This week, in my history class, we finished the Hamilton project. This is probably my favorite project of the whole year just because of the creativity I often see. The students are assigned a song from the Hamilton musical. The final part of the project after research and papers is for the students to create a piece of art that represents their song. It is a great opportunity for students who normally struggle with writing to express themselves in other ways; I put very few limitations on their art.
The art project itself is basically ungraded. They just have to create art. The presentation of that art is what is graded. For many students this can be confusing and frustrating. They often ask me, “What do you think of this?” Or, “Is this good?” To be perfectly honest, my response is infuriating and unhelpful. I always respond with a question: “What do you think?” No matter what they respond to that, I say, “Interesting,” or “Hmm,” and walk away. Occasionally I’ll ask, “Well, why did you do that?”
Google defines art as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as a painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” The key ideas in this are the expression of human creativity and the intent of expressing beauty or producing emotions. To me art can really only be judged by the creator. It should only be judged by the creator. If the creator is happy with their work, and by happy I mean feels they did their best effort, then it is art and it is good art. Afterwards, the rest of us can appreciate their creation as their expression. If it evokes feelings of beauty or stirs emotion then all the better, but this is not required as we may never understand what the artist seeks to express.
Another important part of the definition is “typically visual”. I’d argue that “typically” is not necessarily true and that art is better defined as “typically human expression” whether that be visual, audible, physical, or even spiritual/mental. It could even be tasty or smelly. This means that while yes, paintings are art, so are music, literature, food, dance, sports, and anything else that shows creative expression by a person.
I have seen recently, thankfully not around here, an attitude that art in schools is a waste of education. While I agree that most art degrees are worthless, the need for art in every other aspect of our lives is beyond any value you could put on it. Every aspect of our lives is enriched by art; from the clothing we wear, the architecture of our homes, the production of our work, beauty is seen all around us. Most recently the play put on by our Arts Council, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, was amazing! I especially loved when the performers couldn’t keep straight faces as they played their parts on staged, I’m not even being sarcastic, I loved those parts.
We also have a few great artists here in town. From Jade Turner’s dance studio to Shelly Kiki’s Rocky Mountain Springers. From James Farmer and his classical music solos to Shirley Harris and her student’s Monster Concert, which my son Jon got to be a part of last week. At the end of the day we live in one of the most artistic communities I’ve ever seen. It is wonderful. And I love being here to experience it all.
As we move into this holiday season look around you and appreciate all the art. Thank someone who helped you to produce it, who gives their time making Bear Lake better. A few people who deserve special recognition are Craig Culver at the High School, Karen Derricott at the Middle School, Jolyn Knutti who recently retired, Michael Mitchell our band director, all the members of our Arts Council and their supporters, and everyone previously mentioned in this article. There are many more. Find one and tell them thank you for creating a little more beauty in the world.
Charles Horikami is a Social Studies Teacher at BLMS, and the Legislative District 32 Chair for the Idaho State Republican Party. The views expressed are not representative of the BLSD or of the Idaho State Republican Party. He can be contacted at email@example.com and welcomes all comments and critiques.