Teenagers (a workshop tale)

I've had a blast the last two summers working as a summer teen camp counselor. I was working with middle school age kids (11-14), and there is something so vastly different about working with teens from working with school age kiddos. They are more familiar with the laws of life, and are more readily available to push them, test boundaries, and thus learn more about the world (whether that means bending rules or regulations that the adults have put in place for safety). While most people shudder when thinking about teenagers in their formative years, I am not one of those people. 

Teenagers are our ticket to the future. And if we can't open a wing, an arm, and welcome them into adulthood with gratitude, then we aren't doing our jobs as humans trying to make this place one we want to live in. 

I'm also a fan of their ability to understand everything we (adults) have to say. Explaining concepts to youngins, while I still love explaining things, can result as a fruitless endeavor. 

Being able to "break it down" with teenagers, to be real with them is such a gift. When I was between 12 and 18, I looked up to adults that were knowledgeable, open and welcoming of my questions, and that seemed "human". A human that erred, a human that laughed, and human, that had passion. And so I strive to be all those things to the budding youths that I have the pleasure to work with.

Granted teen camp is such a different atmosphere to a school environment. But that doesn't mean learning has to be any less fun. Learning a subject with the expectation of a good grade is so trivial in some cases. Americans love to live by progress, and how can we track it other than with calculation, and recording? I understand tests, and grades as a device to document and demonstrate ability. But as an artist, my personal skills as a teacher lie in letting students explore. 

Outside of camp I had the lovely opportunity to work with a couple groups of high school students learning about theatre arts. The current play in production was a Commedia show so appropriately I was able to conduct a mask making workshop. Previously I had worked on some local theatre productions as a prop master, and a set painter. My tie with this school was not only that I had been through the drama program as a student, but the last 2 shows I assisted with the production as a set painter. 

There is something really rewarding about being able to work with the students after being the "set fairy" who just painted at odd hours with her headphones in and kept to herself. Being able to walk them through a process of creating something that was entirely their own was very cool to watch. Not only that but laying the plaster foundation of the mask was something they had to entrust to a partner. As a high schooler, "touching" another person is still really taboo. However, in theatre we have to be able to follow through with trust exercises as its important to know you have a crew to support you. How can you teach that from a book?


The outcome was great not only being able to see what the students created, but being able to learn more about them, it wasn't just silent work time, I was part of their dialogue. As I am still a young person but no longer a teen I hope my concepts of the world were something they could relate with but see as realistic too. I need to help bridge the generation gap as much as I can while I'm in this age bracket. I couldn't be more thankful for this workshop and chance to teach.




John Franklin Koenig—the glue between my present endeavors.

Right now I’m Stage Managing a play called “The Temperamentals”. It’s a play about homosexuals in the 1950s following Harry Hay in particular. Learn more about the play and when to see it [here]. In addition to that, I’ve been trying to release this excessive amount of creative energy into art, and theatre. There’s so much I don’t know where to put it all! I’ve been painting a lot to say the least. I’m also trying to produce a play called Brick and the Rose. I will leave few details on that project because if it happens this blog will probably be flooded with ‘stuff’ regarding it later.

Either way, this guy. John Koenig. 

 

One of those people that is off handedly mentioned in an art history lecture when your professor rambles off a couple names of arts from the northwest. They are only mentioned because you live in the northwest. Since he’s not on the exam you think that you will never see or hear that name again unless you rifle through your notes from class.

Clearly that’s  NOT what I have done, I wouldn’t want to disturb the prestigious amount of dust on my class notes from school. So, as you’ve guessed, he popped up.

In rehearsal to be direct. Haha direct, directing, rehearsal? I made a theatre joke. You can stop reading if you can’t handle it.

Evidently, this guy Koenig was a homosexual. Grew up in the northwest, fought in WWII, started painting, came back to the US, then lived in France, became a painter, and came back to the northwest again. He went to UW, and as a Coug I will refrain from tasteless rivalry jokes out of my respect for this artist..... and the fact that UW is a well-regarded academic institution. Feel free to leave comments if you want to take a stab at the Huskies.

Back to the story. I’m in rehearsal, and this guy is mentioned. Apparently there is going to be a piece of his art involved with this production. I won’t say how, because ITS STILL A SURPRISE. So I hear about this and get all artsy excited, and immediately feel the name is familiar, and use my smart phone to pull up anything I can on him. Not only did he struggle with being a homosexual in the same time frame as our play, but he was also breaking into the art-scene. Heres one of his paintings. And close up of another.

What I found really interesting was that he was a soldier in WWI, and was in a tank division. My dad was a tank commander so that’s cool. Fez’s are cool too. Sad part: he was wounded in the head by shrapnel in the Battle of the Bulge, and while he was recovering and waiting to go back to the US he took a painting class. Funny thing is everything that these soldiers painted are property of the US government. It was called “Soldier art” according to one of the articles I read. WOAH. More stuff to look up, because that sounds super secretive and cool. So skip ahead lots of years, he back in the northwest after living in France and being considered a French painter; after he has a show at the Seattle Art Museum(also RAD), skip ahead further he dies in 2008. However he’s left behind a quote. After mentioning that painting is an act of love he says

“The artist must be on the search for beauty and perfection in his own life through the work “

And its just wonderful. This idea is something I think all artists come to at some point. Doesn’t matter what kind of art, all kinds, whether they believe it, have been searching for it too, or just know about it. This idea is what has connected me to this deceased French, Seattle native, WWII soldier. Those words. Because I have felt that same way. And it’s incredible being able to be touched across time with someone who will never know me.

Insert chills up spine here.

 

 

 

So that’s the news with me. Well not exactly. I’m going to Pullman this weekend to participate in the Art Market as part of the end of year spring festivities at WSU. I’m “selling art” but we shall see. I might just end up in the hole on gas money. And starve a bit. That whole starving artist thing. Its real. And I be living it. Feels great actually.

 

One more thought. These things are getting extremely long.  I wonder if reading this out loud would make a better video blog than a written one. For those of you that read this far, let me know what you think. By saying nothing, it will mean experimentation must be conducted.

 

 

 

Read more on Koenig here:

http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=3833

http://www.cs.washington.edu/building/art/JohnFranklinKoenig/

images from google yo.