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The Arts Scene

Think outside the canvas

Kathryn Franke
MSM Class of 2013

(4/2013) As a college student, I have really taken an interest in the concept of majors. If you think about it, itís truly fascinating how we all gravitate toward a certain field, one that seems to define us as individuals. Some people take longer to figure out that path that is the best fit for them, while others are fortunate enough to have a childhood dream that becomes a reality.

Over the course of my four years here at the Mount, I have met many wonderful people who have shaped my Mount experience, and each of them is as unique as the backgrounds that brought them to our mountain home. The different disciplines that my peers and I are involved with really demonstrate how much we learn from our studies and from each other. We are a community striving to create a better future, and each of us has something unique to offer in order to make that happen.

Of course Iím a little biased as an art major myself, but I have to say, there are so many valuable lessons that are fostered through arts education. These lessons hold true for anyone who wants to get involved in the arts. Whether a young child experimenting with a box of Crayola crayons or an adult who is picking up a paintbrush for the first time, so many life lessons can be learned through the simple, yet complex act of creating a work of art. Allow me to share just a few lessons that I have personally learned though my own studies:

Creativity is key.

You see tubes of paint and some paintbrushes in front of you. To some, that is all they see. But to someone who is educated or even just inspired by the arts, what you see is potential. A vision. A creation waiting to be unveiled. Art allows you to make masterpieces from seemingly simple things. You can visualize and produce something that is completely your own; all you need is a vision and some inspiration. I can remember times when I had "artistís block" and thought there was no way I could come up with a good idea for my next project, but sometimes it is those times that bring forth my best ideas. There is always something new to create, and as artists, we are lucky enough to be a part of that creation.

Branching out may be intimidating, but it is important.

Iíve learned that art has its own version of the old saying, "Think outside the box." Think outside the canvas. I used to think of art in a very limited sense: pictures of pretty nature scenery, sculptures that are very literal, and anything else that an average person would want to hang in his or her home. I didnít really look beyond the traditional concept of art. At the Mount, I have been able to take such a wide variety of art classes, including Sculpture, Graphic Design, Photography, Basic Design, Life Drawing, art history courses, and several drawing and painting courses. It took me a while to be able to push myself to create work that was out of my comfort zone, but once I dove in and tried something new, I was shocked to find that some of those works were my favorite things Iíve ever created. Branching out to try new things is difficult, but trust me, itís worth the challenge.

Take time to appreciate the beauty in the world around you.

After taking art classes, I see things differently. Because of studying color, shadow, and other formal elements, I see the world through an artistic eye. I can actually imagine the way I would paint everything I see. Itís an amazing feeling really, because the beauty of the world is so often overlooked. The old saying to "stop and smell the roses" is honestly very fitting for artists, because we can take even the simplest objects and see so much more meaning in them than they are typically credited with. There is always something new to discover, and to be a part of that constant sense of discovery, it is important to start seeing things differently.

Never limit your own potential.

"If at first you donít succeed, try, try again." This phrase holds so much importance for an individualís success. Have a vision, go with it, make a plan (whether that plan is to just wing it or something more regimented), and adapt as obstacles arise. If a work of art doesnít go as planned, keep moving forward! Mistakes are a part of life; they may be permanent, but we can work with/around them and make beautiful, unique pieces that define us and are an expression of ourselves. Art teaches us to accept constructive criticism and use it to strengthen and refine our efforts, and in turn, better ourselves. It fosters in us a constant willingness and desire to push ourselves to improve. We learn to appreciate and admire the things that others can do that we might struggle with, but we push ourselves to learn that new skill or at least give it a try. We can always do more than we expect, so we should never limit ourselves. Life is a constant journey, and every day teaches us so many lessons that we must not hesitate to grasp.

Through studying art, you learn the concepts of dedication and perseverance. Most of the time, artists put in extra effort because they want to. We love what we do. We work long hours and get lost in the work, but you know what they say, time flies when youíre having fun! Many artists work not just until the piece is "completed," but rather until they are completely satisfied with the piece. Granted, this requires superior time management skills, but generally artists do not have a problem staying up until the wee hours of the morning in order to work. Itís such a rewarding feeling to see concrete proof of your hard work paying off, and all those late nights are truly worth it in terms of both the process and the end result.

Understanding somethingís context magnifies its impact.

Appreciation, enthusiasm, and knowledge about other artwork can help you further your own skills. In order to get the most out of an arts education, it is important to understand the influence of our own work and the work of others, but it is also important to study the history and culture that the arts convey. Art movements throughout history are a perfect example of this because they are a direct representation of the values and customs that a culture held at a given point in time. Studying the things that inspired the creation of a work of art gives you a better understanding of its message. Art can be used for many different purposes: personal, social, political, etc. The economic, sociological, psychological, and political climate affecting a particular time period or individual can contribute to the outcome of a work of art. Art represents time but does not get lost with it. To understand the smaller picture, you sometimes have to understand the bigger picture.

Your decisions are a representation of yourself.

Artists recognize just how much can go into a process that brings forth an end result. Every mark that is made can have a significant meaning, and because of this intense thought process that goes into making a work, our pieces can represent and even bring back emotions or memories that we associate with them. This consciousness of the impact of decisions juxtaposed with the spontaneity and creativity that artists often display are valuable lessons to bring to other aspects of life, ones that will undoubtedly help us in any future endeavors.

Do what you love and love what you do. Find and follow your calling.

Stay true to yourself. Not everyone may like your art, but someone out there does, and that person or group of people will be able to relate to it on a very deep level. Art is a way to discover yourself, and your art is in turn a representation of yourself. Art can be a passion, a stress reliever, and a lifelong hobby. It enables you to create something lasting that is an extension of your talents, your interests, and your ideas.

As you can see, just like any other passion or field of study, the arts can teach you so many valuable life lessons. Interaction, innovation, refined motor skills, intricacy, independence, open-mindedness, versatility, confidence, organization, and expression are just a selection of what art brings to its enthusiasts. These are skills that can be applied in any facet of life. If you allow art to teach you these things, it will be a lasting experience that will always enable you to create and inspire. You just have to take the next step and immerse yourself in the arts. To get started, all you have to do is think outside the canvas.

Read other articles on the local arts scene by Kathryn Franke