for the wrong reason. We had mag locks on the exterior doors and I had a mag lock key so we could go outside and extend the perimeters of my art room.

Sherlock Holmes I became. It got easier when they stole digital. One returned them with the memory of the date & what time the photos were taken. I'd get the camera back when I recognized a person's shoes & bedroom.

The best story was the time the camera was "found" in a store the "day" after it was missing. That worked until I showed everyone that the thief and the returnee was the same person. He had pictures of his home, pet, & truck, dated before the time he said he'd found the camera. And he was my trusted school service.

My other school service had computer & equipment stuffed in the her duffel with her hat, on the last day of school. Never saw her again but I had photographed her wedding with camera grip, Trina, my clone, Como Park Class of 1980. It was in FrogTown & they had a limo. I shot & developed the pictures, one hour developed them, put them in albums, and charged her $30, but I never got paid.

More than the cameras though were my archives of vintage memorabilia, like Leica mags, Aperture, National Geographics from the black & white days, cases full of them. & especially the Aperture of Edward Weston's Green Pepper #30. I remember the U of MN thief who would go into the Archives with a razor and slice out Weston photos, the photographer who he, himself, scratched every neg. His heirs burned them, not to be photoshopped.

Art evokes emotion, passion, action & can be as brutally graphic as a photo by Manual Alvarez-Bravo or as haunting as the veiled Sicilian woman by William Albert Allard.

The introduction of Luis Gonzales Palma was a gift to me from numero uno, aka birkiebabe, photogurl, sportyspice, the bard's date, Nonna Salvatore's ginagianetta. She herself was a gift to me from someone I still want to grow old with, something that I sensed the day we met & still believe today, a relationship that is not possessive, but always under construction with room to grow. Need to see Gail Sheehy who's in Mpls Tues 2/21, author of Passages.


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