I was a tall kid. Tall and skinny and no good at sport. My talents lay elsewhere. I was known for my intricately collaged cards made for Christmas and birthdays, memorising the dialogue (verbatim) to Drop Dead Fred and The Colour Purple, as well as the Chinese art of f?ng shu?, which I practiced under the tutelage of my step-mother, notorious for her compulsive rearrangement of furniture. Even with these impressive strings to my bow there is still a single resounding statement, made by family and friends-of-the-family, which haunts me years later – “So tall! Gosh, he’ll make such a good basketball player!” Bullocks. I will not. The only dribbling I was doing occurred during sleep, whilst wearing braces and my retainer.
No one ever once said, “Gee-whizz, what an eye for composition” or “How long did that take you?” and I can’t ever recall being asked who my ‘artistic heroes’ were. Art is a dirty word. “But surely the times have changed?” I can hear you asking. More bollocks. I teach teenagers and I’m telling you, “The times, they are a stagnant.” My classes are populated mostly with female students, which is wonderful, but also really interesting when you ponder the art world, an institution overly represented by men. Ask anyone to recall five artists off the top of their head without thinking and the names that are generally spat freely are Andy, Pablo, Henri, Michael and Salvador. The boys club. I digress – this is a rant about actively encouraging our youth by nurturing their creativity, not a rant about gender inequality (not in 470 words anyway).
It’s no secret that art, in its many guises, is under-appreciated, undervalued and undersexed in this great land we call Oz. Our government’s focus is firmly fixed elsewhere, creating a ‘trickle down effect’. The trickle makes its way to the parents of my students who often sit across from me at Parent Teacher Evenings asking questions like, “But what kind of job can you get with a visual art degree?” How should I know? Which one is your kid anyway? I can never tell them apart when they’re out of their numbered footy jerseys. What I do know is that tall kids need to stop being told they’ll be great sportsmen just because their femurs are abnormally lengthy. Instead of recoiling in horror when your son or daughter returns home to tell you they’ll be studying Alternative Firing Methods in their elected Ceramics class next Semester, feign interest and ask questions; “What is Raku anyway?” is generally a good conversation opener. Also, learn the names of female artists already! Start with Louise Bourgeois, Vivian Maier, Georgia O’Keefe, Rosalie Gascoigne and Yayoi Kusama. Art is not a dirty word, art is good for you. Art makes the world go round.