Arts Alive!

You always know when the end of the school year is drawing close because suddenly there are all kinds of arts events on the calendar.  It started with the Purple School garden and art party last weekend, which we attended though it’s been two years since we had a child in that (or any) preschool.  A lot of June’s classmates have younger siblings still at the school so we knew there would be a lot of people we knew there, and delicious food, and art festooning the schoolyard fence.  We were not disappointed.

We ate and socialized and exclaimed over how big everyone kids were getting and picked off the oak pollen that kept falling onto our hair. I actually didn’t look at much of the art, which I felt bad about later, because Lesley is a skilled art teacher and the curriculum of the school is arts-based, so the children’s work is always impressive.  But there was no pressure to find my own child’s art as soon as we got there and there were so many old friends to talk to, I just didn’t get around to walking the whole perimeter of the yard. I did admire a painting by Talia’s younger brother Nate–it was swirl of red, yellow, and black paint evocatively titled “So Many Dragons”– and I went inside to see the self-portraits the 4/5s class does every year because those are always wonderful.  While we were there Lesley filled out the paperwork for Noah to volunteer at the school over the summer. (He’s going to help her organize and catalog her online archives.)

Tuesday evening was the art show at June’s school.  It seemed smaller than in previous years, or maybe it was the same number of pieces in fewer, bigger groupings, but I was glad the show was happening at all because last year it was canceled due to staff cuts in the art department. We found June’s painting of a monkey in the style of Henri Rosseau almost immediately and from there we took in the rest of the show at a pretty fast clip, despite the fact that her school has eight hundred students and everyone has at least one piece in the show. I did have time to admire the glazed ceramic cupcakes and castles and the layered three-dimensional paper cutouts of landscapes and seascapes. When Noah attended this elementary school he always wanted to do a thorough job appreciating every single piece at the art show, sometimes beyond the time I wanted to spend, but June was just the opposite. She led us quite briskly through the show and we were in and out of there in twenty minutes, even though we did pause to take pictures of our faces in cutouts of famous works of art.  I might have encouraged June to linger more and look for her friends’ work, but there was bedtime to consider and Noah was at home alone doing homework (or perhaps not doing it), so I let her hurry us along.

Thursday was Arts Alive at Noah’s school.  I didn’t quite understand the nature of the event until we got there, as it’s his first year in middle school. I was expecting a regular band/orchestra/choir concert with some art hanging in the hallways to view beforehand, but it more considerably more extensive than that.  Instead of one concert there were three with breaks in between. We only attended the band segment so we could have more time to take in everything else There was art in the halls and in the gym, but there were also videos to watch on laptops, and picture books the eighth-graders had made to read and then donate to third-graders at a nearby elementary school. There was also a museum of quite detailed model buildings from different historical periods made by seventh grade World Studies students.

We got to talk to the seventh and eighth grade Media teachers about what Humanities magnet students do in those grades. (In eighth grade they take a five-day field trip to New York City and conduct a video interview of someone of their own choosing.) Once you visited all five areas and got your program stamped at each station you could enter a raffle but we never heard them call any more numbers after we got our tickets, probably because we were in the concert from then until we left.

The concert itself was short and mostly consisted of songs the band has been playing at festivals and competitions all spring.  Middle school band is a lot more involved than elementary school band and entails a lot of field trips.  (Just two weeks ago they traveled to Pennsylvania where they played at a festival in the morning and went to Hershey Park in the afternoon.)   At the concert, the band teacher announced that the band had taken top marks at both the county and state-level competitions they attended this spring.  And then an administrator announced that the band teacher, who’s really wonderful and who had a nice rapport with Noah, will be switching schools next year.  I was sad to hear that. We’ll miss her.

Anyway, the band sounded great on all their competition pieces and not bad on the medley of Beatles songs, considering they’d only been practicing it a couple weeks. As usual, we couldn’t see Noah, but there was just a moment when Beth caught a glimpse of his face and snapped a picture. (In the car on the way home I quizzed him about what instruments he’d played in each piece— bells, claves, cymbals, snare drum, and wind chimes was the answer.) I do wish I could see him at concerts.  It would be so much more satisfying to know which sounds he was making at the time instead of trying to recreate the experience later.

Anyway, by eight-thirty we were leaving the school. Walking into the parking lot, we were surprised at how light it still was, even on a cloudy evening.  That’s another sign that summer’s coming, as if the exuberant blossoming of art and music wasn’t enough.