I grew up with an amateur artist in the home; my mom painted most of her adult life. Our home was filled her her work, with many of her earlier paintings hanging in the garage and basement as well. I just took for granted that people made their own art, because that’s how we rolled.
I was neither encouraged or discouraged to dabble in the arts. Well, maybe a bit discouraged, as I was one of those kids who didn’t have great fine motor control or patience for coloring within the lines. Art class in elementary school seemed to be 90% talent discovery (as opposed to cultivation), and it was pretty clear I was not one of the blessed talents. My mom was probably an entity theorist (to use Carol Dweck’s term) – she tacitly believed you either have talent or you don’t. I’m pretty sure that in her eyes I fell into the latter category.
In junior high I discovered photography. It had the right combination of artistry and geekiness (this was back in the days of darkrooms and chemical processing of film). One of my neighbors was a newspaper photographer, and took me under her wing as I learned how to use a “real” camera and set up my own darkroom. I continued to learn and enjoy photography throughout high school, until I became the photo editor of the yearbook in my senior year. I think I produced something like 400 prints in the course of a week, and so burned out on photography that I barely touched my camera through four years of college; I have very few pictures from those very formative years.
Other artistic avenues opened up to me in college, however. I began taking my music more seriously, studying classical guitar under a very good teacher, and even spending most of my senior year building a classical guitar in the college’s wood shop. Although I wouldn’t have much opportunity for fine woodworking in my 20’s and most of my 30’s, I would eventually resurrect that passion after purchasing a house with a two-car garage and setting up a shop. Since then I’ve constructed two beds, a dining set, coffee table, jewelry boxes, innumerable pens, and built the guitar that I currently play. I’ll buy Ikea furniture if I need a quick-and-dirty set of shelves or something utilitarian, but otherwise I’m going to make it myself.
So our house is filled with my art – we eat at the dining set and coffee table I built, sleep in a bed I co-designed with my partner Julia, while my guitar hangs on the wall above us. Moreover, one of Julia’s daughters has been playing flute throughout middle school, and fills our home with music on a daily basis, while the other daughter (who has always gravitated toward the graphical arts) has really clicked with her art teacher (who, by a stroke of good fortune, is also her science teacher) and is stretching herself to try new things and accept coaching.
As you probably know, the arts have been pushed out of the mainstream K-12 curriculum over the past few decades. I won’t go into the history of that movement right now (perhaps in a future blog), nor the arguments for bringing the arts back. I’m simply glad that the two young women who share our home have each discovered a muse, and we’re delighting in watching them learn and grow and express themselves creatively. Seeing family-made art on the walls and in the halls brings back a strong feeling of “home.”