What can I do over a summer?

Blog Home    |     05.19.2016 by     |    

Maggie Bell

What can I do over the summer? As I’ve progressed through graduate school I have become increasingly aware of the fleetingness of those precious months between May and September, which always begin with grand plans of productivity that end up being significantly scaled down. My Public Scholar project will be no different, I imagine, and in an effort to curtail being overwhelmed and disappointed (and disappointing others), I am trying to set realistic goals.

This has been difficult in part because my community partners have been very encouraging. At the moment it seems reasonably possible that I will be able to conduct interviews with thirty fifth graders about their experience of art in school and in their communities, develop lesson plans based on the results of these interviews, and facilitate the students’ artistic intervention Isla Vista, where most of them live, through a collaborative mural project. But similar to my experience of most works of art, it is easier for me to see the big picture than to hone in on the small and large decisions, the labor, and the brush strokes and chisel marks (if we are sticking to traditional media) that are involved in producing a final work.

Despite my hopeful ambition, I know that as I move forward with these different projects, the little things will inevitably slow me down. These are already beginning to take the form of bureaucratic paperwork, endless emailing, meetings and informal conversations that add new twists to the project, increasing amounts of reading, and the slow acquisition of new skills, like for instance, how to interview children or design a mural.   I realize that these experiences, viewed another way, are not necessarily detours or snags but in fact the point of the Public Scholar program. Through doing this project I am developing project management and research skills, along with rich community ties that I would not have otherwise, and that being “slowed down” by the process is as, if not more, beneficial than the end product. Most importantly, despite all of the small, sometimes aggravating decisions that make up the process of executing this project, I have come fully appreciate the power and joy of collaboration. While the increasing number of participants in this project has added to the complexity, I also see on a regular basis the innovation that is possible when multiple brains approach problems.

Realistically speaking, I may not be able to do all of the things I hope to achieve this summer. I may only be able to develop one lesson plan, or create a mural design that may be carried out be someone else over the course of the next academic year. Ultimately, the attainment of these particular outcomes is less important to me than facilitating a sustained and meaningful connection between the Art History Department, art education, and the Isla Vista/Goleta community.