Tag Archives: Arts Education

Go Irish!

Natalie Irish poses with her self-portrait at the Scottsdale Arts Festival

Not that Irish, silly. I’m talking art, not athletics — after chatting with artists Natalie Irish and her hubby Dennis Bateman at the Scottsdale Arts Festival that runs through Sunday at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, where I suspect that sailing a football past the gift shop and such might be frowned on.

You’ll spot Irish’s white tent on a lush green lawn to your right not long after you enter the festival. She’s on one side of the center’s giant red Robert Indiana “LOVE” sculpture, and another one of my favorite tents — for Scottsdale’s “100 + Journals Project” — is on the other. The latter has a nifty place for kids, teens and grown-ups to create with all sorts of papers, rubber stamps, drawing supplies and such.

Elvis meets thumbprint thanks to Texas artist Natalie Irish

Irish gave me a guided tour of sorts through her work, most made with lipstick kisses but others with thumbprints. “One day I was putting on lipstick to go out,” she told me, “and I got lipstick on my fingers.” A new art adventure, informed by the work of Chuck Close, was born. “We don’t have kids,” Irish told me. The work is their baby.

A work of feminist art by Natalie Irish, shown at the 2012 Scottsdale Arts Festival

One piece in particular feels especially timely. In the lower righthand corner there’s a plain grey building — inspired by a Planned Parenthood site in Houston. The “feminist piece” also features a woman Irish considers a logo of sorts. It’s all a remarkable blend of new frontiers and the familiar.

Natalie Irish sharing her work at the 2012 Scottsdale Arts Festival

Irish offered the following quip after I asked when she got started making art — “In utero.” Irish speaks of growing up about thirty minutes south of Houston, and having a mother who does watercolor. “We’re all country folk,” says Irish — who still recalls winning a prize at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for a childhood painting of her aunt’s horse.

Tools of the trade for Natalie Irish

It’s hard for Irish to say just how many hours a day she devotes to her craft. Seems she’soften got art on the brain while doing everyday household type stuff, and the nature of her work necessitates working in “short spurts.” On the long table she’s got covered in various works, Irish has some odd tools of the trade. Vaseline. Baby oil. And a tub of mostly homemade lipstick. Best to keep her trademark tools tender.

Irish was especially excited to show me this new work

Irish studied art in community college and university settings, but seems to have found her bliss outside the classroom — except during summers spent teaching art to kids. The woman who kisses canvas for a living has another passion — throwing pottery. She’s done pottery for more than a decade but recalls that “for the first three months you make dog bowls.” Not a bad deal for the couple’s dog and four cats.

One of many Natalie Irish works at the Scottsdale Arts Festival

I asked Irish to share advice for parents on the subject of art. “Try everything,” she told me. “Have fun with it.” Bateman added that “half the battle is having parents who support it” — noting that “it’s all about parents getting them there and getting them supplies.” Good news for parents who feel they’ve got few art skills to share. Make time and space. Your child will run with it.

Look for Natalie Irish at the Scottsdale Arts Festival near the giant red LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana

So what of art in our schools? “More of it,” quips Irish. Bateman shares that Bad Religion, one of the couple’s favorite bands, has given scholarships to students — and says they dream of one day doing the same. “Any revolution of any valor was inpired by the arts,” says Bateman. Perhaps the next one will begin with kiss.

— Lynn

Note: You can watch Irish working on a different piece each day of the Scottsdale Arts Festival — which continues 10am-6pm Sat (March 10) and 10am-5pm Sun (March 11). Click here for details about parking, tickets and such. Click here to learn more about Irish and her work.

Coming up: More festival fun — in words and pictures


Beware the green elixer

These students attended a performance of "Wicked" at ASU Gammage last week

Beware the green elixer. Those of you who’ve seen the musical “Wicked” get the reference. So do busloads of Valley students who attended a recent touring performance of “Wicked” at ASU Gammage in Tempe. If you want kids to learn important life lessons, try lecturing less and hitting the theater more.

I got to wondering, after encountering all those wide-eyed and audibly enthusiastic students at “Wicked” the other night, what’s to be learned from this tale of two witches. For starters, I suppose, I should stop calling them “witches” — because “Wicked” clearly demonstrates the dangers of name-calling.

It’s a tale of bullying gone bad, and the way things spin out of control when those who should be upstanders choose to be bystanders instead. Hating or fearing someone because of skin color is wrong. But so is elevating the unworthy to positions of great power, and pseudo-reverence born of fear.

Some of the best “Wicked” one-liners concern history — making a great jumping off points for student discussions. Why would someone imply that history is a collection of lies, or suggest that truth is merely what we’ve all agreed to? If we challenged students to cite examples of such things, what would they come up with?

And what of being popular — or having all our dreams come true? “Wicked” makes clear the inherent risks of each, plus the dangers of silencing diverse voices. In “Wicked” it’s a highly intellectual goat who loses his voice, but the moral holds true for people too.

There’s real whimsy in the use of language throughout “Wicked” as words get adapted, twisted and recreatified — making the musical an homeage of sorts to word play and the sheer joy or crafting language. I’d love to see a big stack of student essays written to reflect a “Wicked” way with words.

Folks who doubt the economic impact of the arts could learn a little something from “Wicked” in the math department. “Wicked” reports that more than 16 million people have seen the show on Broadway or a national tour, and the show “has grossed more than $1.8 billion for its North American companies.” Beware of those hocking the “cut arts funding” elixer.

Consider the number of cast, crew and creative team members it’s taken to perform “Wicked” all these years. Then think about the extraordinary number of teachers standing behind them. The ethereal shades of purple lighting and seamless scenes featuring airborn actors that wowed me at ASU Gammage last week take real prowess in science and engineering.

We don’t consider such things while experiencing “Wicked,” of course. But they’re worth noting in an age when arts education is going the way of Doctor Dillamond. I’m thrilled that Valley schools are sending students to see productions like “Wicked” — and happier still to know that these students are the next generation of audience members, theater professionals and arts supporters.

— Lynn

Chaperones (right) joined the fun as Valley students enjoyed "Wicked" at ASU Gammage last week

Note: ASU Gammage presents Camp Broadway June 4-8 for youth ages 10-17. Learn more about this and other summer camps for children and teens by attending the Raising Arizona Kids Magazine Camp Fair — taking place Feb. 25 & 26. Click here for Camp Fair details.

Coming up: I really stepped in it this time…

I’m just a bill…

Arts advocates gathered at the Arizona Capitol yesterday for the 2012 Arts Congress.

First, a heartfelt thanks to all of you who made it to yesterday’s Arizona Arts Congress — and to the legislators who took time to meet with all the lovely folks who care about arts and culture, and the role it plays in our economy, community, schools and everyday lives.

Thankfully, those of us who couldn’t make it can still weigh in with our legislators about just how much we value arts and culture. Arizona Citizens/Action for the Arts has details about three issues noted on its website — and makes it easy for folks to send e-mails to the folks who vote on such things.

Arizona Representative Steve Farley meeting with arts advocates during the 2011 Arts Congress at the Arizona State Capitol

Seems there’s already a bit of good news on that front. Today the Arizona House of Representatives committee considering HB 2265 decided to move it forward for consideration by the larger legislative body. HB 2265 authorizes the continuation, for another ten years, of the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

This makes me a happy camper, because they’re an invaluable resource for artists, educators and citizens. If you’re not getting their newsletters, you’re missing the latest and greatest news about arts-related events, arts education, funding opportunities, calls for student artwork and much more.

Arizona Representative Ruben Gallego meeting with David Hemphill of the Black Theatre Troupe during the 2011 Arts Congress attended by more than 200 advocates

But HB 2265 is just one of three arts-related issues working its way through this legislative session. Another, SB 1348, would establish an Arizona poet laureate. We need a state poet; don’t I know it. Finally, there’s a section of the governor’s proposed budget that would further cut funding for arts — and advocates can still weigh in on that prospect.

Those of you who remember the musical “Schoolhouse Rock” can probably still sing David Frishberg’s lyrics for “I’m Just a Bill.” But nothing is ever “just a bill.” Every piece of legislation working its way through both the Arizona House of Representatives and the Arizona Senate has the potential to impact our daily lives. Click here to join fellow citizens championing the arts in Arizona.

— Lynn

Note: If you have photos from this year’s Arizona Arts Congress to share, I’d love to see them — and you may find them featured in a future post. Click here to learn more about this weekend’s “Arizona Best Fest” Phoenix taking place at, and around, the Arizona Capitol Mall (and watch for a future post highlighting monuments your family can explore during your visit).

Coming up: Reflections from Catherine “Rusty” Foley, executive director for Arizona Citizens/Action for the Arts

Photos: 2011 Arts Congress photos courtesy of Arizona Citizens/Action for the Arts

Top ten signs you’re an arts advocate

Liz Trimble pauses to enjoy artwork during a college admissions tour

10. You attend arts advocacy events like the Arizona Arts Congress 2012 (taking place Feb. 7 — and yes, there’s still time to get involved).

9. You talk with education leaders (school board members, principals and others) about the importance of funding and supporting art in schools and classrooms.

8. You troll publications like Arizona Capitol Times looking for arts-related news and legislation (like a recent issue noting bills about renewing the Arizona Commission on the Arts and creating an Arizona Poet Laureate).

7. You attend diverse art-related exhibitions and events in your community — and choose art-related events for time with family and friends.

6. You support local arts venues and museums by doing your gift shopping in their gift shops (there’s still time to gather art-related Valentine’s Day fare).

5. You write letters to the editor sharing evidence for the role of arts in building strong communities, economies, schools and families.

4. You curl up at night with reports like “Capitalizing on Arizona’s Arts & Culture” (prepared in conjunction with the 98th Arizona Town Hall).

3. You enroll your children in arts-related programs that foster their love and familiarity with visual art, dance, film, music, poetry, theater and other art forms.

2. You donate money or time to at least one local arts organization (even small gifts of time, talent and financial resources are appreciated and make a difference).

1. You take time to thank legislators, businesses and others who support arts on a national, state and local level.

— Lynn

Note: To learn more about arts and culture in Arizona, visit www.azarts.gov and www.azcitizensforthearts.org.

Coming up: Moving beyond tragedy through a community art project

Student choreographer soars

Rehearsal for Violet Flight: Pursuit of Significance choreographed by Britta Joy Peterson (Photo: Hayley Brunetto)

Britta Joy Peterson, one of several student choreographers whose work will be featured during this weekend’s Breaking Ground student showcase at Tempe Center for the Arts, started tap and ballet classes in Minnesota when she was just seven years old. She moved to Arizona after earning an undergraduate degree in dance, and is now enrolled in ASU’s M.F.A. in dance program.

Peterson credits her parents with launching her love of the arts. Seems her mother enjoyed painting “natural things” in watercolor, and her father was a musician. Peterson is the youngest of three siblings, and all were expected growing up to be active in one arts activity and athletic activity. Dance, she says, counted for both.

Still, she chose to try lots of other things, including choir, softball, soccer and flag football — and spent ten years playing violin. “All those things,” reflects Peterson, “are a huge part of the artist I am now.” Peterson says she “fell in love with being creative” while participating in community theater.

Violet Flight: Pursuit of Significance rehearsal at ASU (Photo: Hayley Brunetto)

Performing in shows like “The Prince and the Pauper” and “Cabaret” was more fun, she recalls, than simply “regurgitating” routines she was learning in dance classes. So was scuba diving with her family in Mexico and New Zealand, and the skiing that fueled her love of jumping and flying through the air.

“My parents worked hard to expose us to the outdoors,” says Peterson. “My dad is an avid bird watcher.” Hence Peterson’s use of elements like feathers and sunsets in her choreography. Tonight Peterson and other dancers are rehearsing at ASU — readying for the 2pm Breaking Ground student showcase on Sat, Jan. 28.

“Recurring Reverie,” which is being performed on TCA’s north patio, was choreographed by Peterson in collaboration with Juan Rodriguez. They also perform the piece — which was inspired by each artist’s recurring dreams. Peterson calls it “an exploration of the human capacity for creativity,” adding that gender roles are a “minimum undertone.”

Peterson's Violet Flight: Pursuit of Significance (Photo: Hayley Brunetto)

The Breaking Ground student showcase concludes with eight dancers performing Peterson’s “Violet Flight: Pursuit of Significance.” Peterson describes the two works as “very different” and says she’s grateful to Carley Conder and CONDER/dance for giving students the opportunity to showcase  and share their work. “It’s important,” says Peterson, “for students across the Valley to exchange ideas.”

“I’m always synthesizing material in my head,” says Peterson, who thinks of herself as an “imaginative laboratory.” She’s a “big advocate of arts education” who says the arts have taught her to “think in many different ways.” Peterson is convinced that creativity and problem solving learned through the arts translate to science and a host of other fields.

“I’m lucky to have parents, and a community of people around me, who support my art endeavors,” reflects Peterson.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for 2012 Breaking Ground (which includes a 2pm student showcase and an 8pm professional showcase) details and ticket information

Coming up: Sneak peek at other 2012 Breaking Ground fare

Art, art resolution!

If you’re keen on making New Year’s resolutions, consider one of the following resolutions that’ll help support local arts and culture…

I resolve to…hit arts & culture venues and events. Choose museum cafes for get-togethers with friends. Enjoy date nights at concerts, plays, poetry readings or dance events. Schedule playdates at children’s museums. Invite friends to join you for art festivals and art walks. Take your children to outdoor concerts. Shop for gifts at library, museum and performing art venue shops. Take out of town visitors to museums, galleries and performances.

I resolve to…donate to arts & culture groups. Make a year-end gift to your favorite art, music, dance or theater group. Pledge to give a set amount to one or more arts groups each month next year. Make donations on behalf of others to honor special birthdays or anniversaries. Include one or more arts organizations in your will. Organize a coin drive to help kids donate spare change to favorite arts groups. Give up one luxury next year and share the savings with a local arts or culture organization.

I resolve to…volunteer time with arts & culture organizations. Help a local theater group by sewing costumes, painting sets or covering the box office. Volunteer to work at boutiques held during symphony, opera or ballet performances. Sign up for docent training at a favorite museum. Serve as an usher at your local performing arts venue. Offer to help an arts and culture organization with clerical tasks. Volunteer to serve on an arts-related committee.

I resolve to…advocate for arts & culture. Talk with school leaders about increasing arts education. Attend the 2012 Arizona Arts Congress and other advocacy events. Contact local legislators about increasing arts funding. Let businesses know you value those that support arts and culture. Write letters to the editor about the role of arts and culture in building a strong economy. Consider candidate support for arts and culture when voting. Sign up for advocacy alerts from Arizona Citizens/Action for the Arts.

I resolve to…be informed about arts & culture. Read local and national news related to arts and culture. Sign up for e-newsletters from several arts and culture organizations. Follow the Arizona Commission on the Arts on social media. Attend lectures and demonstrations by local artists and perfomers. Take classes in music, writing, dance, painting or other types of art.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and here to learn more about Arizona Citizens/Action for the Arts.

Coming up: Nesting tales

All artwork featured in this post is from a quilt titled “Juliette Low is Our Cup of Tea” created by Girl Scout Troop 325 in Pensacola, FL for the “Dream Rocket Project” (formerly exhibited at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix).  Photos by Lynn Trimble.

Art Rocks! Animals Rock!

Hoodlums Music & Movies is teaming up with Arts Council for Youth, Marcos de Niza High School, Kyrene Middle School and the City of Tempe to present an arts and crafts show called Art Rocks! 

The Art Council for Youth is a non-profit, all volunteer organization that promotes visual and performing arts for all students. It provides opportunities and financial support in arts disciplines for students in Tempe Union, Kyrene and Tempe Elementary public schools.

Art Rocks! takes place Sat, Dec. 10 from 6-9pm at Hoodlums, which is next to another nifty Local First Arizona business — Changing Hands Bookstore. The event will showcase student photography, ceramic, and fine art works — and student bands will perform during the shindig.

I’m told that some of the artwork will be available for purchase, so you can do the holiday shopping thing while supporting local schools. Money raised through the sale of student works will support art & education programs in the Tempe Union and Kyrene school districts.

“We believe,” says Jennifer Doering of the Arts Council, “that arts are vital to people of all ages, and a powerful tool for educating for a brighter future.”

Parents who’ve enjoyed time at the Phoenix Zoo know that animals rock too — and can join fellow grown-ups on March 30, 2012 for a “Rock the Zoo!” event featuring a battle of local bands.

Local bands have until Wed, Dec. 14 to submit required materials if they want to be considered for the “Battle of the Bands” competition. The Phoenix Zoo will choose ten finalists, then let folks vote for their favorites online between Jan. 2 & 20. I’m told that the two bands with the most votes get the gig.

The “fine print” specifies that participants must be at least 21 years of age, perform alternative/rock music and maintain an active Facebook account. Contest winners must perform at “Rock the Zoo!” on March 30, 2012. And only those who submit required materials by the deadline will be considered.

That’s why your parents worked so hard all those years to hone your skills in paying attention, following directions and meeting deadlines. Yup — parents rock too!

— Lynn

Note: To learn more about “Art Rocks!,” visit www.artsjam.org, contact Jennifer at 602-432-9190 or give the fine folks at Hoodlums a call at 480-775-2722. Click here for information on entering the Phoenix Zoo “Battle of the Bands” competition. “Rock the Zoo!” is an age 21+ event, and picture I.D. will be required for entry. Let the little monkeys join you for “Zoo Lights” instead.

Coming up: Storytelling through letters