Tell me about your practice: SILENCE

Tell me about your practice: SILENCE

I recently read a really lovely post on Brain Pickings by my new best friend Maria Popova.* In true Brain Pickings fashion, it touches on a lot of things, but the one of those things that really struck a chord with me was silence- including its role as a necessary catalyst to creative acts and deep searching.

In a 1986 paper about ‘Wait Time,’ researcher Mary Budd Rowe found that by increasing the wait time (or teacher-silence) after asking students a question by just a few seconds had tremendous changes on both students and teachers. Students answers grew in length and complexity (sometimes as much as 700%), while teachers became more flexible and began to refine their own questions to be more thoughtful and intentional.

Silence comes up in my own teaching practice all the time. To be able to follow student interest or accurately gauge the reaction of an adult learner to something said, I need to be a good listener. I’ve found silence to be a great tool to help build this skill (which makes sense- how can I listen if  I don’t shut-up now and again?). It’s empowering to learners to have the power to co-construct a conversation but more selfishly, it feels good as an educator to know that it’s not up to me to fill time or perform.

That’s not to say that silence is always, or should always be, a zen-like contemplative experience. Sometimes Frequently, we find silence to be uncomfortable or even downright scary. My own completely unscientific hypothesis about why this is is twofold: First, when we pause to listen, we get a chance to hear our own insecurities and small voices, ‘Are they listening? Are they zoning out? Am I boring?’ Second, and even more unsettling, though, is that when we allow for silence we open ourselves up to the Unknown, and to the human mind, little else is as scary as what we don’t know.

Cartoon Network’s miniseries, Over The Garden Wall uses our fear of what we don’t know/can’t see to great effect. It’s also the manifestation of everything I love. Go watch it so we can drink tea together and freak out about how good it is.

In contrast, in the Reggio Emilia approach, foundational to my own approach to working with children and adults, self-enforced silence is seen as selfish. If the aim of education is to foster community and engagement with the world around us, then keeping your thoughts to yourself is selfish- you’re withholding from the group insights which could enrich the conversation.

As with most things, I have two opinions (‘Do  I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself…”) Silence is good. Silence is bad. Ultimately, silence is a tool, and like any tool there are times when it’s the tool that’s useful and times when it’s not.

This is true in the home studio as well.
Sometimes I need noise:


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and sometimes,  I need silence:

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What about you-

What audio or ‘visual decibel’ do you need to be successful is it always the same? And if not, then how do you know when it’s time to change?

*No, we haven’t met, but seriously, Maria, if you’re ever in Columbus hit me up- I will buy you Jeni’s and we can talk about books. Or you can talk and I can just listen in wonder- whatever works for you..

“Herstories and How-Tos” or, What I’ve Been Writing.

I think I’ve alluded on here that I’ve recently taken on another writing gig to help kick my arse into writing more (with the hope that eventually it will lead to writing better), but don’t think I ever actually linked it.

In case you’re curious,
are skeptical that I have been tinkering with the English language
(in a typographical sort of way) and require proof,
or if you happen to enjoy learning about dead ladies who rocked
and/or while learning useful skills to apply to your everyday life-
The link to the articles thus far can be found here.

If you do follow the link, however, do yourself a favor and click the banner at the top to go back to the blog at large. There you can find more interesting articles, interviews, musings etc that come out of the collective CAW brain.

All that remains for ‘Remnants.

 

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Officially done ‘making things’ for my piece for Remnants. All collages, curtains and sheets are sitting across from me, quietly whispering, ‘hooray’ and ‘you did it,’ and ‘well, almost, don’t get too cocky.’

Next projects include custom action figures, playing with sound, getting back on track with my tarot deck. First and foremost, though is the task of reclaiming my studio from chaos/instituting systems of storage (how novel!)

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the aftermath.

 

 

Berms and Swells

In honor of my hero in all things tied to water, chance, earthworks and mobile photo as legitimate art making tool, here’s a little accidental photo collage as found in my photo library while hunting for something else:

L: documenting the water flow in my garden R: capturing an image of work by Esther Niesenthal Krintz for use in a pre-K program.

L: documenting the water flow in my garden
R: capturing an image of work by Esther Niesenthal Krintz for use in a pre-K program.

Blog as a platform for dialogue

Two weeks ago today, I was on a plane, flying from New Orleans back to Columbus. I had spent the previous three days meeting with other museum educators, art teachers, administrators and artists at the National Art Education Association’s 2015 National convention. My stomach was roiling with half a cup of airplane coffee and my head was absolutely swimming with conversations, ideas, things I saw, things I heard and new connections between it it all.

While I was only in New Orleans for the Museum Ed. pre-conference and one day of sessions, it’s probably good I didn’t go to more, as over a week later I’m still in the thick of processing, reflecting and synthesizing all of the conversations.

During our last day in NOLA, a dear friend and former colleague asked my co-worker Steph and I, “So, What’re your big take-aways? Cause you know you’re going to be asked when you get back.” Had I really tried to form an answer right then and there, I’m pretty sure my big idea would have been, ‘beignets are superior to donuts’ or something equally as meaningful.

Even now, I’m still churnning through notes, catching up on sleep and rehydrating (talking to strangers + 80degree temperatures in March had me in a perpetual state of ‘DAMP’), and trying to suss out not just what was most interesting/relevant, but what it means for me in practice. While  I can’t say what my biggest takeaway was or even just how many I have- there were a few big ideas and essential questions that have rose to the surface. I’ll get to the rest in time, but first and foremost was the need for real, open conversation, within conversation, the importance of articulation and, for me personally, that old itch of improving my capacity to  mull things out in the quiet public/private space of the written word.

So why am I rambling about this here?

I’ve been slowly carving out this space online for almost 6 years. That’s 1 year longer than I’ve known the love of my life, 2 years longer than I’ve known how to cook and nearly 3 years longer than I’ve fallen sideways into education. If this blog were a person, she’d be reading and writing, ready for school. From time to time I have an existential crises about it all, leave for a bit, and come back. I always find a ‘why’ for me to keep writing, but NAEA has me wondering if my own ‘whys’ are enough. The question isn’t just ‘why should I write here for myself,’ but also ‘why should I write here where you can see it and what’s in it for you?’

Whether you’ve been reading from the 1st days of portfolio/show promotions or you’re new, I want to invite you to start responding- Not with affirmations or quick encouragement (though those too are wonderful and make me feel all warm and fuzzy), but with your real thoughts, ideas, answers and questions. For my part, I promise to try and give you questions and ideas of my own that are worthy of provoking a response, and to value your words, to really listen, to join the conversation just as thoughtfully, and we’ll all grow smarter together. You in?

 

[As I open this dialogue, despite the disclaimer on the right sidebar, I feel the need to make another, more explicit and intentional disclaimer: While I work for, and sometimes write for the Columbus Museum of Art, there’s a weight that comes from writing ‘for’ an institution. While CMA is my home base, and while there are many wonderful, like-minded people who share many similar philosophies that influence my own (and whom I will give credit when I inevitably pull from their brains) this space is my own. My words (especially if they provoke or offend) are my own and in no way reflect the institution, or even my department as a whole.

Also, despite this addition of the and shift towards dialogue and pull towards learning, I am a teaching artist and thoroughly incapable of living compartmentally. Expect the regular non-sequiturs, in-progress studio shots and cat nonsense to continue.]