Friday, November 19, 2010
You know about train tracks, and maybe about tenure track, but do you know techno track? That’s the one track that my son set out on when he was just a little shaver and came home from Fort Knox, eyes shining, to announce, “I saw a Huey today!” From that moment on, it was “Good-by fine arts, hello technology,” for him.
For me, on quite another track, this was unthinkable: I, who easily remember fourth grade, when Sister Josephita would walk through the aisles among the desks with a pad of identical art prints, ripping them off and depositing one on each desk. She then would lead us to a bit of art appreciation, i.e.: a little age-appropriate, Sister-Wendy-style-lecture, followed by our pasting the reproduction onto a piece of construction paper and writing a paragraph about the painting and its artist beneath it. That was my introduction to art appreciation. Couple it with my hands-on, kid-projects like finger painting and the making of papier-mâché hand puppets, and I was hooked for life. So much so that I scoff and snort right back when the Car Talk guys (beloved though they may be) are derisive of art history majors. Like Elbert Green Hubbard, I think, “Art is not a thing, art is a way.” Hey! I’m the person who supported Walter Mondale for President because his wife, Joan, was hot on the arts. I figured that she would go around the country raising awareness and money for arts projects. Under Joan’s eye there would be no more making the arts the first programs cut in the schools when there were budget questions.
A few years before that, in1969, Sydney Pollock directed Castle Keep, a film set during the Battle of the Bulge, about a group of GI’s, one of them an art historian, who are sheltering at an ancient castle with an incredible art collection. Usually, I’m not a fan of war movies, and this film’s reviews weren’t all that great, but the characters are quirky and the premise of trying to save art from the modern-day-Philistine is enormously appealing: a larger-scale depiction of saving the arts in schools.
Living in fly-over country, not near the great collections in Venice or Paris, or London or even New York, doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities. The “third coast” Art Institute offers advantages. Imagine real-life Renoirs nestling in the environs of the “Hog Butcher to the World.” That “Woman at the Piano” sure can fill a room and look much more spectacular than she did in that 4 X 6 inch, fourth-grade format! As a kid in Louisville, I lived near and hung out at, the Speed Museum of Art, and was just blown away that they had not just arrowhead collections, but also a real Hans Holbein. And, right here in South Bend, gems, both modern and not-so, are housed; almost out-your-back-door, the likes of Louise Nevelson and Robert Indiana are waiting. That’s one of the reasons that Harold Zisla’s current project documenting The Art History of South Bend is so exciting. You just never can tell where art lurks waiting to speak to and enrich your soul.
So, back to techno-track-boy, the kid who, with just a glance, threw a big, shiny university solicitation packet straight into recycle, even thought it offered his chosen techno-major, with the pronouncement, “They make you take too many liberal arts classes.” Talk about a knife to the heart! As he has gotten older and wiser though, less prone to need to stake out his independent techno-track, he has begun to throw me the occasional sop; once he even promised that “Someday we’ll have ‘Art Day’ when we go to a museum and you tell me everything about art,” like that could happen in 10 minutes. “Art Day” hasn’t come yet, so I keep going to exhibits, trying to be prepared for the occasion. Meantime, although he tries to hide it, I know that sometimes he takes his little next-generation-technos to museums for a view of the wonders that are off to the side of the techno-track.