Final Reflections

Self Direction

 

I’m a pretty motivated person, and so coming into What’s The Story I was fired up to just get started on my project. But working with a team what I learned was that we all needed to be on board. I couldn’t just volunteer to do all the work because I was afraid someone else might not get it done. I needed to rely on my team members and trust that we had a “group direction.” For me “group direction” or moving together with other people towards a common goal while sharing the same vision has been one of the most important outcomes of What’s The Story. I was pretty sure I wanted to do a documentary on mental health and the laws around it, but had to revise my vision when I decided to work with Mariana and Sydney. At first I was disappointed. I thought I knew what I wanted to to, and was ready and willing to get it done. However looking back  I am happy that we were able to work together at a project entirely different than I imagined. Making vision statements was one of the most important pieces that helped us with our group direction because though challenging it helped us narrow down and clarify what all of our expectations and hopes for this project were, and together form an idea and direction.

 

Responsible and involved citizenship

It’s hard for me to write about myself here, because this was much more of a collaborative experience than a person one. But as a team we all learned how to respect each others time and to share the workload so that we all felt like contributing members. In the beginning Sydney and I did the bulk of the interviewing because I felt more comfortable with that than video editing, then Marianna took over to do some video editing, then Sydney worked on smoothing our documentary out, and I went through our videos and started working on the website. We were all aware of what the others were doing through strong communication, and we were not afraid to ask for help (I didn’t know how to create a website, so during a google chat they walked me through step by step.) In the future I believe involved citizenship will be very important. As I go to college it will be essential that I am a responsible student and make sure that I stay on top of my assignments, and that I am invested in whatever I do or study.

 

Informed and Integrative Thinker

    Analyzing and synthesizing information has been key to the success of our documentary. When I interviewed Bobby Riley he talked alot about the Integrated Arts Academy and how art was important in school, and then as I interviewed art therapists they talked about how art was important in the process of healing or recovering from anxiety or depression or trauma in children, and though obviously connected by the theme of art being helpful, the many varied interviews we had sometimes didn’t fit as neatly as we wanted. Because of our interviews we actually changed the focus of our documentary because by having conversations with professionals we were able to be more informed about our topic and move in a direction that was more relevant to society now, instead of just trying to fit all the interviews we had into a pre-decided inflexible structure. This was challenging (to continually be open-minded and flexible while trying to narrow our focus and hone in “the point”) but also super gratifying and exciting as we were open to learning new things.

 

Clear and effective communication

 

To be quite honest organization is not my strong suit, and that certainly applies to many of my projects. I like to continually add ideas until I’m really the only one who can follow my train of thought. But for our documentary to be successful we had to learn how to clearly and effectively communicate our point to the audience without distracting them by too many other focuses. The exercises we did on the retreats were helpful (like making a mission statement) and helped us synthesize our information and let it support instead of distract from our point. I think storytelling was also an important piece of communication for us, because we could have made a very boring documentary with a lot of professionals explaining how art therapy works, but with coaching from Geoff we sought out individuals with stories behind the art they created, or art they’d like to share, and brought in their lives and experiences with art/art therapy as opposed to facts that don’t mean very much in the end. Theresa Gleason told me a story about how after 9/11 she had a patient (who was a child) who used to draw themselves being carried out of a burning building. They were mastering the idea that they would be saved, they would be okay if such a tragedy ever happened again. By drawing these images and scenes they were able to relieve their anxiety and stress from these memories. That story was so powerful to me, and I believe got across our point that art can be an essential part of healing for many people. As my english teachers always say by finding stories like this we are able to “show not tell” which leads to a product communicated much more interestingly.

Part 2: Unexpected Learning

 

    I guess I came in not quite convinced of the importance of my topic. My experience with art up to now has just consisted of me enjoying it and learning new techniques, but I wasn’t completely convinced that it could truly help, that it could be a substitute even just a useful addition to traditional therapy or to education. By talking to art teachers and art therapists around the state who were truly convinced and passionate about the power of art I came to the realization that it is and can be a lot more than just an enjoyable pastime. I think my interview with Bobby Riley from IAA was the turning point in this understanding. He described how the “Wheeler” kids, or the ones who attended a school here before it was turned into IAA were always getting in trouble, and the middle school teachers hated having them because they were loud and often difficult. But once IAA opened the emphasis on art attracted a much more varied demographic, and also helped kids channel their energy creatively rather than destructive. Mr. Riley said now middle school teachers in the Burlington area recognize IAA kids, but this time because they are particularly thoughtful, and creative, not disruptive.

Another interview that helped me change my view on the importance of art was with Theresa Gleason. I actually had her as a therapist when I was in sixth grade and was dealing with anxiety, and she taught me some strategies to cope artistically with some of my fears. It was very cool to go back to her and talk about these exercises, and why she did them, because for me they were fun, but I didn’t think of them as much more than that. She told me sometimes kids have a limited vocabulary and are not able to entirely express what fears or frustrations they have verbally, but through art they can often express what their words cannot. She also said art is connected to the emotional side of your brain– that when doing art you have greater access to your immediate emotions and sometimes things come out that you never would have thought of if trying to talk about yourself in words. Through these interviews with extremely knowledgeable people I changed my mind about the power and importance for art, and now feel very strongly that it is an essential part of education, and a great tool for mental healing. As I set out to “prove” its importance, I also “proved” it to myself!

For my english class our final project is to create an anthology of the work we’ve done this year, and then to create an artful front cover which often includes a quote to frame our learning and our work. I chose a quote from one of my favorite authors C. S. Lewis: “Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.” But if I could tweak this quote a little I would add “literature and art” add to reality. Art is not an “extra” it it is an essential and enriching piece to life.

 

Caroline Kimble

3 Responses to “Final Reflections

  • Dixie Goswami
    4 years ago

    “I think my interview with Bobby Riley from IAA was the turning point in this understanding. He described how the “Wheeler” kids, or the ones who attended a school here before it was turned into IAA were always getting in trouble, and the middle school teachers hated having them because they were loud and often difficult. But once IAA opened the emphasis on art attracted a much more varied demographic, and also helped kids channel their energy creatively rather than destructive. Mr. Riley said now middle school teachers in the Burlington area recognize IAA kids, but this time because they are particularly thoughtful, and creative, not disruptive.”
    Dear Caroline,
    This quote was the turning point for me, as I read your reflection. I’m writing you from South Carolina,
    where I work with the SC Rural Youth Social Action Team (one of your networked Bread Loaf NextGens) – the SC Art of Community is one of our partners. With your permission, I’ll read your post at our next
    meeting: what Mr.Riley said about teachers recognizing IAA kids because they are thoughtful and creative, not disruptive will inspire and challenge us. Thank you.

  • Dear Mrs. Goswami,

    Thank you for your lovely note, you are welcome to read my post at your next meeting! I’ve been hearing about you all year, so it’s like getting a comment from a celebrity 🙂 But if you or your social action teams wanted to hear more about the IAA story it’s in our documentary which you’re also welcome to check out.

  • Caroline, I concur with Dixie — and you. I think Bobby Riley’s quote about Wheeler versus IAA and his discussion that there are virtually zero behavior issues when kids are actually doing “art” are the most critical parts of the video and I’m so happy that they made it into the final version. What Bobby was saying was that through Art, an entire school changed its reputation BECAUSE the kids who used to come out disinterested now are engaged. Art did that. And the fact that kids don’t tend to misbehave while they are creating also should send a wider message to schools everywhere that this is a powerful way to engage kids.

    I so enjoyed working with you, Sydney and Mariana. You are correct that you three are very different and, honestly, I thought you all handled it well and adapted to each other’s strengths while continue to listen and to compromise and move forward. You gave each other respect. And you complemented each other’s skills in a way that was more intuitive than discussed.

    I was honored to work with you and I learned a great deal from each of you because, in the final analysis, all three of you shared a desire to make the story as good as you possibly could.

    Be well. And thanks,

    geoff

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