I sometimes joke that my love of art began while playing Masterpiece, the art auction board game. But, that was purely superficial. My lifelong deep appreciation for art came from my art teacher. I actually had two art teachers, a husband and wife, Mr. and Mrs. S. She taught 7th and 8th grade art and he taught 9th-12th. Since our entire class took art in 7th & 8th grade, her classes were larger and much more basic. She was a good teacher and I liked her, but her husband was a great teacher, a master teacher and I loved him. Not only did I learn a lot about art from him, but I also learned about teaching and humanity.
He was a preternaturally calm teacher, steering his way through life on such an even keel that even a hurricane could not twist him about. He may have grown up on a farm and taught in a small farming town and lived on a farm himself, but he brought an urbane sophistication to life – sharing with us his appreciation of modern culture, music, books, movies and artists that were often unheard of. He was active in the community, persuading the town council to fund a city-owned art gallery that brought art into our town. Imagine a town of 1400 people with an arts center with revolving exhibitions, musical theatre, art classes, writing workshops, music lessons and even a recording studio all funded by the city and the grants that he helped pursue. During these years of retrenchment and austerity, that such a small town continues to support the arts – well, if only there were more teachers like him in towns across America.
The thing about Mr. S was that he encouraged us to draw outside the lines, but not just on paper. As he saw it, the rules were there as a guide – to make sure we rubbed along comfortably in life, but that they were not a limit. That when it made sense and it was worth it, it was okay to break the rules and that sometimes the rules needed to be broken. Civil disobedience was, in his eyes, was drawing outside the lines to realize a better world just as drawing outside the lines often realizes a better painting.