“If you are not willing to see more than is visible, you won’t see anything.” – Ruth Bernhard

I am in my very first art class. I’m learning a lot, but not how to sketch with pastels or paint with oils – I’m learning to sit still and keep quiet. These are skills I should have mastered by now, but I have never been good at either.

I can’t talk or move because I am the model. I am sitting in the middle of a high school art class surrounded by a circle of a dozen students, standing at their easels, all sketching …


art-class-beigeIf I had a bucket list, this would never have been on it. Instead, I like to be spontaneous and to go with opportunities when they come along. So when my granddaughter, Ellie, asked if I would visit her class, I said, “Sure.”

It was only later that I understood what I would be doing for one hour – on three different days.

These students are in art because they made that choice. Art matters to them and I hope it will continue to matter as they grow beyond high-school.

When they reach my age, this twenty-first century will be three-quarters complete.

It will be the year 2075. I wonder how the world will have changed by then.

My hope is that many of our problems will be solved. I believe that these iGens, with their appreciation for art, multicultural experience and international communication will provide the leadership we need to move our world forward.

This is me scribbling notes in class. Note the blatant product placement.

I like the term iGen for today’s youth. They are different from their older ‘millennial’ friends. The ‘i’ in their label could stand for internet or international, but, to me, it stands for ‘intentional.’ That is what I hear when I spend time with them. They get it, and they get the world around them. They see through double standards, unfair rules, disregard for our earth and all the other atrocities we spin in our favor. They see the inequality in schools and education caused by the imbalance of privilege.

art-class-greenThey see first hand, each day, the power of high-speed internet access; and the handicap when it is down, or even worse, when not available.

Their parents and grandparents often lack the curiosity to question some of these inequities, but not iGens. They see an ever evolving order that brings change, even when some hold tight to older ways.

On my five minute break during each session I walked around and looked at their sketches. We visited and I asked them what art meant to them.

(You can put your cursor on top of the quote to pause it from scrolling to the next quote.)

  • “Art is the means of making someone feel the same emotions you were experiencing at any given time. It’s kinda like a vessel, used to communicate thoughts and emotions without words. It’s a beautiful silence.”
    – Harlee

  • “Art, particularly Street Art, always seems to catch my eye. It might be because of the vibrant colors, or eye-catching images. Historically, the “best” artist were always pushing the social barriers and “defying” the social norm. Public Art tends to cater to the “protected” opinion. Street Art, however, is an act of rebellion, an act of defiance. It has a message. It moves people to feel. Street Art plants seeds within individuals – seeds of blossoming opinions, new ideas, difference! Street Art has a place within our city, within our lives.”
    – Ellie

  • “Art to me is an escape. It is a way to relieve stress that I experience from the outside world. It allows me to think outside of the box and let my imagination take control. Art is a way of expressing myself and my emotions but being able to express myself isn’t what art truly is to me. Being able to create small works of art like doodles and other things gives my mind a break from all the stress and anxiety school, family, and everyday life. Over time, my view of what art can definitely change. For now, I love that art is an escape. I think that my idea of art is best portrayed in street art because it is so loose and shows the imagination of the artists. Street art is extremely creative which is what you are when you allow your mind to take over.”
    – AK

  • “Art to me is a media for people to express their thoughts of beauty. It could be powerful with deeper meaning that the author wants to address. It could be pure beauty for people to savor. And it could be a record for an event. No matter what purpose the art has, a piece of good artwork can always arouse the sympathy (same feeling) of the audiences. Public art is boundless, it expresses the feeling of human race; whereas street art represents the culture in a certain city or country. I love them both, public art is classic and street art gives me an exotic feeling, which allows me to explore different types of art.”
    – Sharon

  • “Art is an unrefined form of expression that reflects a message or a feeling or emotion. Sometimes art is nothing at all and means nothing at all. Sometimes there is an entirely hidden story behind it. I think art is meant to please its creator, not necessarily the viewer. If the artist’s purpose is to please the viewer, then in that case, it is directed toward the viewer, but many times art is simply something that soothes one’s own soul. Art is a way to fill a void in life, or a way to express one’s raging emotions, or it is a form of societal acceptance for some. Art can interpreted in many different ways, or can be left alone and interpreted by none. The beauty of art is that it is free of rules, but filled with tips that can be either embraced or left alone, and that decision is up to the artist. I think public art and street art are amazing and demonstrate some of the most creative and intuitive individuals in our societies. Oftentimes, this type of art is not comprehendible to the average person who has not experienced powerful or figurative art before, and therefore it is not appreciated, and often filtered or painted over. So even though street and public art are my favorite types of works, I wish there was a better understanding of the hidden beauty in these works.”
    – Grayson

  • “Art for me is the expression of various whims, however, it is not limited to this. Making art for the sake of art is my favorite way of creation. Sadly, for some reason, I get the feeling lack of purpose will be lost in the future as humanity struggles to keep up with the efficiency of our own technological advancements. Street art and public art are incredibly similar, however public art is celebrated and street art is condemned by lingering prejudice and restrictions. With a live model I found it difficult, and I am guessing a model would also. It was difficult seeing all the movements and different positions that the figure would assume throughout the session. I understand it is difficult keeping still but it is paramount. One of the major issues, personally, was deciding on how I wanted to draw him. As I said earlier, there are so many positions one could choose and I always, instinctively, would change my paper with each of Mr. McIntyre’s changes. It was almost like a race, me always lagging behind the model. Drawing from a picture, I can stare at each gradient, curve, or angle, see my mind change it and finally settle the mark on my paper. It is an impersonal interaction, but with Mr. McIntyre modeling live, it felt more real.”
    – Mary Margaret

  • “To me art is a form of expression that cannot be compared to any other work. It is a creative way to present ideas in unique forms that is different than others. Art often can reflect a message of a feeling or emotion. The most important part of art I believe is the fact that art can interpreted in many different ways, or can be left alone and interpreted by none. It is also something that one can either like or dislike from looking at it quickly. Art is sometimes nothing at all and is done purely for eye appeal. Sometimes there is an entirely hidden story behind it, but I think art is meant to please the artist. The significance of art is that it is free of rules so the artist has so many possible ways of presenting it. I hope and wish that art will change in the future. I hope that it will so that there is new type and new idea and interpretation of art in my mind that I get to try. By the changing of art, there will be even more possibilities for the types of pieces we see in our world. Public art and street art are cool because they demonstrate some of the most inspired and spontaneous individuals in the world which is cool but often not necessarily respected. Although street and public art are so interesting, I wish there was a better understanding of the hidden importance in the works. This project was another very interesting example of how I believe art is all about perspective.”
    – Ade

  • “Art means a lot to me. It means a lot to me because it gives me a way to express myself. I find art a way to get away from the daily stress of school and outside of school activities. I think it is fun for people to see my creative side that they normally do not see on a daily basis. I like seeing other people’s art also because it shows me their creative side that I wouldn’t usually be able to see. Art sparks a conversation between myself and other artists. It is nice to see the differences between other artists. I think any type of art is important even street art and public art. Both of these are important because it is people expressing themselves and showing their talents. Public art is important because people can get inspired from it. It gives people an outlet and an inspiration. This is the same with street art.”
    – Maggie

  • “Art is a way to express yourself. Expressing yourself comes with having no boundaries. In art, in order to express yourself you get to use lines, colors, medium, and other details that have endless options to them. I hope and wish that art will change in the future. I hope there will be new types and interpretations of art in my mind I will get to try. When I think of street art, I think of graffiti. Not only do I think of graffiti but I also think of street performers with the idea of the “arts” rather than just painting type of art. I picture the street band that plays awesome music off of buckets and drum sticks in the tunnel while walking into the Panthers stadium. Public art on the other hand I think of as statues downtown. A wall is not meant to be vandalized by graffiti, however, graffiti is an awesome way to express art and so people put it there as street art. Public art is technically allowed to be there and more designed for the area. For example, the fish fountain downtown is public art that is fit for the space that it is in and designed and mean to go there. After finishing my drawing of Mr. McIntyre, I really enjoyed the experience of having to sketch a living object, instead of what we have done in the past, like sketching pottery or a painting. It was a challenge to get all the point of views at the correct angles. If I had more time to work on my artwork, I would add a greater amount of details and shading to add a more of a realistic taste to it.”
    – Heidi

Elle with her finished sketch.
Elle with her finished sketch.

I am thankful to have these wonderful students in my life.

What value do having friends of different ages and generations offer you in your life?

What value do you have for them?

How are their values different or similar to yours?

How do you think this generation, the iGens as I call them, can keep their optimism as they grow older?

As always, the conversation starts here.

“In the ordinary choices of every day we begin to change the direction of our lives.” – Eknath Easwaran