Monday, July 18, 2016

community presence

The summer I was hired as the elementary art teacher in town was a busy one full of excitement, nerves, and preparation. This was my dream job!!! I didn't want to just do the job well, I wanted to be great at it. This was a big deal, and I took it seriously. I still do. I couldn't wait to get started! My husband, another local art teacher, was an invaluable resource, offering several helpful hints and tips that I gratefully applied. I've become much more efficient at hanging large sheets of rolled paper on the walls without making them a wrinkled mess. My tape donuts have greatly improved. I use a lot less duct tape to secure set pieces. It all gets better every year. Anywho... The new job was a topic of conversation at the family reunion that year. After enjoying a hearty meal, and while the kiddos checked out their "auction" treasures, my great uncle Bob (Dibble) sat with me and insisted that we have a little chat. He held and patted my hand and announced that my job brought along with it some great responsibility that didn't end in the classroom. 

He hoped that the arts would be visible in the community, that I would find ways to improve the community, to inspire it, and get others excited about it too. At the time I thought "of course!", why wouldn't I want to do that? But I think about what he said often. To make communities better it requires many, nay, SEVERAL hands. There are A LOT of folks behind the scenes of everything extra and special thing happening that invest hours of their personal time. They want to feel a sense of community, and possess a strong desire to make where their families are a better place.

If you don't like the way things are, brainstorm ways to fix it. I've had a few ideas, and I'm working on more ideas all the time! It's a personal goal to be present in the community, to be visible and accessible, as often as I am able. 

Remember these? They were empty storefronts and our Main Street looked sad. The owner kindly and generously allowed me to hang student work in the windows to add a little cheer to our town. 

Students from the local school and daycare/preschool centers worked together to make colorful displays for the windows. They had a lot of fun and did a beautiful job! It gave students a stronger sense of community. It promoted their programs. They helped make town better. Folks traveling down our Main Street smiled.

This was a temporary solution, but it was a start. If you have ideas for ways to improve your community, offer them up. The worst thing that can happen is that someone will say no or disagree with you. If that happens, brainstorm some more. Ask what projects are happening now. Start the conversation, get ideas flowing and people involved. The mayor is always looking for helping hands! Seek out the volunteers and the good will doers in the community, roll up your sleeves, and dig in! 

No comments: