The remote, natural setting of the 2014 PAEA conference immediately conjures thoughts of the beauty of our earth as ever-lasting inspiration for artists and art educators. As our committee began planning and shared ideas with one another and other artists/educators we discovered many layers of meaning in our theme, “Art is Natural.”
The familiar quote from Picasso, “every child is an artist,” is a reminder that art is natural to children. As art educators, we see our youngest students as artists. They are free to express themselves. Discovery and inquiry just comes naturally to them. At some point, we may also find ourselves wistfully watching them lose their free flowing creativity and inquiring spirit as they grow into the age of dawning realism, and we look for ways to give them confidence in their abilities and preserve their creativity during this important stage. Sometimes, with great concern, we realize our educational system might be squelching the “natural art” out of our youth. Our hope is that our conference will explore ways we as art educators can ensure this does not happen to our students.
The story of our keynote speaker, Bill Strickland is testament to art’s natural ability to lift one out of difficult circumstances and transform one’s direction to a life of meaning. Through the transformative power gifted to him by his high school art teacher in the 1960’s, among other great accomplishments Strickland founded the Manchester Craftsman’s Guild, an arts program for inner city youth that shares the gift that he was given. In 1996, Strickland received the MacArthur genius grant for his astounding life’s work of sharing culture, beauty and light with inner city youth, helping them discover the natural art within themselves.
Thanks to Curator of Education, Roy Young, one of the highlights of the conference will take place at nearby Fallingwater, the Frank Lloyd Wright house where we will have tours, programs and a spectacular keynote speaker. We will also be hosting our awards ceremony and the student art exhibition at Fallingwater. A pivotal part of Strickland’s story took place when Frank Ross, his high school art teacher , brought him to Fallingwater. Herein lies a great convergence and one more layer of ”art is natural.” Frank Lloyd Wright, a groundbreaking architectural genius whose philosophy was “organic architecture,” believed homes should grow out of the landscape and be built to human scale. The design of a home should be one that draws a person into safety yet unites them with the natural world. Strickland saw this as light. The light that would eventually transform him and his blighted inner city neighborhood. This is your opportunity to discover this masterpiece of natural art and how you can use it to inspire your students.
One final layer we will encounter is the nearby Touchstone Center for Crafts, the natural setting for your creative nature. Founded in 1972, this unique 3-season school, combines contemporary and experimental art techniques with preservation of traditional mountain crafts. PAEA is teaming up with TCC director, Adam Kenney and various artists/instructors to offer many natural art making experiences and an on-going mosaic mural project that will be created during the conference and later permanently installed at Touchstone. We hope to introduce our colleagues from across the state to this wonderful venue for professional and personal artistic development.
Armed against the darkness, that is the absence of natural art, with these artistic “weapons of mass instruction” – the natural setting of 7Springs Resort, Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece-Fallingwater, keynotes; Bill Strickland and others, and Touchstone Center for Crafts. PAEA Conference 2014 promises to engage us in a rich, multi layered exploration of “art is natural”. We encourage you to bring your families. Since our conference falls on Halloween weekend, don’t be surprised if we throw in a bit of “Trick or Treating” at our regional dinner. While this conference will be filled with rich professional development, there are also plenty of recreational activities available at the resort and in the area for your family to enjoy.
“Art is the province of every human being” -Robert Henri