Thursday, May 24, 2012

Defining moments and allergies

I love what spring stands for: summer is coming.  But I find that the actual season is a little harder to take.  Sure, all that new growth is beautiful and filled with promise, but it seems to take months of dreary brown, brown, brown before the green finally arrives and Calgary starts to freshen up.  And once spring arrives, my allergies kick in and I'm sneezing , snivelling and dabbing my watering eyes constantly.

Which leads me to The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco.  Talk about allergies kicking in big time.  I was certainly suffering a very bad case of snivelling and watery eyes as I finished this gorgeous book about a young Patricia being encouraged to discover her artistic talents with the help of fine, fine teachers.  A struggling student, young Patricia needed extra time to successfully complete written exams due to reading difficulties.  Yet when it came to art, she excelled at ‘seeing’ or reading her subjects.  She credits Violet Chew, her art teacher, for setting her on her life’s path.

The illustrations are done in the author/illustrator’s typical style of black and white, coloured pencils and markers.  I said gorgeous once already, right?  I think this is my favourite book of Patricia Polocco’s, which is saying a lot as most of her books induce ‘allergy’ attacks.

This also ties into an interesting DVD I recently watched, titled Listen To This (371.7 Lis 2010 DVD). It’s about a musician, Thompson T. Egbo-Egbo, establishing a music program in inner city Toronto as a way to encourage elementary students to tap into their creative abilities, develop self-esteem, deal with life’s issues and, perhaps, discover their own life’s path.

Called  Evolving Through the Arts, his program gives these students the opportunity to write songs, express thoughts and feelings about everyday life (including some pretty traumatic events like shootings and rape), sing and perform for peers and family.  It was inspiring to watch as Greg Stokes, a DJ, music producer and mentor in the program, get a grade 4 girl named Jasmine, who excels at writing lyrics and shyly sings her songs (a true poet), to finally recognize herself as an artist.  Talk about defining moments.

Whether it’s the visual arts, music or any other artistic form, art provides avenues for self-expression and creativity that potentially have the power to change lives.  In spring time, new growth embodies the promise of things to come.  So too do young people finding their way with the help of caring adults and creative opportunities.

Now, I’m off to buy more tissues and antihistamines.  


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